Before You Go: To My Firstborn Entering Kindergarten

We all know them, the familiar phrases one hears on repeat in those fragile early months of new motherhood. Well meaning folks coming off a full night’s sleep who will smile at you in the checkout line and urge you to ‘Enjoy it; they’ll be starting Kindergarten before you know it.’ You feebly return the smile and try to pretend you aren’t clutching the bag of frozen peas to your chest to cool your chapped nipples. You stare down at the tiny creature who someone left you in charge of and think that cannot possibly be true when you are hanging on hour to hour. This is your life now, and it will never ever end. But then you wake up one day and marvel to find that little alien creature who robbed you of your sleep, your sanity, and your heart is now in fact a little person.

The moment that seemed lifetimes away back under the fluorescent lights of that late night checkout line has taken you by surprise and actually arrived. 

As though it isn’t entirely obvious, I’m talking about myself. Somehow writing in third person makes it just a little easier to disassociate myself from the fact that my firstborn is starting Kindergarten exactly one month from now. And I’m neck-deep in a full-blown emotional tidal wave. I feel another swell coming as I’m writing these words, so I’ll just pour a small glass of Cab and put on an episode of Queer Eye to ride it out. Except that show leaves me ugly crying too and completely defeats the purpose. Sweet cheeses, pull it together lady…

It’s not that I wish this beautifully vivacious little boy of mine were still a baby. I don’t.

Those days were tender but rough, and frozen peas will only get you so far. What has me awake at night is that I can’t quite grasp the furious pace of it all. I find myself remembering with crushing detail too many times that I brushed off a plea for my attention to continue sweeping, finish my coffee, or (if I’m to be real) check my phone. It hurts to think about it. But deep down in moments of quiet, I realize these missed opportunities with my son are not the sum of our relationship. And I trust that his memories will be filled with all the good stuff, leaving my less than stellar moments in the footnotes.   

Yet here it is, this final month looming before me.

One month where he is still almost entirely ours. One month to take a few extra minutes for one more chapter, and make pancakes on a Monday. I watch him outside bug hunting and worry if his teachers will understand just how sensitive and smart he is, and if they will encourage him to speak up and be heard. And then I chuckle and realize that most parents probably have similar, if not the same, concerns and that’s what makes Kindergarten teachers such great heroes of the world. Comforting kids is in the job description; comforting parents doesn’t come with a bonus. 

One month. There are new shoes to buy, haircut needed, sharpened pencils, and a boatload of very specific items that one apparently cannot start school without. There are these last few fleeting weeks of lazy summer mornings before life changes forever. It’s such an odd thing that these childhood transitions can be so exciting and magical, but still hurt like hell. It’s here, it’s happening and we’re ready. And what I want to impart to this beautiful child everyday as he starts this new stage of his life, has already been perfectly captured by the unparalleled A. A. Milne:

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

I’ll try my best to keep a lid on it and not tell the young mom in line in front of me that this day is coming before she knows it. I laughed back then because I was too tired to cry, and I have to laugh now because I know it’s true.

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3 Responses to Before You Go: To My Firstborn Entering Kindergarten

  1. Mary McFarland July 12, 2018 at 11:16 pm #

    Beautifully written Taylor Nicole. I remember your first day of kindergarten, dressed in your gray dress with a white collar, and red bow … You were excited to go into your class, and I thought I was excited for you, until You sat down in your chair. I cried … I knew your world was about to change and so was mine. I was right. 😪😊

  2. Casey Harrelson July 23, 2018 at 7:26 pm #

    Hi Taylor, I am a 40 year old single father, (happily to be married in Nov. of this year) of an amazing 5 year old son named Hank. As the tears run down my face from knowing the reality of what’s to come in the next few weeks; then put into words from a mom blog my sister sent me, I too as well as many others I’m sure feel the same excitement, fear and unknown that our little ones will soon face. Let’s be honest, they’re not the ones feeling these things it us. In a world so different from even my youth which doesn’t seem long ago, our children have many more obstacles then we ever did and it’s scary. All we want is for our children to have opportunuties and experience life’s joys and unfortunately, sometimes its not so joyous. To reiterate on some of your points about brushing off some of those little times we get wrapped up in; life, work or what have you. It scares the hell out of me to think it’s about to all change and i can’t get those moments back but I’m excited for my son and look forward to the next chapter. Carpe Diem! They’ll be graduating high school before we know it! Thank you for a good cry and a shoulder to feel like I could lean on.

  3. Deborah J Woody July 29, 2018 at 1:52 pm #

    My oldest starts college in 2 weeks! Yes, it’s been a long time since she started kindergarten, this article spoke to me! The quote from A. A. Milne is true for any child. I am saving that quote for her after we get her dorm room all set up!
    I will also send this article to my cousin whose own daughter just had her first birthday!
    Thank you for this article. It’s so easy to forget those sleepless nights!
    Deb W.

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