This week I have a kindergartner. After three years of pre-school, I’m excited. It’s been a long summer, so perhaps I join the other realms of cheering parents as their kids head back to school. I’ve had the experience of letting go. He’s ready. I’m ready.
I think this is one perk of a working parent: we’re used to letting go. We’ve had to hand over our 10-12 week old child to someone else. Not an easy task but at least it comes with easy bathroom breaks and the ability to stop at the store for a five minute trip. I was fortunate to leave my son with my mother. Still hard, but I could call her anytime I wanted and I knew he was in the best hands.
When he was two I sent him off to daycare. The first place my husband and I looked was the right place. We felt comfortable with our daycare provider, even when our son was out of our sight. More importantly, he was happy to play there. He went there for three years and I have never once regretted our decision.
I may not be teary eyed at the thought of kindergarten, but I am crying at the end of his daycare experience. It’s bittersweet to see your child grow up and move on, and all the changes in support that go along with it.
I know there will be other kindergarten parents who are letting go of their child for the first time. It’s hard. At school you hand your child over to a stranger. You can’t stay and watch, you don’t get phone call updated at any time. The only way to find out what happened is to get your child to share, or perhaps a brief interchange with the teacher.
The first time I dropped him off at preschool, he had just turned three. I had met the teacher once before, but I hadn’t had the same experience as with daycare. My mom came with me and we dropped him off together. And for the first time my kid was separated from me when I wasn’t at work or on a planned date night.
It was emotional. But it got easier. By the third year I was pushing him off to his new teacher, watching other parents struggling to let go. Both reactions are okay. Each family has a different path, a different story. The only thing that remains universal: at some point we have to let go.
It comes in stages, fortunately. From a few hours at preschool to dropping them off at a college dorm. As parents we are given this gift of a beautiful baby, completely dependent on us for everything. And each stage of their lives they are breaking away, becoming independent, supporting themselves. This also varies from child to child, but almost all find their own way in their own time.
To my fellow kindergarten parents: have that cry, have that cheer. Enjoy the quiet house, or turn on some music to make is more tolerable. Our children are growing up. But their school years are just beginning. They have friends to make, subjects to learn. Older, more independent, still our little children.