You’ve purchased the backpack, lunch box, folders and box of crayons. The first day outfit is picked out, down to the light-up sneakers. Everything is ready for that first day of kindergarten—everything except for you.
There is something so monumental about your child starting kindergarten. It’s a milestone that comes with a mix of emotions, a perfect example of the duality that is motherhood. You want to cry and celebrate at the same time. It might leave you wondering if you are the only one who is feeling so many different emotions simultaneously. What is this mix of feelings really about?
Essentially, kindergarten is a fork in the road on our motherhood journey. It is saying goodbye to the infant and toddler stages and hello to this more independent person that your child has grown into, seemingly overnight.
Somehow, the sleepless nights and struggles with breastfeeding feel like nothing more than a hazy dream. Navigating the continuous toddler tantrums, picky eating and power struggles are no longer your daily challenge.
The days you wished away are gone. It isn’t helpful for new moms to hear that tired phrase, “Enjoy every minute because it goes by so fast.” But in this pivotal moment, the saying rings true for me. It did go by so fast, and I am not prepared to say goodbye to my baby.
As I think back to the first day I brought my daughter home from the hospital, I distinctly remember how I felt. I was so full of uncertainty and lacked any confidence that I was capable of caring for the 6-pound infant that I held in my arms. Motherhood was so overwhelming. It was a tidal wave that came crashing onto my shores, and I was not prepared for the storm.
Initially, motherhood devastated me. It tore me apart and left me in pieces. I felt like I had barely survived those early months; then came toddlerhood, which brought with it a slew of new challenges. These challenges might have been different from those of the infant stage, but they were challenging nonetheless.
I swam in a sea of no’s and attempted to gently parent my way through back-to-back tantrums. There was food on the kitchen walls and pee on the bathroom floor. The toddler stage was busy, draining and relentless. I was exhausted by the constant demands of motherhood, my patience was worn so thin that it was nearly nonexistent.
This summer, I realized that the new motherhood storm has subsided. The idea of my child starting kindergarten in the fall feels like the sun dawning on the horizon.
This moment is more than an important life event for my child: This transition is a landmark that serves as a testament to my motherhood.
It is a testament to all of my strength, persistence and tenacity. This moment allows me to reflect on how far I have come in the past few years.
I am no longer a new mom just as my child is no longer a baby, and in this time we have both grown so much.
As my daughter and I stand together at this pivotal point, I am excited for the freedom that comes with having a school-aged child but I also mourn the early years of my child’s life when I was too busy surviving to be able to truly take it all in.
I don’t quite know how to feel about any of that. All I know is that it is incredibly hard to send your child off to kindergarten.
It is the kind of hard that is motherhood’s signature. It fills you with emotion and surprises you with its intensity.
Although it is impossible to know what I will feel on my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, I am prepared to do both a little crying and a little celebrating. If you are also sending your little one off to kindergarten this fall, know that it’s OK to feel all of the feelings that go along with this monumental day. Take a moment to let the tears flow—and then celebrate, because you deserve it.
This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.