This week, my baby started kindergarten. I carefully researched all sorts of options from public to charter to private schools. I talked to fellow parents to find out about their experiences and any recommendations they have. I drafted a rather lengthy spreadsheet of data on the school options, visited the schools and then applied to several. After all was said and done, I sat back and waited. The admission or wait list letters came in and my husband and I further analyzed our options before finally settling on our school of choice.
Fast forward to this past week when the academic year commenced for my daughter at this carefully chosen school and the fun begins. Since I am a stay at home mom, she’s spent most of her 5 years of life with me, adding her younger sister to the mix the last few years. I remember feeling for good or for bad the immensity of the long days of time meshed into one another, one endless day consisting of all the time in the world to enjoy each other’s company (or not depending on the day). Time to keep her safe and teach her things about life and the world and marvel as she grew from a cuddly baby to a curious, vibrant young lady.
As the beginning of school crept closer, I could feel my anxiety rise. Even though I am happy with the choice that we made, letting my child go somewhere else 6 hours a day, 5 days a week to be surrounded by other children and teachers and adults that aren’t me and participating in activities that I will never know about kind of freaks me out. Not that I want to control everything about my daughter’s life, but because I want to protect her and be there for her and share her life.
At the same time, I’ve been very excited for her to begin this more structured journey of social, emotional and intellectual education. I can’t wait for her to learn and grow and discover her talents, passions and dreams. And I realize that some of that will only happen if she has this independence, this life of her own, separate from her mother.
So, this week is bittersweet for sure and has been an exercise in letting go. Something I’m not very good at, but have been getting much practice at as a mother. I know it is just kindergarten but it is the beginning of so much more, the beginning of the next phase of child-rearing where my role will continue to change and where more and more, I’ll have to share my daughter with the world. A world that is not the safe and welcoming place I used to think it was as a child. All grown up with knowledge of all that’s wrong in the world, I’m hoping I can learn to breathe and once again try to view it as my child does. Not in a naive, ignorant sort of way but in a way that might reveal the more positive, innocent and good possibilities out there.
It’s the beginning of a journey for both of us, and in accordance with our personalities and ages, I’m stepping tentatively one foot slowly in front of the other while she jumps, leaps and runs full speed ahead.