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.
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 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
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