The Very First Day Of The Very First Year

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Back to school

“Awwww… are you sad?”

This is, I think, simply what one says to a mother when they hear that kindergarten is on the horizon.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sending your first, last or random middle child off, the very first day of the very first year of school is supposed to be a big deal to kids and a heartbreak for parents.

Except, well, I started sending my children off into the world on their own about 9 years ago when my oldest started daycare.  My youngest has also been in daycare and, most recently, preschool.  The idea of them going off into a building far away all by themselves is no longer novel or frightening.  It just is.

“I’m OK, actually,” I told anyone who asked.

And I was.  I was totally and completely OK.  I was OK when we went through orientation last spring and when we met her teacher last Friday.  I was OK when we bought her backpack and stuffed it full of new school supplies.  I was OK when I woke her up and helped her pick out her clothes and took dozens and dozens of first day of school photos.

first day of school photos

I was OK when we walked her to the bus stop and I was more than OK as I watched from a few feet away while she and her brother interacted with the neighborhood children.  She was laughing and babbling and eager for me to leave her, and I was OK with that too.

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I was even OK when I watched her climb into a big yellow bus that seemed much too big and much too yellow for her tiny pixie frame.

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I came home and got to work, more than a little excited about having a child-free workday at home that hadn’t cost me a penny.

At some point, I got up and walked to my bathroom.  On my walk back, I passed by my bed.  A clump of dirty fur caught my eye and I was stopped in my tracks.

Bunny.

Bunny went with her to preschool every single day.  Bunny sleeps with her and eats with her and comes out at random times when she needs comforting.  Bunny was given to her when she was days old, a tiny, helpless creature who needed her mother for everything.  And bunny had been discarded in my bed without a second thought this morning.  And of course it was, because obviously she can’t take bunny to kindergarten.

Because kindergarten is not at all like daycare or preschool.

Because kindergarten is for big kids.

And suddenly, I am no longer OK.

How the hell does this keep happening?  You go to bed with a cuddly, dependent child snuggled up against you, and you wake up to kids.  Big, loud, talking and thinking and growing kids.

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Their ideas get more complex and their need to be like you and seek your approval and share their day with you seems to fade as quickly as their baby fat.  As quickly as their fear.  And while you are thrilled to find them less afraid, you can’t help but be a little heartbroken when you realize that one of your most important roles – the role of soother and fear fighter – is now unnecessary.

Emma has spent the last three months terrified of going to kindergarten.  She was, she assured me, not big enough for big school and not getting any happier as the big day approached.  She would much rather just stay home with me all day, she insisted.

Two days ago she was afraid.

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Today she is a kindergartener.

And I?  Am not OK.

You can see the whole “back to school” set here.

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  1. Hockeymandad says:

    Awww, I got a little choked up myself when I saw that word “Bunny” because I immediately understood. I remember last year leaving my first to enter those giant hallways alone. We didn’t go to the “Boo hoo” breakfast most schools put on for the first day parents. Next year I will watch my last baby do the same thing. She will look even smaller I think because she is so tiny for her age. I will not be OK either. Sending you a hug though because I know those help when kids have a rite of passage.

  2. Laura says:

    Aww your son is beginning to have that look of a tween. I remember the day I noticed my son didn’t look like a little boy anymore *sigh*

  3. Jill says:

    My kids are going to school for the first time in the States this year (1st & 2nd), and oddly enough, as much as I CAN’T wait for them to go, I’m also a tad sad … It means that we’re not overseas anymore, and a totally different school system awaits.

    Enjoy the quiet … that’s the one thing I’m looking forward to the most. For now.

  4. Darla says:

    Isn’t it crazy how this sneaks up on ya?? I still have times when I miss my kid so much (he’s going into 8th grade for heavensake!!) I have to use all my will power not to run up and take him out of school for rest of the day.

  5. avitable says:

    It’s posts like this that make me want that.

  6. muskrat says:

    I just started dropping off the 4-year-old every day at the preschool we picked for her back when we thought we’d live in a different house by now. It’s a little sad how eagerly she dashes inside her classroom without looking back.

  7. Cara says:

    I read this post with my six week old (and first) child sleeping beside me. My heart stopped for a moment. I can’t even imagine her being that big, but she will be. And so soon, really.

  8. Superjules says:

    That smiley came out creepier than I meant it to.

  9. Aunt Becky says:

    When my youngest goes, I will not be okay. At all.

  10. Mommycosm says:

    I feel like I am watching a preview of my life in two weeks. My daughter is going into 3rd grade and my son is starting full-day kindergarten. I joke that I’ll be crying and dancing the jig all the way back to the house.
    It’s so bittersweet. I’m afraid if I blink we’ll be talking about junior high.

  11. Faiqa says:

    I’m just glad I’ll have another one at home when N. goes off to real school. It’s almost enough to make me want to keep having babies.

    Almost, I said.

  12. Issa says:

    Mine are going into 4th and 1st grades next week. No matter how used to this I get, there is always a moment that comes of being not okay.

    Hugs honey. Just remember? Tonight when she gets home? She’s still just a five year old who sleeps with a bunny. :)

  13. salekelas says:

    My little Emma (age 4) is going to ride the big yellow bus to PreK. She is my second child. We have eagerly anticipated the day we could stop paying for daycare and send her to FREE PreK – woo hoo! But as the summer draws to a close, my enthusiasm is waning. It’s hard to think of her tiny little body climbing those big bus steps, riding all the way to school without her big sister (it’s a half-day program), and navigating those long, wide halls – without me. Your post today hit me right between the eyes. I always wondered why my mom would get all teary eyed whenever I hit a big milestone growing up. Now I know.

  14. Finn says:

    Lil’ M begins MIDDLE SCHOOL on Thursday. And while he’s been in school since he was three, these milestones don’t get any easier.

    Thank you, so much, for sending Emma to her very first day on the bus. I’m getting grandma guilt because I want to send Lil’ M to his very first day of middle school on the bus. I walked to my very first day of middle school. Oy.

  15. jodifur says:

    It is the word Kindergarten, I’m convinced of it. Michael starts too, in a week and a half and he and I are both nervous. I’m not sure he is going to be ok and he is not sure he will have friends and the teacher will like him.

    There is a difference between preschool and kindergarten and the kids know it. And we know it.

    You will be ok though. You will.

  16. Rayne says:

    Britt, that was great and a tearjerker and I am not even close to there yet with my son. After all he is only a month old. But I know those days fly by and before I know it, I will be right there watching him get ready for his first day of school and I know that I will NOT be OK. Thanks for sharing.

  17. theewens says:

    Good grief, woman, you’ve made me sob. As it is, I sobbed writing my post yesterday about my baby going to kindergarten. I am a wreck. A mess. Decidedly NOT OK. I wish you lived closer to me so we could commiserate…I mean, comfort each other.

  18. Ann's Rants says:

    I was feeling so good about my kids growing up. Then at blogher Wendi (Aarons) said to me…”yes but once their both in school, no one needs you anymore”

    That might have set me back

    A TAD.

  19. I was okay. I was okay with the tooth brushing shot. I was okay with the bus shot. I was okay with all of it until I hit the word “Bunny”. Then I let out an audible moan and tried to hold the tears back. (Impossible, though it was.)

    My guy started preschool last year, and I was cool. He’s heading to Pre-K this year, and I’m still cool. But the day he trots off to kindergarten? I know I’m going to find my Achilles heel.

    Big hugs to you and Bunny.

  20. I just kinda teared up reading that. Next fall will mark the last “first day” for me and I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to respond. Gaby says she’s excited about the idea of going to a “big kids school” and who knows, maybe by NEXT September, I’ll have become accustomed to the thought of it. But then, maybe not.

  21. Nanna says:

    I had to laugh at her though when she looked up at us all and said, “You guys can leave now – it’s a BUS stop.” Little minx.

  22. Robin says:

    Ok…seriously? I want babies now. Tons of them. Biological clock? Ticking really loudly. :)

  23. Bre says:

    *sniff*
    Did she have a good first day?

  24. What terrifies me about watching my kids grow up is that someday soon they will begin to look to friends, teachers, coaches, for advice and help. And it scares me that as they make that natural transition from depending on their parents to depending on friends, some of those people will misguide them or hurt them. I know it’s a natural part of life, to learn from mistakes and learn how to stay away from people who would lead them astray, but it hurts to know that’s going to happen.

    I’m glad they made it out OK! How was her first day?

  25. Becca says:

    I cried like a baby when the Princess Fairy went to school and mine are 15, 13, 11 and 6. I’ve been doing this for a while, but it killed me that she didn’t need me anymore. We watch them grow, but it’s like they just jump overnight into big girls and boys! Good luck, and enjoy all of it. You will probably not be ok when she enters high school either. I’m just sayin’!! :)

  26. Heather says:

    Awww, honey. Congrats on raising such a cool kid- that says some awesome things about your parenting! Big hugs to you!

  27. Lisa says:

    *sniff*

    I sent my son to his very first day of school on a Greyhound tour bus that the navy base school sent around to everyone’s house. He looked so small climbing in that giant bus! He started school in Sicily and I have no pictures because they were lost in one of the moves. Now he’s all graduated and in college and I have no idea how that happened.

  28. anymommy says:

    My oldest two go in two weeks. I’m okay. Or I was until I read this, now I’m crying.

  29. Caroline says:

    While your broken heart certainly isn’t, this post was fantastic. It truly captures that everyday “I’m fine with my kids growing up and getting out of my hair… NO! I’M NOT! THEY CAN NEVER LEAVE ME! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON AROUND HERE!” paradox we all struggle with. It shifts for me by the second. Dizzying and impossible to get my head around. I hope she’s loving it tho, Brit. (And maybe she left that bunny for you???) Hugs.

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