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When He Walks Away

Dear Mama,


I hear you’re sending your baby to Kindergarten. A real school. With a principal and teachers and book rental fees and the whole real thing. It feels super monumental, doesn’t it?


That’s because it is.


Childhood is criminally fast. School makes it faster, and now we’re here. We may as well start planning the graduation party, right? Good grief. If you’re feeling like you might be about to have a mental breakdown, have no fear. Just about seven days ago, I was in your shoes.


Teetering on the edge of disaster. Toes over the edge, in fact.


My son has now completed two, yes, TWO, full days of kindergarten, and as I now consider myself something of an expert on the topic, I would like to share with you some moments that could (read: probably will) happen that might make you feel like your heart is going to break.


Spoiler: you are not going to die. But eating your feelings is a perfectly acceptable coping mechanism. Just ask the eggs Benedict I destroyed after I took my kid to school. Ask my husband who wasn’t sure he knew who I was for a few days….months?


To be fair, I was a little “off.”


Without further ado, I present to you, the kindergarten heartbreak incidents, in no particular order:


When he walks away from you, into that school building, a little piece of you is going to die. You’re going to cry way harder than your child. I might suggest waterproof makeup or none at all. It’s ok. They will take care of your baby. This is when the eating of your feelings should begin. Get to the nearest food-service establishment and get started. You’re welcome.


When he doesn’t look back. It’s ok. He’s just looking for his classroom. He still loves you, even if you’re not sure how he possibly could if he’s not reaching for you, longing for you the way you’re longing for him. It’s almost visceral pain. I get it. By now, you’re sobbing. It’s ok.


When he gives you a thumbs-up and grins. You’ll wonder how you’re possibly way more of a basket-case than he ever thought about being. If you’re thinking of letting your freak flag fly before he goes into the school building, I’m gonna need you to tuck that in. You losing your mind isn’t going to help anything. Time to boss up and let the kid be the kid and the adult be the adult. That’s how it’s supposed to be!


When he tells you he LOVES Kindergarten. But wait! Don’t you just want to live with me until you’re 40? We can make that happen, kid.


When he tells you he didn’t want to leave school. Wait. You mean….you didn’t want to leave SCHOOL? The place I couldn’t bear to leave you? What is HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?


When he says he made two new best friends. Two? In one day? Wow! Awesome! I knew I raised a likable, friendly kid. He’s obviously on his way to being loved by everyone as much as I love him. Wait. What if someone is mean to him and I have to suddenly have beef with a five-year-old? Great. College fund? Bail money? It’s all the same…


When he is so excited for Monday that he fills his water bottle on Friday afternoon. This will be exciting. When a teacher sends you home a happy kid two days in a row, you’ll love that. Priceless.


When he says he loves his teacher. Even better. Relish that! In fact, send her a thank you note. Teachers usually don’t get nice emails!


When he says he got lost and wasn’t even scared because the “awesome” principal helped him. Double whammy of great news! More celebration time!


When he crawls into your lap for a snuggle on Sunday afternoon. See, mama. He loves kindergarten. And he still needs you. Girl, this is a big deal. You’re always going to be the #1 gal in your baby’s life. This is as close to perfect as it gets.


When he says “sorry I didn’t look at my bracelet—we have matching ones in case we are sad—today, mommy. I was having too much fun.” It’s time to just be happy for him. This is what we’ve worked for, after all.


Parenting is so weird.


Your job is to teach them not to need you, to lay a strong foundation of love, knowledge, and strength, and then to get out of their way and let them soar.


And yet.


When it’s time to do that, the only thing you want, desperately, is for them to look back, to need you just one more second before they walk away from you into that big school. And when they don’t, you can practically feel your heart ripping.


But here’s the secret, mamas: they can do that because of YOU. They can do that because you put THEM first for the last five years and some change, teaching them all the things they need to know to be ready for this big moment.


Truth be told, if I’d had to peel him, screaming, from my body, it would have been awful. I would have watched the clock more than I did. I would have paced and fretted and acted like a complete crazy person. I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy any part of my own first day with students. But I knew he was ok.


And I knew he was ok because of what I DID TO MAKE SURE HE WOULD BE. That is no small accomplishment, mamas, and yours isn’t, either.


So, when you send that baby into that elementary school, and when he walks away from you, and when you can feel your heart ripping into pieces, let it rip….feel all of the feelings, cry those big, alligator tears.


And then boss up. Boss up like your tiny human did. Chuck up the deuces, carry on with your day until you can go get your baby and hear allll about their day—because a BIG part of why that baby is able to handle their business like a boss today is because of the mama who taught them how to be one.


Cheers and congratulations to you, mom. Well done. Well. Freaking. Done.




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