Guest post by Codi Darnell
My baby is starting Kindergarten. Cue Aretha Franklin belting out Freedom on repeat in my head like some sort of unofficial anthem for this stage of motherhood—an anthem that’s only purpose is to convince me that this transition is a good thing. But Aretha has yet to make me a believer. We are talking about my baby girl here—the littlest of my littles. Sending her to Kindergarten not only means saying goodbye to a season of motherhood I spent a decade trying to figure out, but it also means fully investing myself in the next season. And I’m not sure I’m ready for either.
When I took my oldest son to Kindergarten, I was the new-mom-on-the-block without a clue as to what awaited me in this next phase of parenting. I was the mom wrangling three kids out the door every morning even though 20 minutes later two of said children would return home with me after the teacher pried the third one off of my leg. I hauled the stroller in and out of the car to help keep my youngest contained and carried all the snacks with me in an attempt to avoid the waiting-for-our-brother meltdowns. And even though I loved the zero to five stage of parenting, on the really difficult mornings a part of me was jealous of the moms who deposited all of their children into their respective classrooms and walked back to their cars alone. It seemed like the impossible dream.
Sending her to Kindergarten not only means saying goodbye to a season of motherhood I spent a decade trying to figure out, but it also means fully investing myself in the next season. And I’m not sure I’m ready for either.
But as it turns out—unless you find yourself living in Neverland—kids grow up and that impossible dream is actually just a rite of passage. And now that it’s my turn to leave the school parking lot with an empty car—past the moms with strollers and toddlers in tow—I’m full of mixed emotions. Not only for what I’m leaving behind but for what I know is coming.
No longer the newbie school mom, I know the realities that lay ahead. Unlike the first time around, I’m not about to be blindsided by all the snacks and the lunches, the notices home and permission slips back, the drop-offs and pick-ups, the book orders, school supplies, calls for volunteers or the reading-because-we-have-to-not-because-we-want-to shift in mentality. I’m not necessarily looking forward to any of it—but it isn’t going to come as a surprise.
I’m prepared—excited even—to individually label every marker and pencil crayon as this is the time when her name truly starts to represent her and hold her place in the world. And I’ll try to keep that excitement close because I know that in just a few short years I’ll be at the bargaining table with her going five rounds over which school supplies can be reused—the haggling mostly fueled by my desire to not label 24 more pencil crayons.
Even the logistics will have their challenges. Gone are the days of buckling her into the car in her pajamas or dropping her off, half-dressed, at GG’s house next door while I quickly run her brothers to school. No, now she must be present and accounted for—and preferably fully dressed—in the car with the rest of us. That means my alarm will be going off earlier every morning.
Regardless of the knowledge I have for what is ahead of me, I have to reconcile what is now over. For the first time in almost ten years—most of my adult life—the under-five demographic will not be represented in our home. That part of my life is done.
All the days that felt like they would never end. All the times I counted down the minutes until my husband walked through the door to save me from the diapers, temper-tantrums and unbelievable clinginess. All of the train tracks we built, books we read, games we played and movies we watched. All of the park visits, mid-week-mid-day swimming lessons and trips to Grandma’s or even a grocery store just to get out of the house. All of the years it seemed like it was me and my kids against the world because our existence felt that small. That’s all over and giving way to the next step.
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>> Defining Motherhood
Today I watched my daughter walk willingly through the doors of her first classroom—I swear that girl has more confidence than I’ve ever had. A few tears fell as I left her there. She took her flamingo backpack and the last moments of my life with littles home by my side. I suppose that’s the catch with your youngest child though: their milestones often signify the ends and beginnings of seasons on your own journey.
With Aretha’s anthem in my head I am starting to see the perks of childless school days. There is absolutely a sense of personal freedom that comes with having all school-aged children. But I will miss her. I will miss my baby as she goes off to Kindergarten.
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