Back to schoolTo my third child on her entry to kindergarten:

I’m not sure why kindergarten is the milestone that it is. After all, you are a baby used to being in childcare. I am accustomed to dropping you off, handing you into someone else’s loving and capable hands for the hours I have spent working. After five years of childcare and two children before you, I should be used to this by now. But this is kindergarten – THIS is different!

I wanted you to be hesitant and clingy, but you weren’t. With all the excitement and exuberance of someone going to her own party, you hugged me and turned to run for the steps of that bus. You were so eager to leave. You stepped on that bus, by yourself, and started down a road that only leads forward.

Perhaps it’s not the handing off of you to someone else, but how confidently you left me. You are my last to send off and I expected that it would be the same kind of experience I had your brother and sister. I thought it would be a celebratory milestone – and it was – but I hadn’t realized the finality of it: there are no more of this milestone for me after you. You are my last to go.

Maybe that’s why it’s such a big deal to send you off to elementary school. You will have the blessing and curse of having the last of many milestones, marking my time as the mother of three school-age children, turning adult. What’s become real is that one day, youngest, you will leave our home and either live a grand life on your own or find someone to share it with. That person, I hope, will be your best friend. That person will get all the goody at the end of your day like I get when you step off the bus. That person will hear your joy, your hope, your fears and disappointments, regularly. That person will be the first to comfort you and the first to celebrate with you. Right now, that’s me. In the future, it most likely will be someone else and, while I know you’ll give me some of that precious opportunity, losing my position holds little to no pleasure for me. When life hands you something really great or really hard, you (like me) will call your mom to celebrate or to make it all better. I hope you do. I want you to.

But today, watching you walk toward the bus stop with a backpack almost as big as you are, I take a mental picture and put it in my precious scrapbook of memories. One day the barbies will not be strewn across the floor. I will not have to pick up endless remnant ponytail holders from all over the house. You will not ask me to quickly do your hair while you eat a bowl of cereal at our breakfast table. There will be other frustrations and moments of inspiration that come along after you are truly on your own, but nothing as sweet as those that come with you and your brother and sister.

The moments that seem mundane today will live in my memory as jewels and will make watching you grow one of the best and most bittersweet things I will ever do.

Welcome to kindergarten, sweet girl, and the first of many last milestones we will experience together.