Boy, does time fly. It seems like just yesterday my daughter was a wee little girl, happily frolicking with her friends on the swings at Astor Park. Now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, she’s about to go off and start a new and independent phase of her life, one in which she won't need dear old mom nearly as much. College, you might be wondering? Oh no, it’s not college. She’s going to kindergarten. My daughter is starting kindergarten at a new school in two weeks and I am a frickin’ mess.
I have something to admit to you. In the past, when I heard other parents lament their children starting kindergarten, I rolled my eyes. While these men and women went on and on about how hard it was, and how sad they were, I spent my time wondering if their eyes were symmetrical, how long it had been since they got their last haircut, and which salad from Potbelly I wanted for lunch. As much as I tried to empathize, I just couldn’t understand why parents would get so emotional about the transition from preschool to kindergarten. So your kid is moving on, I thought. “What’s the big deal?”
Now that it’s happening with my daughter, I know for sure that it’s not a big deal. It’s an insanely huge deal. Gargantuan, and for many reasons, the first being the overwhelming feelings of guilt I’m experiencing as I realize I’ve practically wasted the first five years of my child’s life, five years that I will never get back again.
“I have to make all the sacrifices,” “I have to be the one to stay home with her when she’s sick,” “she threw up all over my last pair of clean workout pants.” My list of complaints from the day she was born until now is longer than the list of countries that competed in this past month’s Olympics. In fact, if complaining were an Olympic event, I would have set a world record that would never be broken.
And now it’s over. I’ll never be able to play hooky with her for a week or show up spontaneously at her preschool to take her out for chocolate chip pancakes. I'll never have so much unstructured time to simply enjoy being around her. From now on, school will come first and our time together will be smushed into a few short breaks throughout the year. Why didn’t I do more with her and spend less time complaining? Why didn't I appreciate all of those fleeting moments at Little Beans Cafe? Shit. I feel like I’m living in the Cat’s In The Cradle song and I can’t escape.
When I finally get slightly past the guilt, I feel sad about saying goodbye to all of her friends. Being the slacker that I am, my kid has been going to preschool five days a week since she came out of the womb. Not exactly, but she’s been at this school since she was two and a half. Which means she’s known a lot of those kids for more than half of her life. Now that most of this sweet little group is dispersing to different academic institutions, I can’t help but be sad for her. And not as in “she’s five, she’ll be fine.” It’s more like, “she’s five, she’s losing all of her friends, and she’s going to be traumatized.“
While she seems to be handling the transition appropriately, her mother surely is not. Every time I walk into the school, I tear up. I look at these children who have been part of my family’s life for the last three years, and I’m so darn bummed that I won’t see them as much. Sure, they’ll still be in Chicago but (sniffle, sniffle) it’s just not the same (this is where the wail comes in). It’s just not the (big cry hiccup) same.
Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about my kid and her friends and not me and her friends? See what an awful mother I am? I've wasted the first five years of her life with my selfish needs and now I’m making the biggest transition of her life all about me. I am the mom version of the gunk on the bottom of the flip-flops that I've worn every day this summer.
Clearly the time has come for me to buck up and set a good example for my kid. In the next 11 days, I will show her that transitions are normal and healthy, as is feeling sad, nervous, and excited about them. I’ll tell her she’s got new friendships to make, new passions to pursue, and new dreams to envision for herself and the world around her. I’ll tell her that though her days might not be as simple and cheery as the little haven of a preschool she’s called home for the past three years, the love and friendship she felt throughout will guide her in the future.
And then I’ll go into the bathroom, out of earshot, and I’ll cry. I’ll cry for how far she has come, all of the wonderful friendships she’s made, the tremendous amount she’s learned, and the magnificent little person she’s become. And then I'll start preparing for the next huge milestone in her life: dating. Fortunately, I have a feeling her dad will take the lead on that one.
~ By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop