This time last year I was wrapping up my child’s last day of preschool. I dropped her off as usual, walked her to her classroom, hung her bag on her hook. When I came to pick her up, there was an ice cream party and many pictures were taken. We were sent home with a bag full of her artwork, crafted over the course of the year. We pulled her bag off her hook, along with her name and photograph that hung next to it, and I felt my heart break a bit. I said goodbye to the little school we had come to know and love over the past two years. Goodbye class. Goodbye teachers. Goodbye hallway. Goodbye hook. Goodbye preschool.
There wasn’t much time to mourn, as we were quickly swept up into summer activities: summer camps and vacations and playing outdoors. We prepared for kindergarten and went to play dates and met our new friends. We worked on our summer reading list and summer project. We shopped for our school supplies and waited to hear who our teacher would be. Then came kindergarten phase in day. I stayed at the school that entire first day, but not directly with her. Then there was the first REAL day of school. I cried on phase in day AND the first real day, if you’re wondering.
For the first few weeks of school, I parked in the parking lot and walked her into the building each day, as all the grades sat in the auditorium waiting to be dismissed to their classrooms. I held her little hand as we walked into the school. After she had hugged and kissed me goodbye, she sat down with her kindergarten companions. Some days she wasn’t quite ready for me to leave. Some days I wasn’t ready to leave either.
Weeks passed, and I decided to start dropping her off in the car line instead of walking her in. That first day, I watched as she scooped up all of her belongings and got out of the car on her own and waved and said, “Goodbye, Mom! I love you!” She shut the door behind her and walked off into the school, through the auditorium doors, all by herself, and I cried. I thought this might be a strange thing to have cried over until one morning I stayed home sick and my husband took her to school and dropped her off and almost cried himself, “She’s so BIG!” he said.
Also during the first few weeks of school, I picked her up in the car rider line at the end of each day and either brought her back to work with me or left work early. Then one day I sent her to aftercare. Of COURSE I cried the first day she went to aftercare. Have you been reading? Do you even have to ask? I was nervous when I went to pick her up that first time, I was worried she would have hated it, that she would ask why I hadn’t come to get her. I was wrong and she LOVED aftercare and from then on out, requested to go every day. On days that I would tell her that I needed to pick her up as a car rider because we had an appointment or something, she would groan, “But whhhhhhy?”
I have gotten used to visiting her in the kindergarten hallway. I know when her lunch time is and what table she sits at, and some days I run over to sit and eat with her even if it’s just for a few minutes. I know where her locker is, with her little Bee sticker that has her name on it. I’ve gone on almost all of her field trips, and there were a bunch of them. There won’t be as many next year.
And now here we are and kindergarten year is over. She won’t be a kindergartener next year. There will be a new crew of kinder babies, of newbies. Bella is so excited about first grade. She thinks it makes her so BIG. She’s excited to not be the youngest anymore. But me? I’m kinda sad. I like her being the baby in the school, but she can’t be the baby forever, can she?
I’ve watched her grow so much this year. She’s made new friends and has gone on her first sleepovers. She learned to ride her bike. She’s learning to read and is getting really good at artwork and drawing pictures. She’s doing well in math and sometimes surprises me with what she can figure out.
Last week she requested to get her ears pierced, and went through with it, even when I thought she wouldn’t. She’s started taking showers and has declared that she will no longer take bathes because they’re for “babies”. I don’t believe her because I know she still loves colored bath tabs, bubbles and her bath toys too much to give them up forever.
She’s getting so big, so fast, and some days I don’t know how we got here. I still recall what it felt like to be pregnant with her. My memories of that newborn I brought home from the hospital are still so clear and crisp in my mind. I remember the weight of her in my arms, the smell of her skin and hair. That baby grew into a little girl that loved to watch Curious George and Calliou. She won’t watch those shows anymore. Who knew I would actually MISS Calliou? I remember the little girl that toddled about the indoor mall playground, struggling to climb the soft plastic equipment. Now she is almost too big for that playground and basically tramples all the toddlers that are cautiously exploring as she once did. I remember the little girl that hated the beach the first summer we went and just sat on a towel under an umbrella, dumping water from one bucket to another. That little girl buries herself in the sand now and passionately flings herself into the ocean with abounding joy.
This year, this milestone in our lives, went by so fast. Did I eat lunch with her enough times? Did I take enough pictures? Did I save enough of her artwork? Did I embrace it? Because some days I was just trying to survive, I’ll admit that. Next year there will be a new teacher, in a new room, on a different floor. There will be different classmates, and we will make new friends. It will all be new (okay, not all of it, it is still the same school after all,) and it will be exciting and fun. With each new stage of life, we grow and we learn. It’s scary and wonderful at the same time, but I still can’t help to look to the past, to hold onto it, and think, “Remember when?”
Am I ready for this? Am I ready for her to move on?
It doesn’t matter.
It’s coming whether I’m ready or not.
Bring it on, first grade.