I realized this as I dropped my almost 5 year old off at a new school where she never even looked back at me because she’s confident and just an awesome little lady. So confident, I envy it. I dropped her off and met my friends and melted into my best friend’s shoulder. I had no idea why I was so broken and crying like a crazy parent. But – again, our feelings are valid and I am writing to tell you why.
Mama, I want you to take a break from packing lunches and checking folders, click out of Pinterest for a minute, put down the chalkboard frame that you’re making for the perfect first day photo shoot, and listen up. This one is for you.
How did we get here?
We waited and we worried, reading the “What to Expect” emails each week that compared our rapidly growing babies to kiwis and oranges. We cradled impossibly small newborn bottoms in the palms of our hands and learned to swaddle little legs and arms into baby burritos. We winced at each bad latch, and exhaled with each great one. We filled bottles and emptied breasts. We pumped and we mixed and we forgot to feed ourselves.
We rocked, we paced, we sang. We woke every two to three hours, or every three minutes. We shushed and we danced and we dozed. We may have spent more time awake than asleep. We gave “You look tired” a whole new meaning.
We cut grapes into fours. We cleaned peanut butter and jelly off the carpet and yogurt from their hair. We made sure that the veggies weren’t touching anything else.
We were Bluey and Bingo. We were Ana and Elsa. We were Chase and Marshall. We sang Daniel Tiger jingles to help us get by. We stepped on 47 Legos. We hid in blanket forts and behind closet doors. Sometimes we hid in the bathroom, because it was the only quiet place we could find.
We held those chubby little arms and legs tight as the doctor gave each shot. We counted all of the ounces and inches and celebrated each step. We met with speech therapists and occupational therapists. We truly elbow our way down paths that we never thought would rise up to greet us. We fought fear and doubt and guilt. We woke up each day, and put one foot in front of the other.
We yelled at our spouses and cried to our mothers + fell into the arms of the friends who became our family. Along the way, we learned to let other grown-ups love our kids, and struggled to accept a night out, a lasagna, a hug, or a mimosa.
We worried about screen time and if they were getting enough veggies and developmental stages and hearing tests. We celebrate every birthday, do the potty dance for every potty victory, and give an immense amount of snacks, stickers, and ultimatums.
We kept going. We surprised ourselves. We got better at it.
We’ve been exhausted, and fed up, and overwhelmed, and overjoyed. We’ve cheered for first words and first steps and first date nights in months. We’ve fallen asleep during Finding Nemo and memorized every Cocomelon song until we felt like we may need to check ourselves into a mental ward.
We’ve soothed bad dreams and inspired bigger ones.
We’ve stepped on 2,532 Goldfish crackers. Changed a million diapers.
We’ve hugged and we’ve helped and we’ve explained.
We’ve answered 17,000 whys and why nots.
We’ve made it.
They’ve made it.
There will be thousands of firsts that follow the season you are in.
Our jobs aren’t even close to being done. But on this first week of school- no matter what grade or what chapter of life, for the hours that stretch between hugging that little human goodbye and welcoming them back to the arms that they began in, be gentle with yourself.
At the end of the day, in my heart of hearts, I know that she’s ready.
But I’m here to tell you that you are, too.
You might think this first week is all about your child- But sis, it’s also about you.
How did we get here?
So as that brave teacher ushers you out and closes the door behind you or as you drive away leaving your whole heart in a new college town, be proud.
You did it. We did it.
These amazing, brilliant, imaginative, loving, self-sufficient (well, sort of), hilarious, unpredictable, completely capable little people– We made them that way.
So before you walk away to worry about all of the first days to come and the homework and the life lessons and the setbacks and the screen time and the reward charts… come find me on the playground. Because if you are taking your baby to pre- k or college this week, you watched as your heart grew outside of your body, and then you prepared your baby to greet the world alone.
You did it. You are so brave. I am so proud of you.