By Kristie Fairbanks
I want to go back to kindergarten, that place full of curiosity, wonderment, and new beginnings, a time of enchantment, wide-eyed innocence, and dream-filled passion, where doubt and worry seem almost nonexistent and where fresh enthusiasm abounds.
Just a few short weeks ago, I took my youngest child to embark upon her own first day of kindergarten. She was ready, fresh faced and hair braided, with a brand-new backpack in tow.
As I walked her to the playground, she grasped my hand tightly. I gave her a reaffirming squeeze. After all, I was a professional at first days of kindergarten, I’d done this routine five times before with her five older siblings.
But somehow, this time was different. I had conflicting emotions about the entire scenario for weeks. I was thrilled for her to embark upon this new adventure, but I was also melancholy about sending my last child away to school. This would be the final time I would experience a kindergarten first.
We made our way through the throngs of excited children, finding the correct line for her to stand in. I encouraged her to make new friends as she bashfully hid behind me. It was all a bit overwhelming.
I still hadn’t quite decided how to feel about the whole kindergarten scene when the school bell rang and a sea of pint-sized youngsters swallowed us whole. It was finally time and I had run out of it.
My mind reeled. I desperately wanted to go to class with her. I yearned to be present when she squished her petite fingers into cold, wet fingerpaints. I craved to join her adventures into picture books and delve into the intricacies of the alphabet together. I longed to relish in her exhilaration of learning, bask in her scrawling artwork, and bathe in her precious laughter and innocuous optimism.
The teacher swooped in, welcoming her students, knowingly nodding towards each hesitant parent. My kindergartener tugged at my sleeve. I knelt beside her and she hugged me tight, whispering, “I’m going to be brave, Mom!”
I hugged her back and felt the tears stinging, desperately desiring to accompany her further. I gave her a wink and she toddled off, stealing my heart in the process. I stood, dumbfounded, wondering whether or not I should follow the class.
The children walked towards a brick fence and began to disappear behind it, one by one. This was my last chance, I had to take advantage of it. My daughter was walking further towards her new adventure and further away from me.
Just before she rounded the corner, she turned and faced my direction. She lifted a chubby arm towards the sky and frantically waved good-bye. She blew me a kiss and then was gone.
I wanted to run after her, to join her momentous quest for knowledge and greatness, but my time had passed. My newfound mothering role was now to wait in the wings while she learned her newfound kindergarten role. This was the last time I would experience a first day of kindergarten and my essence seemed heavy and somber.
For many years, I have enthusiastically accompanied my precious children to their first days of kindergarten, snapping photos of their momentous occasions, merrily observing. But, this time was different.
I want to go back to kindergarten, unfortunately, they won’t let forty-something mothers return. It’s a right of passage that no longer applies to me, but to my youngest child. I can’t help but to drag my feet, wishing she wouldn’t grow up so fast, as we conquer this unwelcomed milestone together.