The First Day of Kindergarten / by Leslie

Raising kids is such a shared experience. Many parents go through the same memorable moments; big ones like birth, first birthday, first steps, potty training, riding a bike and the first day of kindergarten. And yet, for all the sameness, each story is unique. We all do the same things, but we all do them a little differently.

We've been talking about this day for MONTHS. It's been a slow build up to this day, a gradual process of getting Milo ready for a new amount of independence and responsibility. Showing him the school, first just from the outside, then just the front hall, next the rest of the school and finally last week his classroom and teacher. Talking about what to expect, how to behave, where to go. We had a trial run on the bus, we bought school supplies, we did all our summer homework and read every single piece of paper the school sent us.

It's more responsibility for us as parents too. We have to make sure they don't miss the bus, we have to make lunches every day and do homework with them every night. We should check in with them to make sure they are happy and having fun and we must navigate the social scene that is the network of adults responsible for running the school and parenting the other kids. 

This day is not just seeing our little children drive away from us on a big school bus full of other children whom we cannot meet or influence. Though that would certainly be enough! For us first-timers, this day is the beginning of so much more than that. We are entering into this world of organized education, and it is exciting and full of opportunities, but like any large group of highly organized people, there are rules and regulations and expectations that we must both learn and adapt to. How do we fit in? Only time will tell. I have great confidence in Milo's ability to do well in school. He got on that school bus without hesitation, with complete assuredness. He had it all figured out and I'm sure I will figure out my new role too.

I totally choked up when that bus drove away, tears stinging my eyes. That first time is tough, it's like an invisible thread that connects us to our children is pulled tight until it snaps and they are gone on an adventure without us and we are just left holding the string. Each adventure is bigger than the last until one day they are going to college, leaving the country or getting married. Children are born and the rest of their lives are spent saying good bye to their parents.

But let's not dwell on those good byes. They don't. They have their eyes forward, looking ahead to the adventure. They are saying hello to something new and so should we. I came right home and got to work on myself. I wrote in my journal and made a few plans for my own future. I might volunteer at the school and see if I can help a bit in the classroom, but also I just want to be myself for a bit. 

It's true, I still have Quinn to contend with. He will be in preschool for three days a week, but this week he is still at home, hanging on my arm, saying "mommy?" "mama?" "mom?!" and asking me to build a train track for him. He's keeping me grounded in toddlerville for a couple more years. And I'm glad for that, I know I would miss it a lot more otherwise. 

More than that, Milo came home. They always do. The older they get, the longer they will be away, but they always come home. Milo arrived home on the bus with a big smile on his face and waved to the driver. He was so proud of himself and I was so proud of him. He did it without a complaint or a worry. He was ready and he loved it, he had a great day. His only disappointment was that he didn't get recess due to the rain. He related a story that his teacher told him, about an apple tree that fell in her yard and was now a "bush". The deer were thrilled to have access to all those apples. What a perfect metaphor. 

So to all those mothers out there, for whom today was the first day of kindergarten for their first born, I say: "CHEERS!" for surviving one of the first big cuttings of the apron strings. To ALL mothers out there who sent their children off to school: if you miss them, look inward, and find comfort in taking care of yourself for a change.