How a mother should feel on the first day of kindergarten

by - August 31, 2015

It was the first real day of kindergarten, and the rain was pouring down. Our original plan was to walk to school, and I'd escort my proud newbie to his class. But instead, I announced that they would be dropped off in carpool and walk in together. There were no tears, no waves over the shoulder, just an efficient evacuation out the back door and heads-down determination not to get too wet.

When I pulled into the garage back home, I was hit by a twinge of mommy guilt and drove back to school to go in and give my baby boy a hug. He was sitting at the table with a coloring sheet and yellow crayon, diligently filling in between the lines. He didn't look surprised to see me and obviously wasn't missing me yet. If anything, he was a little confused as to why I was interrupting his task. But I told him to have a great day, gave him a hug and kiss and felt better.

As I walked back down the halls, I saw a few mamas standing just outside the kindergarten doors wiping tears and having trouble bringing themselves to walk away. I had just dropped my son off at the curb without much fanfare, and he didn't even care. Of course I did cave to what I felt I should have done and go back to say goodbye, but it didn't change that I was initially okay letting the boys take this big step together, on their own. He's been ready for this all summer, and upon pickup, he informed me that his first day was "so great", with a sly grin and his head cocked confidently to the side.

We mothers have a running narrative of how we are supposed to feel. We tell ourselves the transitions we should be sad about, the times we shouldn't wish away, and the seasons we will miss. Then we judge ourselves based on what we actually do feel compared to how we expected we would feel or even how other mothers feel. Because of this running narrative and our constant struggle to corral our emotions between the lines of acceptable feelings, we sell our experiences short. We become overly aware of making memories and fail to allow our experiences to take hold of us in a way all of their own. We become emotional bonsai trees with roots afraid to dive into the soil and with every branch of spontaneous emotion twisted and clipped.

On my oldest son's first day of kindergarten, I wept to the school counselor on the front steps of the school. I was an absolute mess. I watched the clock all day. I couldn't pick him up soon enough. And you know what? That was fine too. There is no right way to feel. Happy first day of kindergarten!


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2 comments

  1. I wrestled through what I *should* feel, too. I was achey and sad with E but it only lasted a day or so and then I was hit with so much guilt that I was enjoying the rest so much. Every time someone asked how I was doing and I was honest with them I felt that I was somehow telling them that I hated having my girl around and was glad to be rid of her for a few hours. Amazing how those guilty emotions play such a role, when instead we should just deal with what we feel, no matter what it *looks* like.

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    Replies
    1. Friends give each other permission to be real, and people that can't handle real should maybe avoid those personal questions :). Yes, we can feel both sadness as they grow and the relief in new freedoms.

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