Just over a week ago, I dropped off my youngest son—my baby—at school for his first day of kindergarten. He carried his backpack, which dwarfed his 5-year-old body, all the way to his classroom. He insisted on walking up the school steps without holding my hand. And once he was safely at his desk, he smiled and waved goodbye without shedding a tear.
He was ready.
Just as importantly, I was ready. In fact, I was ready to do cartwheels on the sidewalk in front of the school after I left the building.
It’s not that I wanted to get rid of my kid and never see him again. Instead, I was anxious to open up a new chapter in life. I’d recently tallied up the time my husband and I had put into rearing young children. We’ve had little ones at home for nearly 12 years, starting from the moment our first son was born. That’s a long time: a long, exhausting time.
Thus, I greeted this final first day of kindergarten with lots of joy, and very little sadness. And my fellow parent-friends greeted me with hugs and high fives when I skipped out the door of the elementary school. (I may or may not have done one terrible celebration cartwheel on my front lawn later that evening.)
Yet despite all this joy, I have experienced a few surprising pangs of melancholy and nostalgia at the thought of having all my children in school. I know that opening a new chapter in life requires you to close another chapter. And there are certain things about my “Raising Young Children Chapter” that, now that it’s closed, I’ll likely never get to do again.
Here’s what you might miss, too, after your baby goes to kindergarten:
Never again will your children fall asleep in your arms. “Never” might be a bit extreme. But school-aged kids rarely snuggle up to their parents for a nap. It might happen when they’re sick, but that’s not at all the same as having a small child cuddle up to you simply because they’re tired and view your lap and chest and arms as their very favorite bed in the world.
You probably won’t hear the words "Mommy" or "Daddy" again. At least not unless your kid wants something and is trying to manipulate you with a teeny, tiny “Mommy/Daddy, please feel sorry for me and give me this thing” voice.
Kissing those sweet baby toes again? Forget it.
Their world is bigger and beyond your control. This, of course, is a good thing. Our job as parents is to raise our kids to live and exist and thrive beyond us. And as they gain independence—and a wider peer group with increasingly greater influence on them—our growing lack of control can seem scary.
Say goodbye to feet and shoes that don’t stink. I know that toddler feet can stink. But there is nothing quite like the putrid odor that seeps from pre-teen and teenage feet. Once those shoes are off, the stench will fill your house and settle in your nostrils and make you want to retch. Kissing those sweet baby toes again? Forget it.
Those slow days are pretty much over. When all your kids are in school, all the time you have with them is busy. They have school activities. Sports activities. Music and theater activities. Curriculum nights and parent-teacher conferences. Winter concerts and school fundraisers. Homework and homework and more homework. Now, the days are short and the years are short and time slips through your fingers, like running water.
So here’s the thing: If you still have little ones at home, I won’t beseech you to cherish every moment. Not every moment is cherishable. (And some are downright dreadful.)
But every once in a while, take a moment to appreciate the things you’ll miss after your baby goes to kindergarten. Kiss a tiny toe. Enjoy an evening without carpools and homework. Hold a sleeping child in your arms and get absolutely nothing done for hours.
Then one day, you can reflect on all these wonderful experiences—after you’ve had a full night’s sleep. And an uninterrupted, relaxing, hot shower. And a full cup of hot coffee that you never once needed to microwave. Let’s just say that there are some obvious perks to having all school-aged children and no more little ones at home.