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
Here’s what you might miss, too, after your baby goes to
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?
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?
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.
Those DVDs you ordered to teach your kid to read before he was out of diapers and the cram sessions you’ve been stressing about for months all fade from memory when the first tears and worries about starting kindergarten set in. Whether your child’s the one who is all worked up or you are, here are 10 field-tested books to soothe worries, build confidence, laugh a little and plan for the big first month.