I’ve been watching lots of friends posts lately about their kids’ first days of school. Many of them are filled with pangs of mourning over “where did the time go,” and that ripped-apart feeling that comes along with letting go, especially of our smallest ones.
I get it. Totally. Because every milestone your kid hits means you start to let go of that smaller child they used to be – and that’s HARD. I think we parents all mourn for the babies our kids used to be. (I fought back tears last night as I folded up a favorite flowered sundress both my girls used to wear, getting it ready to go into the memory box.) Every new stage brings on a new phase of mourning.
But – after working for several years around children who are sick or facing tremendous health challenges, I am overwhelmed by a call to stop resisting my kids’ growth. I am making myself focus on CELEBRATING it. We all want our kids to grow up. The alternative is unthinkable.
My 4-year-old daughter’s first day at a new preschool this week was filled with so much joy that I couldn’t feel sad. Just look at that silly (but sincere) grin in her “first day” photo! She’s happy. She’s growing. She’s in a good place with loving teachers. That’s all that matters.
As I started to think about how to write about this, I realized I already have. Here, on this blog, nearly two years ago, on her very first day of preschool. So, as I send good wishes (and huge support hugs!) to all of my friends are watching their kids step into new phases of life, here is an encore blog from September, 2012:
Some of the other children were bawling as their moms and dads dropped them off for the first day of preschool. Not Daisy May. She marched straight into her “Tadpoles” class for 2 and 3-year-olds, found herself a mound of play-doh, and didn’t even look at me as I said goodbye and headed back out the door. She was so darned happy, that I forgot to feel teary and nostalgic. Forgot that when you send your baby off to her first day of preschool, you’re maybe supposed to have a big emotional moment of some kind.
But this kid is so different – so social, happy, and ready to play with other kids – it just didn’t even occur to me to be anything other than very, very happy for her. Maybe it also has to do with this being the third time around.
With Child #1, every tiny milestone felt enormous – marked by floods of tears and an avalanche of photos. With Child #2, those moments were every bit as precious, but much more casual, tempered by the wisdom of having done this all before, and the knowledge that there was so much more still to come. And now with Child #3 – our baby – milestones feel somehow enormous and microscopic at the same time. I am even more aware of how universal some of these rites of passages are – how watching your child accomplish something new is extraordinarily precious to you, yet it’s also incredibly ordinary in the larger sense. Babies and parents all over the globe have experienced these moments millions of times. But that doesn’t diminish the magnitude of the event in your own life – it actually heightens it to know that your “moment” is part of a pattern experienced throughout all humanity.
I returned to school at the end of the morning at pick-up time and found my sunny little girl, covered in blue paint, running across the playground, grinning ear to ear. She loved every minute of her first day. Even after we got home, she walked to the front door, put on her shoes, and told me, “I go school!”
Now, I’m not saying that I won’t be a bawling mess when she graduates from grade school, or goes off to college – or gets married. I guarantee I will. I do hope that when those moments come I will remember this one, though – a day when I was so very happy to watch my kid tackle a milestone she was clearly ready for and excited about, that I forgot to mourn the stage of life she was leaving behind.