Another First: The Joy and Sadness of Letting Go

And just like that here we are, the first day of Kindergarten. Each first seems to get a little harder because as the old Semisonic song goes, “every new beginning is some other beginning’s end.” This day marks the end of a chapter - of my time at home with my firstborn, of arranging our days however we pleased, of him being a “little kid,” of him needing me for ALL the things, and of so much more. 

Making himself at home in his new classroom

Making himself at home in his new classroom

We’ve been talking up Kindergarten for a while now, focusing on all the many skills he will learn, the friends he will make, the fun he will have. We’ve also talked about the many great qualities he has which will help him navigate the ups and the downs of this new world. He is ready. Me? Not so much. Up until two days ago, if you were to ask him how he was feeling about going to Kindergarten, he would’ve told you he felt “a little bit nervous and a little bit excited.” But yesterday after seeing his classroom, meeting his teacher and discovering who would be in his class, he seemed to feel a sense of assurance.

So, as we prepared to bring him to his 1.5 hour orientation {without me}, he said he was mostly just excited because now he knew some kids in his class and what to expect. As we approached the door of his classroom, I gave him a big hug and kiss, and told him he has what it takes to make this whole kindergarten thing great. And then it happened…he just walked right in. He didn’t even look back. Not once. My heart couldn’t have been more proud or more thankful in that moment. Simultaneously, my heart couldn’t have felt more broken - I struggled to handle the pain of letting go.

The minute his little brother, Blake, and I were back inside the car, I started bawling. Mind you, this was not even the first day, just the orientation.

But I was sobbing and Blake asked,

“Mama, why are you crying?” 

I told him, "it’s hard watching my babies grow up." 

With a confused look he said, “but we're not all growed up yet!” 

"I know," I attempted to explain, "but every day you grow up a little bit more, which is a really great and wonderful thing, but it’s hard for Mamas.”

“Why is it hard?” He pressed. I found myself ill-prepared for this conversation with my four year old.

“Well, because when you’re babies, you need your Mama to do all kinds of things for you - hold you, feed you, get you dressed, take care of you. And as you grow older, we help you learn how to do those things on your own. And wow, look at you now, you can do so much more on your own now than you could when you were a baby, which is so great. But it’s also hard for me to let you go, to let you do all those things on your own. Does that make any sense?”

With his usual inquisitive tone, “So you like helping us?” 

I laughed. And I cried some more. Right there, in that space between us lay the ultimate parental paradox. “Yes," I answered, "I like helping you.” And I thought to myself, it’s true, I do. And I also feel like I want to rip my hair out sometimes when everyone needs me, for all the things, all the time. I wish I could hold it all together in one moment a little better - the joy and privilege of getting to invest in, nurture, and help grow this little person up with the often-felt frustration which comes from having someone be so very dependent on me all of the time. I both celebrate and grieve my children forging their independence. Love deeply, hold loosely, it’s my life’s motto. And the hold loosely part gets me every time.

It’s our job as moms to teach our little ones how to fly, to give them the needed tools, and to instill in them the courage to do so. And then it’s our job to let them go, to give them the opportunity to actually fly. And we start off at Kindergarten which I liken to a 3 foot cliff, and gradually, with each passing year, the heights to which they rise grow higher and higher and the more we are called to let go. And oh my, what a beautiful, joyous sight it is to watch them live into who they were made to be, to soar high above. And oh what a sadness to feel the distance as they fly farther and farther away.

So here I stand at the precipice that is Kindergarten, hugging my brave and not-so-little boy goodbye. I'm sending him off to fly on to a new adventure. It's evident he is holding that jittery combination of nervousness and excitement, and he is oh so brave. I'm a bit of a wreck. But the tears are because of the love, and that's a beautiful, wonderful thing. It's a new beginning for all of us and with it comes another chapter's ending. Love deeply, hold loosely...and grab a tissue. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.