The letter arrived in the mail on Saturday. There it sat, long, white and unopened. My heart skipped a beat. No, it wasn’t the anticipated college acceptance or rejection letter. Nor was it a job offer or denial. It was the letter that would represent my young son’s future: His teacher assignment for first grade.
I opened it up quickly with mixed feelings. Who would it be? Would it be who I wanted? Would his newly made friends from Kindergarten be in his class? Or, would he be all alone, faced once again to meet new friends?
As I read the letter, these thoughts raced through my mind, but a deeper, more powerful reaction took over my mind.
I found myself sobbing a river of tears, completely taken aback and overcome by unexpected emotions: Those of sorrow and loss. For this letter confirmed that I would be losing my baby. My son would soon be going off to school for the entire day, away from me, after six and a half years of having him right by my side.
How would I manage without his smile for over six hours of the day? How would my younger daughter, Sophia, adjust to not having her playmate, best friend and occasional antagonist beside her? I realized that I had done what I was supposed to: Raised a confident, independent young child who could easily leave us and head off to school. Yet, for some reason, it all felt bittersweet.
Kindergarten was a relatively small stepping stone. He went from three mornings a week (in preschool) to five (at Kindergarten). No big deal. Of course, I cried that first day when I walked him to school and felt prouder than ever when he stepped off the orange school bus on the way home. But, it really wasn’t a big deal. It was only three short hours a day. His absence gave me time to spend alone with my daughter and also some necessary time for me to be alone by myself. It allowed me to breathe once again, if only for awhile, before the craziness of young children constantly moving, talking, shouting, and crying, struck the house again.
Over the course of the school year, I watched my son grow physically, mentally and emotionally starting the year off clinging sadly to my side and ending it by running off to his newly made friends the instant he saw them. He learned to read, write and do math. His height soared to the sky, reaching the height of an eight-year-old only in Kindergarten.
He learned to ice skate, ski, play hockey, t-ball, ride a gear bike, snow shoe and dive to the deepest depths of the pool. He lost his first tooth, had his first crush, and sung at his first class concert — all bringing tears of joy and pride to my eyes. I watched him grow, changing from a baby to a toddler to a child and a boy. I felt thrilled to be alongside him each and every step of the way.
As a stay at home Mom of two children, we were able to adjust and ease into each year’s slightly changing schedule and routine. Slowly, the kids would be at school a little bit longer, and I would gain a little more time to myself to run, read, write, see friends and do errands. That much needed “me” time was making me happier and feel more like my long lost self after the grueling years of infants, diapers, breast-feeding and constant exhaustion.
However, first grade will be different, as it would be the first time in almost seven years that my son will be in school for most of the day. He won’t be home for lunch or for afternoon play time with his younger sister. We won’t have an entire day to ourselves to go to the zoo, watch a movie on the couch or visit the Children’s Museum. Instead, he will be finishing at 3:40 in the afternoon meaning we will only have an hour or so before dinner to do what we have done for so many years: Play, read, giggle, laugh, smile, cuddle and enjoy each other’s company.
I realize sadly that I will miss him terribly and that the onset of first grade marks the slow, inevitable march towards college, independence and leaving me. I know this sounds selfish and perhaps strange to some moms who can’t wait until their kids are in full day school and are independent. But for me, who had kids relatively later in life, gave up my career and opted to stay at home so I could be with them and enjoy this short special time together, the start of full day school is heartbreaking.
It is not because I don’t have a life outside of my children: I do. A busy life running, hiking, traveling, writing, reading, volunteering, and spending time with my adult friends and loving husband. I will be heartbroken for the end of his young childhood and the time that he will no longer rely on me 24/7 for love, care, support and friendship.
I am so proud of my son and all that he has accomplished, learned and become over the last six and a half years. I truly look forward to watching him grow, learn and become the young man he will eventually be. I’ll be there, along his side, each and every step of the way, loving him, supporting him and being glad that I had the chance to spend these trying, exhausting years of his young childhood at home and together.
For these are the years that have created some of the best memories of my life, that I will hold and cherish within my heart forever.
How do you feel about sending your child off to school? Have you experienced a milestone with your children, such as sending them off to kindergarden, first grade, high school or university?
Photo credit to the author.