I knew this post would come some day. It was inevitable. After all, my kids are getting older and with that comes a slew of things; including kindergarten. My middle child, Hannah, dubbed “the unicorn child” by her pediatrician, dentist, friends’ parents, preschool teachers, and anyone else who happens to have the privilege of meeting her. I would have never known what calling someone a unicorn child would mean prior to having a child like Hannah. Simply put – she’s perfect. Absolutely perfect. I have three children so I can tell you with complete confidence that she is indeed, the poster child. When you think of having a little baby girl, you think pink bows, glitter, dresses, and headbands. Hannah loves it all. And she let me carry her around like a little doll. I have been intentional about making sure she is heard and noticed as the middle child. My sister (who is also a middle child) gave me a front row seat into the highs and lows of being a middle child. As the middle child you’re often overlooked, ignored, and sometimes forgotten with the best of intentions. But as the middle child, you are almost always considered the most responsible and most caring. I can say this about both Hannah and my sister.
Hannah tells me she loves me…just because. She helps her older brother with anything he needs and she offers not sometimes – but all the time, to walk upstairs with him to bed because she knows he’s afraid to go by himself. She doesn’t point it out and doesn’t rub it in. She simply leads the way up to their rooms and offers him a smile with a sweet “goodnight”. She’s the one who wakes in the morning without making a noise and prepares her own breakfast if she can reach it. If not, she waits. She will wait until I get out of bed and she will softly say, “Mom, do we have any donuts?” It’s the same question every morning. My kids know they only get donuts on the weekends but I swear, she must dream about getting a dozen every night because every morning, she’s convinced we have donuts somewhere in the pantry. The easiest way to her heart, is a donut. Her favorite is Boston Cream from Dunkin’ Donuts but really, any donut will do. If you’re lucky enough to sit next to her while she’s eating one, you will never eat a donut the same way again. She takes one little bite at a time and savors every bite. A piece of food no bigger than my fist brings her so much happiness – it’s hard to make her wait for the weekends.
I always tell myself that God knew I needed a “Hannah”. He knew my life would not be complete without one. And so, with this belief on the front of my heart I lead each day treating her with the love of a mother who knows she can never repay the One who gave her to me. I’ve asked myself on more than one occasion, why did He pick me? Why did God give Hannah to me? She is the light of my life, the beat in my heart, the breath that I breathe, and I cannot wait to see the woman she will be some day. But today, I find myself asking, “How did 5 years go by so fast with her?” Next week I will walk into her new school and meet her principal and officially register her for kindergarten. I’m both happy and sad. I’m both proud and in denial. How can this be?
These words tonight are for the mom who has a child, whether it be her first, second, third or her last, whose son or daughter will be going to kindergarten in the fall. I know the joy and sorrow you feel because I feel it too. I know the happiness you feel about your child growing and succeeding but the sadness you feel for the last summer you have with her as a preschooler. The sadness not just because she is getting older, growing up, and spreading her wings to a 5-days-a-week school routine (!) and you wonder if she’ll be so tired when she gets home from that first week? But the way you look at her while she’s sleeping and think, “Can I keep her this little forever? Will I remember this moment years from now?”
I prayed for you today. I prayed for the mom, all the moms, who will be sending their littles off this fall. I prayed that you would replay as many moments as you can in your head of that child of yours laughing and smiling so that you will get through that first day. I prayed peace for you that you would believe with all your heart that you were and are the best mom to love this child all the way through her first and last day of kindergarten. I also prayed for myself. I prayed that I wouldn’t hold on so tight that Hannah wouldn’t be able to enjoy this last year before she goes off to school. I prayed to enjoy the good moments and bad moments of parenting because the long days of having littles at home is getting shorter and shorter.
I have a younger child, Elinor, who is 3. Although I’m sad about sending Hannah off to school, it helps knowing that I will have her little sister to latch on to when I get emotional and just need to give someone a good squeeze and kiss on the cheek. It helps to know that I will still have a little one who needs me and cannot do everything by herself yet. And the kicker? I love that she still takes naps. It makes me think she is still so teeny tiny. But I have many friends, and maybe it’s you, whose child is their last and they’re looking, searching, questioning and humbling themselves for what’s next. What comes after being a stay-at-home mom? Who are you without your kids at home? What do you do with yourself?
The truth is, we all want our kids to get older and be great people, God-fearing people who know right from wrong and still choose right. And maybe that’s part of it? Maybe part of why we’re so scared to let our babies go off to kindergarten is because we’re letting a piece of them go. Not just a little piece – but a huge piece. A piece that up until the fall, has always been under your roof. But mom, yes you mom, have to believe that everything you have done up until this point is enough. All of those time-outs, apologies, boo-boos, scrapes, tears, and yes, even tantrums have not been for nothing. They’ve been for everything.