In many ways, I have been waiting for this day for a long time. During the long nights of teething, I thought about it. During the long days of potty training, I looked forward to it. And now, it’s here. My oldest child is going to Kindergarten. For us, Kindergarten means a full day of school (8am-3pm), so no more mornings spent hauling a toddler and infant around town to pass the time for 2 hours of preschool. I will now get to focus a little more on my younger two (soon to be three) children and their needs during the day, and I *may* get a breath to myself while they take their afternoon naps for however much longer that lasts. This first day of “all day school” has felt like a “finish line” of sorts, a milestone to enjoy.
Then, this week something else dawned on me… My life may be about to get a little easier, but my daughter’s life is about to get harder. She is ready for a full day of activity. She is excited about school and has never had attachment anxiety. But, Kindergarten is the beginning of the “real” world of kids, and kids can be mean. My first experience with “mean” kids was in Kindergarten, and I viscerally remember it. There’s a strong likelihood that my daughter will remember whatever happens this year, good and bad, for the rest of her life.
It also struck me that I will be entering into a phase of life for which I don’t feel prepared: losing control and influence over my child. This year is the first time that she’ll been away from me for more awake hours than she’ll be with me. Her teacher will see my daughter for more time than I will. My daughter may (and probably will) accidentally call her teacher “mom,” a title that I have never had to share with anyone, accidental or otherwise. If my daughter has a bad day, I won’t be there to console her for several hours, and she will have to learn to cope with that space of time. She will need to develop her own coping strategies, apart from me.
All of this and more struck me this week, and I wasn’t prepared for it. Processing them, I’ve come to the realization that I may not be ready for myself, but my firm belief in my daughter’s readiness is softening my fears. I may not be prepared for her heart to be broken by her first tussle with a less-than-accepting peer, but I believe that she is emotionally strong enough to encounter this hurdle and overcome it, seeking help where she may need it. I may not be looking forward to her to be under someone else’s care for more waking hours than she is in mine, but I trust that my daughter will bring any lingering questions or unresolved issues to me when she’s ready. Her strength is my strength.
This is truly a milestone worth enjoying…for both me and my daughter. The last thing I want is for her is to feel anxiety or concern about this new journey because of me and my hang ups. So, I’m going to enjoy what I can. I’m going to relish the time with my younger kids. I’m going to enjoy the school community we worked hard to find and will cherish building. I’m also going to trust in my daughter’s readiness for this transition, being aware of how she is adjusting to her new normal, and recognizing that this is a big step for her and will inevitably come with bumps and bruises.
As my daughter is preparing for her first day of Kindergarten, I will prepare for mine. I will work to adjust my anxiety and shield my child from my insecurities. I will make myself slow down and cherish our newly limited quiet moments together. I will learn to let go with a heartfelt smile and a trusting prayer.