I thought I would be more sad than this.

I walked with my daughter to school this morning. I say with instead of to, because at age 11, long after her kindergarten graduation, this is something she often does on her own or with a friend. But last night she asked if we could walk our puppy to school together and after checking the weather, I replied, “Why not?”

She glided happily along, laughing as she talked to our dog or shouting back to say, “I’m sweating, there is no way it’s only 58 degrees!”

Her long, lean legs moved quickly, and I had to quicken my pace to keep up with her. She didn’t look like she belonged in elementary school anymore, but her fits of giggles watching her dog zig zag across the sidewalk reminded me of just how young she was.

Graduation: The End of an Era

And then she said it. “Mom, this could be one of the last times you walk me to school.”

Normally these statements sock me in the gut like a punch from a prize fighter. Today, however, I just smiled and said, “I know, can you believe it?”

It’s not that I’m not sad. When your baby girl graduates elementary school, it feels like the end of an era. There are no more field days or class parties. There’s no more chatting with other parents at the playground while your kid races past you laughing and begs for just five more minutes, no more volunteering in the classroom to help glue a craft together or thanksgiving lunches or Mother’s Day Teas.

And I’m a little bit sad knowing the childhood days of dirty little hands reaching up for me to soothe her hurt are gone or that a kiss and hug from me can no longer alleviate all her pain. She’s moved from kindergartener to big kid, perched on the cusp of becoming a teenage girl.

A Message for My Graduating Daughter

But as I watch my daughter in all her glory stride in front of me, I also know she is ready to move on to middle school, and there is comfort and joy in that. It feels like yesterday I brought her to her first day of kindergarten, but there is excitement for this proud mom to see her tackle this next phase of life and pride to see her confidence.

If I could give a message to my graduating daughter, I would tell her I have so much hope for her future, and love—so much love—for the person she is growing into each day. There is satisfaction in knowing she and I both enjoyed nearly every second of the experience.

I thought I would be more sad than this, more sad that it all seems to be ending, that she’s inching closer to high school and that graduation cap. Instead, I watch a tall, courageous young girl walk into her school, which now seems too small for her giant potential, and I’m eager to see what comes next.

I wait as she rushes up the sidewalk to enter the 5th grade doors. At the last moment, she turns, as she always does, and with a gigantic smile, blows me a kiss. I catch it in my right hand and place it in my heart, as I have since she was two years old.

And then, she is gone.

I thought I would be more sad than this. Well, maybe just a little bit more than I admit.

You may also like:

A Letter to My Kindergarten Graduate

Because One Day She Will Have To Walk Away

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Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.