Monday, August 25, 2008

The Difference 8 Years Makes

Eight years ago, I dropped off my first child at kindergarten. He was nervous. I was nervous. I also had his (then) two little sisters with me, one in a stroller, and the other I was trying to keep a hand on so she wouldn't get lost in the shuffle.

We took pictures, found his name tag and his desk and all that stuff. And then it was time to say good-bye. He gave me a hug (fortunately without tears). I took a deep breath and walked out the door.

I fully expected to do what friends had told me to expect: sit in the driver's seat of the car and burst into tears.

I didn't. I couldn't. I was too worried about my little guy. He was probably the youngest kid in his class. What if a big bully decided to lay into him? I had been in charge of his world for his entire life. Would a teacher with twenty other kids be able to keep track of him? What if he got lost in the school? What if he got kidnapped from the playground?

What if, what if, what if?

It was all I could do not to stalk the school to be sure he was okay. I drove home, a nervous wreck. I worried all two and a half hours until I could go rescue him. He was fine. Of course.

But I wasn't. Not by a long shot. He survived one day of school. Good. But there were still 179 left in the school year. So much could still go wrong. For two straight months, I was a ball of nerves. Every day, I waved good-bye, and he trotted off with his backpack. He was just fine. One of his best friends was in class, and he was loving recess and reading and art and all the other fun things.

It wasn't until about October when things finally got into a bit of a routine and I could send him off without verging on a panic attack. That's the day I caught a television show about mothers sending their children off to college.

They wept. And that opened the floodgates. My little guy had years yet before he'd be going off to college (although that number is shrinking with frightening rapidity), but he was growing up. We'd hit a bit milestone.

I bawled my eyes out, a mere two months late.

Today I dropped off my youngest to her first day of kindergarten. She's been chomping at the bit to get to school, and this last week when her siblings had school and she didn't yet, it about killed her.

We took pictures, found her name tag, and got her settled on the rug with the other kids.

"Are you going now?" she asked. Her tone was purely curious. She wasn't at all concerned. If anything, she might have been trying to get rid of me because it would be silly for Mom to stay. I gave her another hug and said that yes, I'd be going now.

And I walked out.

I'm not worried this time. I've been through first days of school many times since that day eight years ago. She'll be just fine, and she'll get a great education to boot.

Me? I'm doing pretty good. I'm a bit weepy about this being it: my last first day of kindergarten. Even I can't kid myself anymore that my baby is still a baby.

At the same time, there's a sense of satisfaction. A new milestone for me and the family. For me as a mom. I dreamt of this day for a long time when I was in the diaper trenches. Look how far we've come.

I may shed a few tears yet. My time with her at home when she's a baby and toddler is forever gone now.

On the other hand, you can bet I'll be enjoying my time in the house where all is quiet. I have a feeling I won't have any trouble filling it up.

But I'm looking forward to seeing her walk home on the sidewalk with her big sisters. She'll have a grin on her face; I just know it.


Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I have this vague sense of foreboding suddenly. Only one more year till I send off my first. Oi.

An Ordinary Mom said...

It is terrible to sometimes wish that all my kids were already in school all day :) ?!?

Enjoy your free time and congrats on getting to this phase in your life. I am actually enjoying having another newborn in the home.

Heffalump said...

The youngest of my boys starts Kindergarten this year...and I am looking forward to it somewhat, having done this four other times. I am really looking forward to having a couple of hours to spend with just me and my baby girl. For the next five school years we will get to have time just to ourselves, and then she will head of to Kindergarten too.

Alison Wonderland said...

Cutie! Last first day of kindergarten, totally bittersweet but you may as well enjoy it right? I think I'd have myself a treat!

Heather Moore said...

She looks so cute and excited! I'm just one year behind you :)

Julie Wright said...

She is adorable. You are an incredible mom. I didn't cry until the first grade program. That was when it hit me. This is the last first grade program I will ever go to for my own kids. Some days I hat them getting older. I fear for them going out into the world and want to keep them home where I can protect them. But then I'd go to jail for chaining my kids in their rooms so I guess I can't do anything but let them go and get weepy over it.

Jen said...

Annette-glad I will survive my first experience with my little buddy going on a bus and being gone all day! I'm just starting on that trail, so hopefully by the time my youngest goes I'll be in the same mindset :)

Jenna said...

What a difference, indeed! And seriously? Your kids are so stinkin' cute!


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