Exchanging nervous smiles with your five-year-old son, who is holding tightly to your hand, the two of you cross the busy parking lot. Directly in front of you is a building that seems much too large for such a young boy to spend his days in. Reaching out to open the heavy glass door, you remind yourself that it really isn’t the end of the world and both of you will get through this experience unscathed.
Taking a deep breath and clinging to the small hand that you never want to release, you guide your young son through the front doors to his new school. The smell of school—crayons, pencils, paint, paper, and books—wafts through the hallway, bringing back your own fond memories of school. If you loved it so much, he will too. And if your mom was able to get through the same difficult situation, you will too.
Again, the two of you exchange smiles. His is nervous but excited. Yours is a mix of anxiety, sadness, and happiness. You are very happy for and proud of your son. After all, he is going to school to learn all the things you want him to, to prepare for college and beyond. The sadness and anxiety come from your reluctance to let go and let him grow. You know that it is inevitable. He can’t stay a baby forever. And even if you think that is what you want, you know deep down inside it isn’t right. He has to grow up and go out into the world. This makes you feel as if you are losing a part of him, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. No longer will you be his sole source of comfort, knowledge, and experiences. He is going to learn things you didn’t teach him and make memories you are not a part of.
Hand in hand, you walk down the hall to the kindergarten classrooms. “Breathe, just breathe,” you tell yourself. Of course, it is easier said than done.
Having been here for the school’s open house, your feet do not falter in their course. Both of you know exactly where you are going. You notice the confidence in your child’s step. Kind of a small bounce. It makes you smile. Deep inside, you know he is so ready for this experience. He has been talking about it all summer long.
“Okay, remember to listen to everything your teacher says and follow directions.”
“I know, Mom.”
“Be nice and helpful to the other students, but if you have any problems, make sure to tell your teacher.”
“I know, Mom.”
“Make sure you pay attention and learn a lot.”
“I will, Mom.”
“And make sure ...”
“Mom, I know, I know. You have told me a million, gazillion times. School’s going to be so great.”
“I know. Just promise me you’ll have fun.”
Smiling at each again, this time with a little less nervousness, you realize that your baby is grown and really ready for this new challenge. He will have troubles along the way and problems you can’t fix, but that is part of growing up. You know that you are going to have a hard time walking away, but it helps to know that he really needs this opportunity to thrive and you don’t want to stand in the way of his growth.
Too quickly, you arrive at the destination, your child’s kindergarten classroom. Feeling your throat begin to tighten and your eyes start to burn, you open the door and walk in, your son leading the way. Stepping through the threshold you feel as if you have passed through a doorway to your child’s future. A future in which you will no longer be the only shining star guiding your son.
Every parent must eventually face this path one way or another. We all reach the point where part of the hold we have on our child must be relinquished and handed over into the open hands of another. This is definitely not easy for us and can be very scary. It scares us to know that we will no longer be the sole influence in our child’s life, but must now share this awesome responsibility. We must release them into the world, hoping beyond hope that we have started them out right, praying that everything will turn out for the best.
We have spent so much time and effort lovingly and patiently shaping and molding out child into the person we want them to be. We have tried our best to teach them the morals and values that we feel are most important. We have been there for the good and the bad, the smiles and the tantrums. It hasn’t been an easy task, but it has been one you have wholeheartedly thrown yourself into.
Now we must let go and let them grow. There is no way for us to know if the people we are entrusting our precious child to hold’s the same or similar values and beliefs as we do. All we can hold onto is the knowledge that we have done our very best to instill in them the important things. Things that will make it easier for them to make good choices, withstand peer pressure, and make friends.
Knowing that we have taught them what they need to know to start their journey is very comforting. We are no where near done with our lessons to our child, but we know they are well on their way. This journey of independence has just begun. It will never be problem or worry free for us or them. There will always be hardships and joys, smiles and tears. That is part of life.
You realize that now it is time to take that deep breathe, whisper I love you, and wave goodbye from the doorway, for you know that you can go no further with them this time. This is their time to shine. Blowing one final kiss you walk down the hallway towards the front doors. The lump in your throat begins to rise and your eyes are watering over. ”Just make it to the car,” you tell yourself.
Opening your car door and hopping in quickly, the tears start to flow and the cries burst forth from your mouth. Letting the sadness run its course, you open your wallet to look at a picture of his smiling face. Though you are still sad, you know that you will get through this and many other experiences. You must do it for him. You have to let him grow and live.
Wiping the tears off your cheeks you start the car. ”Six hours,” you remind yourself. ”I can pick him up in six hours.” Driving away from the school, you head towards home. That is when it hits you. You have six hours to do what ever you want and need to do. Glancing back at the school, your smile gets a little wider. Realizing that there are perks that come with having a child in school, you begin to mentally go through your to do list, that suddenly seems a little less dreadful. ”What can I get done in six hours?” you wonder.