My youngest (of four) goes off to school next week. The day I truly thought would never come is flying at us at warp speed. I have let the older three go off reluctantly, the separation buffered only by the little ones wrapped around my legs, keeping me company. But now there are no more little ones. My legs are free. They’re all “school age”. They’re all big kids. Even the “little ones” are now big ones.
It’s an enourmous transition that I can’t wrap my head around. Because I know that it’s not just sending them off to kindergarten. It’s the beginning of so many send-offs, big and small, and every measure in between. You’d think I’d be used to it after doing it three times, but it only seems to make it that much tougher. I know what’s coming.
My kids get to go to wonderful schools, full of adventure and love and learning and laughter. But still, school is not home. Only home is home. And once they go, we see them less and less at home, even when they’re not in school. The first day of kindergarten marks the launch of a million tiny goodbyes. It starts out small… the playdates become more frequent. And then, they’re just “drop off” playdates. And then they’re running back and forth to friend’s houses every chance they get. And begging for sleepovers. And meeting up with other kids in town. And taking trips for days, with friends and even with school… their geography ever-expanding.
Going to kindergarten is essentially a lesson in geography. Our world up until this moment has been spent mostly together, small, close, and easily named. And now, little by little, day by day, my daughter will expand it. She’ll find her own destinations while I wait at home, marking the map with pins.
I realize, with very watery eyes, that my baby isn’t mine anymore. She now belongs to the world, and I’m not ready to share her. But deep down, I know she is no more “mine” than her older siblings were. She’s been her very own person since the day she was born. Bright and beautiful, inquisitive, confident, caring, and feisty. And she is ready for this newest milestone the same way she was ready to wean… long before I was, never looking back.