My youngest (and last) starts preschool next week. He's my pandemic baby, born in July 2020. He's been home with me nearly every day of his life. All summer, with my 5 year old daughter home as well, I was so looking forward to August 21st, when both kids would be in school and I'd get to have some time back to be me, even if that just meant getting work done without whining or Netflix as a babysitter.
But as the day gets closer and my little one takes those tentative steps into the world of education, I'm finding myself with a mix of emotions—pride, excitement, and perhaps a touch of apprehension, mourning, even. While this transition is undoubtedly significant for him, I'm surprised at how significant it feels for me. Baby and toddlerhood have been hard. The covid years were racked with fear, uncertainty, and so much isolation. Then all the normal, hard parenting of infants and toddlers stuff on top of it. So why am I sad? Being a stay-at-home mom wasn't the plan, it just sort of happened. I always wanted to retain more of myself; my interests, my motivation to actually do my hair in the morning. And yet, these days of endless requests for snacks, countless re-readings of the same book (we can all recite Little Blue Truck from memory, right?), and counting the minutes until another adult will walk in the door coming to an end? It feels too soon, like the days of sweet, slightly sticky hugs from pudgy little hands are just slipping away.
I know I'm not alone on this journey. "They" say that from the moment your baby starts crawling, you start letting them go. So this is just one more step forward, but it is bittersweet nonetheless. These are some of the things I'm trying to do while I navigate the reality of my baby starting school for the first time.
Embrace the Emotions: Remembering that it's okay to feel a rollercoaster of emotions—joy for their new adventure and a twinge of separation anxiety, for both of us. Acknowledging and talking about these feelings can help us remember that we're in it together.
Create a Positive Backdrop: I'm encouraging a positive school experience by discussing the upcoming change with G; sharing stories of my daughter's school days and my own, emphasizing the fun and friendships. We've created a social story to read with him to help him visualize what's going to be happening and hopefully ease any nervousness he might be feeling.
Create a Ritual of Preparation: I love an excuse to create a celebration. I'm coming up with ways to both establish a comforting routine for the morning of the first day as well as build excitement. We're going to do a "dress rehearsal" where we get ready and out the door for school but end up with donuts at the park instead of the classroom. It could be a special breakfast, a little dance to their favorite song, or a note in their lunchbox; these rituals become touchstones, reminding your child that they are loved and supported--and that change can be fun.
I'm not saying I have all the answers or that I won't miss these quiet days at home, just me and the best little monster-truck-obsessed buddy, but I am very much looking forward to seeing him and his oh-so-excited-for-school sister learn and grow into amazing people.
Here's to the brave parents and their resilient little learners—may the tears be few and the smiles many.