OK I should stop calling him my "baby boy," since he's 5 1/2 and ready for Kindergarten.
Who am I kidding? I'll NEVER stop calling him my baby. He's my firstborn, the one who taught me to be a Mama. I'll always find a special spot for him in my heart, being the first one to show me the ropes of Motherhood. It's a special type of thing.
Part of that first time Mamahood thing is going through big transitions for the first time ever. I was so nervous and stressed out the night before I was going back to work after my maternity leave was over at 12 weeks. I was a wreck, snapping at my husband, organizing everything I could find in the house, tearing up. The next morning dropping him off, with the wonderful grandma-type sitter telling me it'd be fine, call her ANY time I wanted to, and that it's OK to cry... I sobbed on the way into work. I pulled it together when I got there, wiping away tears, and then as soon as I walked in and saw my friends, who are also moms and who have been there and done that in the big transition department, I sobbed again. They knew. They got it just by looking at me. I made one of them cry even, as she reminisced about sending her kids - twins! - to daycare the first time.
Fast forward to my son's first birthday. I didn't know why anyone would be sad about it. I was SO pumped, so excited for his party. That night of his real first birthday, exactly a year later after I first saw him look up at me, as if to say, "Hey, you must be my Mom. Well, I'm your son. Forever." I sobbed hysterically. I made it through putting him to bed. I made it through everything fun that day, cake and all of that. None of it bothered me. But then when he was asleep I crept back to his room and I sobbed, rocking him in the chair, as he slept on my chest. I held his tiny hand in mine and realized, "It's going too fast. It's over, this baby stage is done, we won't get it back. I miss it already. What's next seems scary... walking and toddlerhood and then preschool and then..." I couldn't even imagine it back then.
And then we made it through birthdays 2, 3, and 4 without an issue. I didn't cry. They didn't make me sad. I was excited to see his growth. It was busy and fun.
And then there was the first preschool drop off. It was horrible. It was unknown and scary and what ifs. I was full of nerves. I didn't know what to expect. I was worried they wouldn't know how to be the best for my son. Would they take care of him well like his sitter did before? I had to rush out the door so my son didn't see me cry, as he ran off full of smiles and excitement to find new friends and new blocks to play with. I sobbed the whole way to work, pulling it together in the parking lot, only to burst into tears again as soon as I saw those same amazingly supportive mom friend coworkers inside, and they hugged me saying, "Yup, I remember this being hard, too."
A few days ago I ran into a friend and told her I was a wreck about sending my son to Kindergarten, so emotional. She said, "Of course you are, it's a BIG milestone, a transition!"
It is, isn't it? This sending our little one on a big yellow bus into a big building that we've never really walked through enough despite the Open House, with staff who don't know his name and teachers who don't know his birthday or his favorite foods. It's scary. It's exciting, we know it to be awesome, a great thing, like all good things that have come before like first birthdays and meeting that amazing babysitter and preschool activities.
It's all good. Yes. But it's also scary and very emotional for we moms who just want our babies to remain babies forever, safe, secure, within our arms reach, always.
How could I be ready to send my baby into the world, without me?
The last few months there have been SO many emotions running through me. Since March when I first found out about the Kindergarten Information Night at the Elementary School. I had a pit in my stomach right then and there even thinking about it coming soon. So many changes and transitions and questions.
Here are a few of the emotions running through me as my little guy heads to Kindergarten.
I share these with you hoping that you feel less alone in your journey to school with your child.
Excitement- OF COURSE it's an exciting time, like Halloween costumes and Easter egg hunting and the first time they say a word. It's awesome. It's amazing. It's the best thing ever. My child is ready. He's ready to go and be on his own, a little more independent, learning at the speed of light. I cannot wait to see who he becomes, what he does, what paperwork and letters and writing he comes home to show off to me, with huge pride beaming from his eyes and smile. I cannot wait to see where he goes with sports and what he can climb at the end of Kindergarten on the playground. I know he'll make wonderful friends, have inspiring teachers, and overall have a great experience. It's a great new journey we're embarking on.
Anticipation - A lot of wondering and questions are running through me. What type of safety protocols do they have in place? What if he needs help in the bathroom? What if he gets sick? What if he's not sharing, does he get sent to the principal's office? Will they update me on things like the preschool teacher has? Will I hear good news, only negative stuff? Will he learn OK? Will he need help? What is a Screening? Did I prepare him enough? So many unknowns. So normal to wonder these things. Also good anticipation, wondering who he'll be friends with, what his desk will look like and his cubby for his jacket, wondering what he'll eat at lunch and which sports he'll want to try or which instrument he'll play. Anticipation is great.
Worry- I'm worried about big ridiculous world things that are just scary to learn about in the news like school safety issues and bad people. I am worried about bullying- both my child bullying another kid and him being the target of mean behavior. I'm worried that they won't "get" my son, they won't understand his humor or his need to move and not sit all day. I'm worried he wasn't prepared. I'm worried that the teacher won't be nice all the time or find patience with little things. I'm worried this means he's moving away from me a little more, he doesn't need me as much. I think along with worry comes some fear. Fear of unknown.
Trust- I am feeling like I need to jump in, dive in like my son wants to do, just head first get into this Kindergarten thing. Embrace it as something ultimately positive and as growth for my child, which is always a good thing. I need to trust that the teachers are trained to work with busy boys like mine. I need to trust that they will lead my son in a grand direction toward real learning. I need to trust that the principal has thought of everything to keep her students safe and she'll reach out in case of any emergency. I need to trust that mistakes will happen, I'll get calls that he fell of monkey bars and needs his Mama. It's all part of the process. I need to trust in the process.
Sadness- Yes, even though it's an exciting time, it's also sad. The years have flown by. They are going to fly faster once school and practices and games and activities and music concerts and plays begin. I know this to be true, for sure. It's going to be wonderful and joyful, of course. But it's sad... realizing that the little years are going by, the baby years are already gone. It's sad seeing your child become so independent that they don't need you. It's also the best thing in the world.
Proud- I am really, really proud of me and my husband, and of course of my son. We got him here! He's ready! He's tall enough and physically healthy and strong enough to go to school. He's ready to learn more. He wants to have more friends and social interactions. He's willing to share and practice letters even though they are difficult for him. I'm proud that we made it! The first five years were HARD! Those are the most challenging, many parents tell us, many doctors and researchers write about. They are really tough. And we did it! We made it to this point of our boy being ready. That's something to smile about.
Please know you aren't alone in however you're feeling these days leading up to sending your child to Kindergarten. It's all over the place in these hormonal hearts and minds of ours, isn't it? And that's OK. Just embrace it. Go with it. Realize "this too shall pass," and something more fun will be around the corner, just wait and see.
So put on a smile in front of your little buddy. Cheer him on. Hold his hand... and then let it go, with pride in your heart. Trust that you did all you needed to do to get him here. Show her that it's OK to go off without you, that you'll be there to pick her up later on and everything is going to be all right.
And then know it's OK to cry, sob, gut wrenching noises coming out of you type crying. It's OK to be emotional, to be sappy, to be insecure and overprotective right now. Your little one is learning something new. Your baby, that one you grew and led and taught all these years before the teacher did, well she is moving along in this busy world and it's OK to have feelings about that.
Find a friend. Talk to someone. Reach out. Don't hold it in. It's OK to feel whatever you are feeling about this big milestone. It's a big one. And it's going to be GREAT.