Our fall favorites are here! 🍂

The night before you send your kid to Kindergarten is a strange place. (This is a long one. And I’d being lying if I said I didn’t cry while writing it.)

You make dinner, bathe everyone, referee the normal fights, do the obligatory loads of laundry… all a typical night’s work.

But when she puts those little pajamas on and climbs into bed while the sun still has its face over the horizon, and whether you stayed home with her all these years or sent her to preschool, you’ll feel a little panic… a little pain your heart hasn’t felt before.

It’s tomorrow.

I remember it both times very well.

She will have her sweet little backpack packed and ready next to the front door. She will stop and admire with anticipation her brand new outfit for the first day. She’ll ask if you packed her lunch and did you remember her juice and you’ll say yes. The house will be quiet as everyone settles into their beds. You’ll crawl in beside her and ask her if she’s excited about her first day of school. She’ll say yes, she’ll say she’s nervous, and you’ll tell her she’s gonna do a great job. You’ll read her a book, you’ll say your prayers together, and she’ll drift off to sleep.

But long after she’s drooling on her pillow, you won’t be able to get out of the bed from her.

You’ll study her face and you’ll worry. 
What if she gets lost in the hall and can’t find her way back to class?
What if she gets laughed at because she says “pupcake” instead of “cupcake” or what if she doesn’t make a single friend all day long?
What if she can’t open her milk carton at lunchtime or her water bottle at snack time and what if she falls on the playground and skins her knee but her teacher is too busy to hold her while she cries? 
What if she misses you badly all day long? 
What if she doesn’t think about you at all?

I remember. 
I remember the worrying that night.

Did I let her have too much screen time?
Did I play with her enough?
Does she know that every single one of those days that we were home together were days I wrote upon my heart forever? 
That every sandwich I made, every pool day, every morning we snuggled in bed together were gifts from God Himself to me and that even when I acted like I wanted to be anywhere else, there was nowhere else as satisfying to me as being with her?
Does she only remember the days I lost my crap on her or does she first think of the spontaneous ice creams and the time we ran and played in the rain and the silly faces and smiles that only took place between her and me? 
Did I affirm her enough so she believes she can attempt anything, but not so much that she’s devastated when she fails?
Does she know she WILL fail and she SHOULD fail?
And does she know I love her even when she does?
Does she remember God is with her? 
Did I listen to her enough?
Does she know she can tell me anything?
Did I do enough, love enough, prepare her enough?

I see you, Momma. 
I know what you’re going to do tonight.

You’ll lie next to her, and you’ll study her eyelashes. What will her eyes see at school that you fought for five years to protect her heart from? Hatefulness, images on phones, bullies. Her eyes will see it all. But they’ll also see kindness and opportunities and field trips and beautiful friends. They’ll see her future and they’ll look for you in every carline and they’ll light up when she opens the door to crawl inside that moving cocoon at the end of the day.

You’ll study her hands. Will she fidget with them like only you notice she does when she’s nervous at lunchtime because no one sits with her? How will her little fingers look holding a big girl pencil at her big girl desk? Will her hands touch the shoulder of a friend she’s praying for? Will they know to fold in prayer when she’s panicked? Will they raise in the air to ask a question if she doesn’t understand? Will they ever be tempted to throw a punch? Will they show mercy when mercy isn’t deserved?

You’ll watch her breathe. How many times will she hold her breath in worry as a teacher passes back out graded papers? How many cold mornings will she watch her breath in the morning air as she begrudgingly walks into the school building? How many times will she lose her breath in laughter over something a friend says so hilariously and how many times will she struggle to catch her breath in sobs of brokenness at disappointment? Does she know that every breath of her life will be important to you until you breathe your last one?

Oh, Momma. You’ll put your face next to hers and you’ll pray a prayer you’ve probably prayed before, but you’ll pray it from a place of desperation unlike your heart has ever felt. You’ll ask God to protect her. You’ll ask Him for His mercy where you failed her. You’ll ask Him for good friends to surround her. You’ll pray her teacher loves her well and loves her hard in your daily absence. You’ll pray for her heart to always be listening for His voice and for that precious heart to be protected from pain and rejection and heartache. You’ll pray for boys to be good to her and for girls to be kind to her and for her days to be filled with nothing but happiness.

You’ll get up and you’ll go to your own bed and collapse in the same exhaustion you collapse in every night. Morning will come early, as usual. And you know what?

You’ll be ready. 
So will she.

You’ll need some coffee, so I recommend treating yourself to one not made in your kitchen this time. Target is waiting. Those big red carts will take your mind off of what she’s doing or not doing for at least an hour.

Lift your cup high. You did it. You didn’t do it perfectly, but you did it consistently and you did it well. 

You survived morning sickness and labor and diapers and nursing and colic and sleep deprivation and potty training and learning to walk and her first black eye and her first tummy bug. You survived the ear aches and ear tubes and toddler sleep regression and the Terrific Twos and the Threenager stage. You survived preschool and Hand Foot Mouth and you survived school shopping. You survived school orientation and you survived last night.

You’ll survive today, too.

Soon, it will be 2:00 and you’ll need to drive your van to the school to get in your first carline. It’ll feel like forever ’til you see her little face on that sidewalk, but I almost guarantee you, it will be smiling. She’s a different kid. She’s a big kid now. She grew up today and she’s going to be so proud.

And for the first time in 24 hours, you’ll let out the breath you’ve been holding and a whole new normal will have begun.

You’ve got to let her go, Momma. 

She’s got a world to change and you’ve got sleepovers and after school snacks to prepare for.

God’s got her. And God’s got you.

And those of us who have done it already know YOU’VE got THIS.

Welcome to Kindergarten!!!

This article originally appeared on Jill Windham Writes

You may also like:

Dear Daughter, As You Head Off to Kindergarten

I Hope I Loved You Enough Today

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Jill Windham

Jill Windham is a wife, mother, writer, and pastor in North Alabama. She is passionate about her family, her Aussiedoodle, naps, caffeine, and chips & salsa. She and her husband, Rod, have been married for 22 years and still really like each other. Jill loves to celebrate for small reasons and connect with moms who are worn out and looking for real talk about the raw and real sides of motherhood. You can follow her writing on Facebook at Jill Windham Writes, or read her blog at www.jillwindham.com.

Six Feels So Much Bigger

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Little girl with horse, color photo

Six . . . Six is only one number more than five,  one grade, one year . . . but it feels so different. Five is baby teeth and new beginnings. Five is venturing out into the world, maybe making a friend. Meeting a teacher. Learning to ride a bike. Six took my breath away. Six looks like a loose front tooth—tiny and wiggly, soon to be replaced by a big tooth, one that will stay forever. Six looks like a bright purple bike zooming down the driveway. RELATED: When There Are No More Little Girls’ Clothes Six looks like playing...

Keep Reading

You Were Meant to Be Our Oldest

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Brother holding little sister on back

Dear oldest child, Thanks for taking one for the team. You’ve probably thought by now that Dad and I really have no idea what we are doing. You’re not wrong. Please don’t misunderstand, we have goals and ambitions as parents. We’re trying to raise you to be a healthy, positive, and contributing part of society. But you are—and have always been—our guinea pig. You are the test subject to this whole parenting thing. Each new phase you encounter brings another new phase of learning and growth. Unfortunately, with that comes growing pains, and you often take the brunt of those....

Keep Reading

The Bittersweet Reality of Your Baby Turning 5 Years Old

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Little girl lying on living room floor, color photo

Those first five. Those precious first five years have flown by. I blinked and here we are. I look back and think about all the times I wanted these days to go by faster. The times I couldn’t wait to get to bedtime. The days I wasted being irritable and angry because sometimes being a mom is just too hard. But now? Now, I wish I could have slowed it all down. Savored it a little longer. A little harder. That beautiful wild child who fought like hell from the moment she was born has been burning that fire ever...

Keep Reading

The Petrified-Squished-Spider Stage of Motherhood

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Bug squashed on windshield, color photo

There is a squished spider corpse dangling from the inside of my car windshield. I don’t know how long it has been there. Not because I don’t know when the time of death took place, but because I’ve lost track of the number of days it’s been a fellow passenger of ours. The burial service is past due. And a cleaning of my vehicle is so long overdue, if it were a library book I’d be banned from the library by now. When my husband removed his hat one evening while driving and used it as a spider swatter, he...

Keep Reading

Listen to Their Endless Chatter Now So They’ll Talk to You as Tweens and Teens

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and young daughter talking on the couch

I’m a talker. I’m a spill-the-beans, over-sharing, rambling on about my latest fascination chatterbox. I love words, and so do my kids. I’ve spent over a decade listening to my kids share—often, as they all talk at once. They go on and on about their day, rambling about how their sibling has been driving them nuts, their shenanigans with their friends, and never-ending factoids about video games. So many words, so many significant and yet simple thoughts brought to life in our bustling conversations.  Sometimes I love all the chatter, and sometimes the sheer volume of it drives me to...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergarten Graduate, My Hand Will Always Be Yours to Hold

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood

Tomorrow you’ll graduate kindergarten. You chose the perfect shirt for the occasion. It’s a blue and white button-up. “Get one with big checkers, Mom, not little ones,” was your request. I know it’ll make your eyes pop from under your too-big red graduation hat. It’s going to be adorable. You’re going to be adorable.  You’ve been counting down the days. You’re ready and, truthfully, I am too—even though I’m so often in denial about how quickly this time with you is passing. Didn’t you just start crawling? How is it possible you’ll already be in first grade next year? RELATED:...

Keep Reading

You Were Made to Be My Oldest

In: Child
Mom and three kids

You are my firstborn. My big. The one who made me a mama. The one who started this whole crazy, beautiful roller coaster ride the day I found out you were on your way. I remember tip-toeing to the bathroom before the sun rose and taking a pregnancy test. The flutter of excitement in my heart turned into a flutter in my growing tummy within just a few short months. And now here you are, seven years old and more incredible than I imagined in all my wildest dreams. You amaze me every single day with your humor, kindness, and...

Keep Reading

I’m a Kindergarten Mom at the Bottom of the Hill

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Boy holding hands with his mother, color photo

The local elementary school is perched atop an obnoxious hill. It is customary for kindergarten parents to walk their children to the top of the hill as the rest of the grades, first through fifth, having earned their badge of capability and courage, walk alone. Car line is off-limits for kindergartners, which means it’s a walk in whatever weather, whenever school is in session type of vibe. My oldest misses car line. I miss it as well. It’s so simple, convenient, and most importantly, warm and waterproof. But my youngest is a kindergartner, so for the last several months we’ve...

Keep Reading

When He’s 10

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Young tween doing homework at desk, side profile

My son is at an age where he couldn’t care less about personal grooming, his un-selfconsciousness both admirable and aggravating to me. “Let’s clip your fingernails,” I say. No. “Clean your ears.” No. “Cut your hair.” No, Mom, come on, I like it long. But a month or so before his birthday, if he was going to remain a boy and not a lion, he needed a haircut. So, we made some kind of deal, probably a bribe, and finally. Fine. “It’ll be long again before you know it,” I told him, as we walked together into the salon, “you know how...

Keep Reading

He’s Slowly Walking Away with Footprints As Big As Mine

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Teen boy walking along beach shore

The true measure of a mother’s love is her willingness to wake up before the sun on vacation. On a recent trip to the shore, my youngest son begged to walk the beach at dawn to look for shells. So, I set my alarm, tumbled out of a warm, king-sized bed with extra squishy pillows, glared at my dead-to-the-world husband, and gently woke my 11-year-old. Without so much as a drop of coffee, we headed out into the morning, the sun still below the ocean horizon. With each step, I shed my zombie-like state and took in the quiet, salt-kissed...

Keep Reading