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My Baby's Going To Kindergarten and I'm a Total Wreck

Photograph by Twenty20

My baby isn’t my baby anymore. That’s the thing that stands out to me the most. When she wakes up on a Saturday morning before me, walks into the kitchen and makes herself a bowl of cereal without needing a damn thing from me, I’m awestruck. Awestruck at the extra 20 minutes of sleep she’s granted me. Awestruck at the little girl who no longer needs me for everything in the same way that she once did.

My baby isn’t my baby anymore.

She’s my first. Potentially my only, depending on what the universe has in store. And, when I brought her home from the hospital, when I placed her in my car and drove away, it felt like a dream I was sure to wake up from.

She was perfect. And she was mine. And no one gets that lucky, right?

Ten little fingers and ten little toes, the cutest little upturned nose and a tiny little body that just curled into mine every time I held her. How could I not fall in love? I swear when I look at pictures of the baby she once was, I can still smell her. And, yeah, I’m tearing up a little just typing that.

Those early months were hard, but also magical. I actually loved our nighttime feedings because it was just us, there in the dark and quiet, soaking each other in. From feeding to diaper changes, she needed me for everything. She relied on me completely for both survival and love. She was this innocent, helpless little ball of perfection.

But now, already, she can read both her name and mine, and no longer even tells me when she’s gone poop. She just gets in there, wipes herself, washes her hands and calls it a day. My baby doesn’t even need me to wipe her butt anymore!

How did this happen? I know they say it goes by in a flash, but no one really prepared me for this, for how fast it would actually fly by. For how quickly she would morph from that little helpless blob into the sassy, independent, smart, soon-to-be kindergartner she is today.

Kindergarten. My baby is just a few months shy of kindergarten.

We’ve taken the tours, chosen her school and talked about the year to come. She’s visited her classroom, met the teacher who will be hers and talked relentlessly about all the things that will be different once she’s a “big kid” in school.

The child who took 18 months to walk and rested against me in an infant carrier for years is now almost too big for me to carry and has no recollection of the time when she needed me for everything.

It feels like I went to bed with a baby in the bassinet beside me and woke to an almost-kindergartener in a room and full-size bed of her very own.

“I’ll do it myself, Mom” is her favorite phrase these days. So, here we are. The countdown is on and kindergarten is around the corner and all that I can think is, “If we got here this quickly, how much longer do I even have left?”

Will the years between kindergarten and junior high flash by just as swiftly? Will I be teaching her to drive tomorrow? Comforting her first heartbreak? Discussing college options and planning her wedding and holding my first grandchild before I know it? I’m dizzy just at the thought. My baby. My little girl. My everything.

In a flash, she’ll be leaving me. Starting a life of her own. Growing up when I dare to blink. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but you have to understand, I don’t know how we got here. I don’t understand how it happened so quickly. It feels like I went to bed with a baby in the bassinet beside me and woke to an almost-kindergartener in a room and full-size bed of her very own.

The mix of emotions I feel is intense. Nostalgia for those baby months we’ll never get back. Missing the chubby little one I’ll never get to rock to sleep again. Smiling over the memories of those first words, first steps and first accident-free nights. Now she likes the movies I like, she’s awesome to travel with and we laugh so hard.

It’s not like I’m all that heartbroken about where we are. I love this stage. I love this kid. I’m proud of each and every milestone she reaches. It’s just … weird. A little sad and exciting all at once. I’m torn between wanting her to slow down and being anxious to see whom she becomes.

This is one timeline I get no say in. The train just keeps moving and kindergarten is almost here. My baby isn’t my baby anymore.

And, before you know it, yours won’t be either.

Don’t say that you weren’t warned.

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