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When Did Elementary Schools Become Gigantic?

My soon-to-be five-year-old is very excited about beginning kindergarten in the fall. She is already asking if she can ride the school bus (which I am petrified to let her do), and wondering what her classroom will look like. I know I should be thrilled at her excitement, and I am, but I am also a bit saddened. 

I still vividly remember her birth, birthdays, funny moments, and now that she is so eagerly entering school age, I am a bit afraid that all of these vivid memories will start to blur. I know that any rational person knows that memories will continue to build and more and more precious memories will come about during her time in school. But as a mom trying to loosen her protective grip on her oldest child, I am somewhat reticent to begin life as the mom of a school-age child. (One that goes to real school all day!)

We went to a PTA meeting last night, just she and I. She asked her father to take her little sister out so that she and I could go to the “meeting at kindergarten school.” It was very sweet. I was fine until we got out of the car to enter the building.

First—a little background information. My daughter will be attending the elementary school I attended as a child. I am very sentimental and am thrilled at the idea of her attending the same school. The only problem is in this “new must be better” stage of our times, the school has been completely remodeled (i.e., rebuilt) and is unrecognizable to those of us who attended as children. Gone are the old wooden floors, the regular height ceilings, the intimate hallways, and the full of light classrooms with walls of windows.

Back to last night. As we walked up to the building, she looked up high and said, “This school is bigger than our car!” It towered above us as we walked in and looked around for where we were supposed to go. The ceilings are at least fourteen feet high, which is several times the height of my three-foot, five-inch-tall daughter. The hallways are huge and bright—nothing like the dark, intimate hallways I remember! I know progress is important, and bright, large hallways are better for our children, but there is something to be said for intimacy. Especially when five-year-olds are entering there new home away from home. Sometimes smaller seems better.

We found our way upstairs to the Cafeteria and found a seat near the front. As the meeting started, I kept stealing glances at my daughter to try to see what she was thinking. She was looking at everything. She counted the number of windows in the room, wondered why some were lower to the floor than others, counted the number of classes that took part in the program, and was thrilled when our family friend (a first grade teacher) brought her class out onto the stage.

As the program drew to a close, my daughter was anxious to look at a classroom. We found our friend, who promptly took my daughter’s hand, and started off. My daughter was shy during introductions to an assistant principal, who made her laugh about the school buses, and during introductions to two other first grade teachers. We visited the library and noticed that many of the shelves were “just the right height” for her to reach the books. Then we were on our way to a classroom.

We opened the classroom door and my daughter was a little hesitant to go in. She then entered and we walked around the room, noticed that there are many similarities to her preschool classroom (although her pre-k calendar uses apples to mark the days of May and this first-grade calendar uses frogs), and checked out the other items in the room.

As we left, my brave daughter discussed the night’s happenings and was eager to tell her dad about the night. Little does she know—I was holding back tears for most of the night. I know there are times when we have to let go and let our children grow. But sometimes I wish they could stay little forever. This milestone has been approaching all too quickly for five years and is now almost unbearably bittersweet. I know my unlimited hugs will soon be limited, my heal-all kisses will soon be unneeded, and my hand will not be grasped as tightly—or as often. I know that this is what our ultimate job as a parent is—to let go.

As we enter the realm of school age, I plan on savoring each moment, relishing my children’s new independence, and rejoicing (somewhat reticently) when the next milestone is upon us.

 

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