Her clothes had been laid out the night before, and she brushed me aside, determined to get ready by herself. A turquoise top to go over her new cropped pants. Some brand new sneakers, a stark color of white that would probably be closer to gray by the end of the week. A new lunch box that matched her brand new backpack. She pushed me out of the room so that I wouldn’t interfere.
I let her finish getting dressed as I went about making her lunch. What do I pack? I was so new at this. I carefully spread peanut butter on one slice of bread, and jelly on the other. I pressed them together and cut the sandwich in half so it would fit in the bag easier. I placed it in her lunch box, and included a Capri-Sun, a container of yogurt, a cut up apple, and a granola bar. I tried not to think about the nerves that were swimming around in the pit of my belly as I placed it in her backpack, inhaling the brand new scent that it still held. Inside were her new notebook and some crayons, a set of new markers, and all the other things she would need for her first day of school.
She sat down at the table and I placed a bowl of oatmeal in front of her. She chattered away happily between bites about the last TV show she saw, about how pretty her new t-shirt was with the sparkles and colorful designs, and how she couldn’t wait to meet her new teacher. She had been ready for this day for so long. I wasn’t convinced I’d ever be ready. I cleared her bowl and she bounced away to brush her teeth and get her sweatshirt on. She patted the dog goodbye and we closed the door behind us. A few “first day of school” pictures and we were on our way.
The school grounds were crowded with parents and kids. She stayed close by me, suddenly aware that she was being cast into a crowd of people who were strangers. I chatted with a few parents that I recognized from her preschool, and she shyly looked around before bouncing off to the nearby playground with some friends she knew. The bell rang and all the kids stopped what they were doing. One by one they made their way back to the parents, standing in line as they waited for their teacher to appear. She did, a blonde young woman with a smile so warm that I wanted to sit cross legged on her floor and learn about coloring in the lines and creating bowls out of balls of clay along with all the kids.
“Welcome to kindergarten, boys and girls!” she exclaimed to the wide eyed kids that beamed up at her. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to our class.” We all obediently stayed in the line like baby ducks following their mama. She led us down a hall that was decorated with self-portraits of the students from last year. We entered a cheerful room, and the teacher showed the kids where they could place their backpacks and lunch bags. She instructed the parents to stay near the door, and for the kids to sit on the carpet to form a circle. She explained what was going to happen that day, and when the kids could expect their parents to depart until the end of the day. She pulled out a picture book and began reading to the kids. Several kids looked back nervously at their parents standing so far away from them. My daughter kept her eyes forward, already entranced by the sunny woman taking the class on a journey through the book that she held in her hands. The story ended and the teacher smiled as she laid the book in her lap.
“Alright, kids. Wave goodbye to your parents!” she said cheerfully. A couple of kids became tearful as they waved. My daughter, with a small look of nervousness, waved to me with a grin on her face. I bit back the tears that I was hiding inside, and beamed at her as I waved back.
“Goodbye sweetheart,” I said to my brave kindergartener. The door was closed behind us, and we all made our way back to our cars. I drove the short distance home, thinking about how nice it might be to walk to school one of these days, and tried not to think about how much I was going to miss her.
The afternoon came quickly, and my daughter ran out to the playground where I was waiting. She had papers upon papers that needed signing, along with more instructions to go over.
“How was school?” I asked her. She grinned her toothless grin, breathless in her reply.
“Mom,” she said. “I love school.”
- Do you remember your child’s first day of kindergarten?
- Was your child nervous? Were you?
- Did it take a lot to let go and let them be a big kid?
- Or are you a first timer, about to experience the first day of school for the first time with your growing child?
Share your experiences in the comments!