Reprinted with permission
Dear First-Time Kindergarten Mom,
It’s 12:30 in the morning. Are you still up?
Me, too. I mean, really, who can sleep?
Tomorrow (er, today) it starts. School. The first day. The. First. Day. Of. School. The one that has been circled on the calendar, blissfully hiding behind June and July. It’s really, tangibly here. Staring matter-of-factly at us without the slightest bit of tenderness. It’s here.
His backpack is filled. School supplies bought. (Twenty-four glue sticks? Seriously?) Her clothes are laid out. Honestly, everything is ready to go … except perhaps you. You and me, we’re not so sure about all this. We’re still walking around the house at 12:30 a.m. moving the backpack from floor to the stairs and back again because it needs to be in just the right spot.
And our minds keep reaching back to places that are dangerous to go with achy hearts: The first time we held him. Her first steps. Lost teeth. Bikes without training wheels.
The memories. They are quiet and loud all at once. Tonight they seem so fresh, so vivid. Like that day three years ago with the lady at Target. Remember? The one in the snack aisle? She smiled at us as we were wrestling a bag of Goldfish out of the hands of a screaming then 2-year-old .
“Enjoy it,” she said. “It goes so fast.”
The whole exchange left us mildly annoyed because, um, couldn’t she see this melted-down child? His mom seconds from losing it? Really, we were enduring that moment, and it could not have gone by fast enough.But it did go. Only to be replaced by another moment. And another. Until one day, we looked up, and the meltdowns were over. We’re not really sure when or how it happened, but he wasn’t 2 anymore. Goldfish were replaced by tablets and neon Under Armour shirts. Princess movies and sleepovers.
And tonight (er, this morning) we find ourselves kind of wishing to be back in Target again and wondering how it had all gone so, well … fast?
That simple question tumbles into another one and another and still another …
Did I hug you enough?
Did I love you enough?
Did I teach you enough?
The will yous:
Will you make friends?
Will you choose good food?
Will you be happy?
And the what ifs:
What if someone is mean to you?
What if you’re mean to someone else?
What if you forget to go to the bathroom?
What if you miss me so much you cry?
What if I miss you so much I do the same?
What if I blink and you’re 18 and starting your senior year?
What if it really does go so fast?
Just like Target lady said. Ugh. There she is again, smiling and making us paranoid about the fleeting moments of childhood.
And then it hits us. Maybe, just maybe, we have missed her point. Maybe the it-goes-so-fast was just tacked on to the heart of what she really wanted us to hear.
She DID see the screaming toddler and his wits-end mom. And she still told us to enjoy. The crazy moments. The hard moments. The why-me moments. The I-can’t-take-this-a-second-longer moments. They’re not always fun, but maybe that’s not always important? Maybe they can still be enjoyed. Or rather embraced. Met with courageous, open hearts.
Now we get it. We HAVE to enjoy it. We really don’t have a choice. This first day will happen whether we’re ready or not. This child will grow up. Some moments will fly by, and some will crawl, but they will happen. And some will be more bitter than sweet, but at least there will be sweetness. And because we are moms, we will brave every moment, even the hard ones — no, especially the hard ones. Embrace them. Savor them. Enjoy them.
So when morning comes, and our preschoolers officially become kindergarteners, we’re going to celebrate. Let’s send them off with chocolate chip Mickey Mouse pancakes. Let’s tuck a note in the lunch box. Let’s ride to school, music up and windows down. Let’s take way too many pictures and post them all over Facebook with a caption that says “My baby’s first day of school.” Let’s give a goodbye kiss and a big hug, but save the tears for the car.
And when we do cry, let’s be okay with it. This moment is one of the hard ones. It’s okay to cry.
But let’s not stay there.
Let’s go to Target with two kiddos instead of three. Let’s smile at the mom of the screaming toddler and remind her that kindergarten is just around the corner. Then let’s get drive-thru iced coffee with whole milk this time, and yes, we would like whipped cream and absolutely to caramel because we did something amazing today:
We enjoyed it.
We took on the first day of school, and we enjoyed it.
The end of the day will come soon. We will pick her up, hug her extra hard, and smile when she waves goodbye to her teacher. Then we will hang on every second of every detail of his day. And we might cry again just a little because we will realize how much she enjoyed it, too.
The night before the second day of school, we will go to bed a little earlier. We won’t move the backpack. But we will probably still wrestle with the questions. Won’t we always? Along this journey of motherhood, we will always question. Some of our what ifs will be realized. Others will be left unanswered. But all will be remembered. All will embraced. And we will enjoy it.
So thank you, Target lady, wherever you are. We’ve got to get to bed now. Morning is coming soon, and it’s going to be a good one.