Bittersweet. It’s a word that has become overused – especially by parents. It has in many ways lost its impact. I’m as guilty as anybody.
But it’s easier to respond with “bittersweet” when people ask how I am feeling about my first child starting kindergarten, than to candidly answer, “I’m scared out of my wits, heartbroken, and celebratory all at the same time.”
Our first babies mean so much to us.
The first five years of my son’s life have been incredibly rewarding, challenging, and transformational for our entire family.
I relish in being the center of my boy’s universe. And while I appreciate my time to myself, nothing gives me a fuller heart than his affectionate displays that remind me I am his number one.
As kindergarten approaches ever too quickly, I’m realizing that the slow and heart-wrenching process of letting go is about to begin. While I still have many more years ahead with my son in our home and under our direct care, at this stage of life, the start of elementary school feels as momentous as a high school graduation or his eighteenth birthday.
In a small but marked way, my baby is leaving me.
This summer has been more significant than any other summer of the last five years. Of course there was the summer my son was born, the summer he turned one and learned to walk, the summer he learned to ride a bike without training wheels, and so on.
But this summer marks the ending of a chapter and the beginning of a new one: my little boy’s crossing over from the world of home, to the world at large.
I know he is ready. The subtle signs have been hard to ignore; play dates without me in attendance, his first sleepover, and time spent with slightly older neighborhood children.
He is growing in all the right ways, and it is a joy to witness. Still I can’t help but feel that while he outgrows his size 4T pants and his preschool, part of him is outgrowing mommy, too.
Ultimately, I know this is part of the natural cycle of parenthood, starting kindergarten. And in time elementary school will feel familiar and comfortable to me as well as my son.
Letting go is hard, but I’m trying to focus on maintaining a close bond between us. Now more than ever I realize how imperative it is that we stay attached and in touch with each other, so that his love for family and his inherent goodness will remain no matter what influences he encounters on his commencing journey.
So I’ll keep telling everyone how bittersweet this all is. I’ll be there with my camera for those first day pics. And I’ll have my tissue at the ready at drop off.
I know countless mothers have been through it. They tell me the goods and the bads of starting kindergarten. And of course, I understand my son’s world has to get bigger at some point.
But for now, simply calling ‘bittersweet’ to send my firstborn into the unknown realm of school feels like an injustice to what’s really going on in this mother’s heart.
And that’s okay.