The first day of kindergarten is undoubtedly near the top of the “parenting memorable moments” list. My oldest is going into her junior year in high school and I still remember her first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday.
So many vivid memories about this time of transition. What I remember in the days leading up to the big day is my daughter matter-of-factly informing us that she was NOT going to Kindergarten this year. I also remember doing everything they say to do on back-to-school checklists like visiting the school, shopping for back to school supplies, and reading books that ease transition. I think we wore out the “The Kissing Hand” in the weeks leading up to the first day of school.
On the morning of the first day, I remember the dress my daughter wore with the tights she insisted on wearing, despite the fact it was 90 degrees. Our whole family went outside to play in our driveway and wait for the bus. I remember working so hard to mask the anxiety I felt that a) she would NOT get on the bus and b) that my baby was going to the big elementary school. As the bus pulled up I hugged her, kissed her hand, and went to pick up my camera … and dropped it. My husband and I both fumbled to pick up the camera and when we looked up, my daughter had boarded the bus and was heading for a seat. The kind bus driver must have seen the horror and panic in our eyes because he called her up by name (I was very impressed) and asked her to pose for a picture for mom and dad. To our amazement, she smiled confidently at the camera, waved goodbye then took her seat as if she had been doing this forever. So much for not going to kindergarten. Next I remember my husband convincing me not to hop in the car to follow the bus and lurk in the bushes to make sure she got into school safely. Good move, but it took a lot of will power.
But what I remember most about the first day of kindergarten was the heaviness of heart I felt all day long. I swear, the time from when she left to the time she got off the bus, felt like 3 ½ days instead of 3 ½ hours. No amount of cuddling with my son, walking outside, or baking muffins in anticipation of her return could ease the ache. Now, I swear I am not a helicopter mom (I think my friends would concur) but the thoughts of her being in this big building with older kids and me not knowing where she was at any given time felt like someone had put a ton of bricks on my chest.
When she got off the bus she was all smiles and gave me a big hug. Not an “I missed you so much mommy” hug but an “I am happy to see you but it was not big deal” hug. What I expected next was to sit down to our special first day of school picnic lunch and hear all about the details of her time away from me. What I got was one word answers to desperate questions. What I wanted to say was, “Come on, throw me a bone… tell me some detail about your day. Anything!” But instead, I retreated and let her play.
Sometimes our kids teach us. This was one of those times. My daughter taught me that often after a big day you just want to retreat and find peace in your routine. She taught me that I needed to back off and let her unfold the details of her day on her terms, not mine.
I am happy to report that we both survived the first day and first week of kindergarten. The pride I felt that she was thriving at school and becoming independent eventually eclipsed the separation angst. And then I blinked, and she was going into her junior year in high school!
How did you do on your child’s first day of kindergarten? Would love to hear your stories!