I did it...I sent my baby off to kindergarten

Last Friday my oldest baby started kindergarten.  Okay, he's not a "baby" anymore...but he'll always me my baby.  He bravely took the hand of the parent volunteer who was to show him to his class, waved good-bye to us and walked away with his back pack nearly half his size on his back.  He didn't hesitate.  He didn't cry. 

Mommy cried.  Just a little, and not until he was safely inside.  But I cried.  Daddy followed behind them all the way to the door.  Big, strong Dad just didn't want to let him out of his sight until the last possible second.

Not because it's sad.  Not because it's a bad thing that he's entered this new, exciting phase of his life.  But because it's a big moment.  5 years of loving, caring, feeding, clothing, disciplining, and working to prepare him for this have culminated in this day, this moment.  All those baths I relentlessly sang the ABC's, for him.  All those times counting the steps as we walked up when he was just beginning to count.  The practice games where he wrote his letters, his name.  Where we played rhyming games.  All the times I forced him to do for himself what he'd rather sit back and let Mom do.

This is not the end.  We're far from done with our job.  Are you ever "done" raising your kids?  We have much ahead of us.  Homework, bullies, crushes, friends made, friends lost, friends made again.  Sports, activities, class projects.  Graduation.  College.  Marriage.  Grandkids.  But in that one moment he was just my little boy, venturing out on his own.

He'd done daycare.  He'd done preschool.  Yet somehow this is different.  This is bigger.  If I didn't like the way the preschool did it I could simply change schools.  They were smaller groups, more easily monitored.  I could talk to them every day at pickup or drop off and get insight into what was going on.  At school, you don't like your teacher you grit your teeth and get through the year til you get a new one.  I will only see him outside of school, and will not have such intimate knowledge of what goes on.  He's having to face this on his own.  Alone.

Doing so is not bad.  He'll gain confidence as he works through these new experiences and realizes he can actually handle them.  He'll have the pride of knowing he overcame any nerves and did it.  He'll hopefully gain strength and determination in tackling new challenges.  I am very independent, as is my husband.  We want that for our boys.  We relish each new thing they master.  We reinforce responsibility, independence, resiliance while always ensuring a safety net of love and support behind them.

This new world will be exciting.  His already bright, eager mind will grow with new knowledge and new skills.  New friends will come into our lives, perhaps life long.  Many of my husbands closest friends he met in preschool and elementary school.  That long history they have together is fascinating to me.  Will my boy have that?  Will I see these boys and girls at their weddings, remembering them fighting bad guys in my back yard as youngsters?

No, starting school is not bad.  I don't tear up at the thought because it's sad.  It's just nostaligic.  It's admitting my little boy isn't so little anymore.  It's acknowledging I can't keep him young and in my protective bubble forever.  And it's pride.  Pride in watching this brave little boy take the hand of this stranger Mommy said was okay, and enter the big school, knowing almost no one, and this new world, all by himself without hesitating.  Pride in knowing he's ready.  Pride in knowing I'm gifting that school, and this world, with a loving, fun little guy. 

But, boy, I was so excited when that bus pulled up and my little boy got out smiling, and ran into my waiting arms.  He may be gaining independence, but he's still my little guy.  And he always will be.

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