The Last Kindergartener

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The Last Kindergartener You’re so cute, mama.

This morning is hard, I totally get it. It’s your baby’s first day of full-time kindergarten, and everyone is nervous! Your little one looks so sweet, dressed up in brand new clothes, shoes tied tight, hair neatly combed. His matching Bluey backpack and lunchbox are stiff and clean, and he doesn’t put up a fuss when you stop to take pictures in front of the school, by the glass doors, with his teacher, sitting at his desk, one more selfie with mommy!…and so on. He looks nervously about the room, bids you a shy smile as a farewell, and then the teacher ushers you out to cry in the hallway while your perfect little angel begins the journey of a lifetime.

I see you, mom. I’ve been you, mom. Letting go of their hand and trusting them to others for seven hours a day is brutally hard.

But it gets better…sorta.

Today I walked in my kindergartener, too. He was equal parts nervous and excited, a little trepidatious as he walked in the door, but he didn’t hesitate to follow his teacher when she welcomed him in. This ain’t our first rodeo, though. This is my fourth kindergartener I have said goodbye to, and (most likely??) he will be my last. His hair is recently buzzed so I wouldn’t have to bother fixing it in the mornings, and thankfully he’s still young enough to not care what I do with his hair.

He’s wearing clean hand-me-downs from his big brothers, with Velcro shoes because no, I did not have the energy to teach him to tie his shoes by age six. His backpack and lunch box are lumpy and used, sporting mismatched Spider-Man designs; he’s already embarrassed to carry the Paw Patrol set I bought a few years ago for picnics at the park.

I promise I took pictures on his first staggered day, but I most definitely forgot today. He has already spent two years in pre-school, one of which was full-time, so he’s had his share of new classrooms, new teachers, new friends, and new experiences down pat. We’ve had enough lunchroom dates with older siblings that he knows his way around this school. I’m not worried about him.

Mostly I’m worried about myself.

I haven’t shed a single tear over him starting school. My brain has been occupied with middle school friend drama, baseball tryouts, back-to-school paperwork, and just trying to survive, so I haven’t had the time or emotional space to really process this milestone. Will I look back on this one day with regrets that I wasn’t more present for him? Am I missing some tiny detail that I noticed with the others but not him? Does he feel how proud I am of him and how much I will miss him during the day? Did I do enough leading up to this day to give him a happy, well-loved childhood? Am I somehow ruining his life without even knowing it???

First time kindergarten mom, this is going to be just fine. Your little love is going to have a great year, make lots of friends, learn tons of new stuff, and come home so happy you are her mom. She’ll remember the ways you loved her well, probably forget most of the mistakes you made (girl we just keep praying), and make you so proud of the little person she’s becoming. And so will my last kindergartener. This is one day in thousands I will have the chance to show him just how special and loved he is.

You and me, mama? We’ll be okay too. You may feel the feels now, and I’ll get around to them later. We’ll look through old pictures and remember those chubby newborn thighs and the hilarious toddler pronunciations of “spaghetti” and “frog;” we’ll dream about other kinds of firsts: first girlfriend, first job, first car; we’ll wonder if it’s time to have another baby (hint: IT’S NOT); and we’ll decide not to worry about what they’ll tell their future therapists about us. 

Today I sent the last kindergartener off to school, and I will enjoy this new chapter, just as I have each one that came before. Maybe I’ll cry about it next year.

Also read:

5 Things I Want My Kindergarten Students To Know

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