I remember the very first time I laid eyes on you. 

The road ahead felt so daunting as I lay exhausted in that hospital bed. Could I really do this? Was I ready to be your mama?

But then the nurse placed you in my arms, and everything else disappeared. I can still feel all 7 pounds, 11 ounces of you. I can smell your freshly shampooed hair and hear your soft baby coos. All of it is etched right there in my memory. A mama’s heart never forgets those details, you know.

The early days were slow, and even though they challenged me in all new ways—gosh, they were beautiful.

We figured it out together, you and I. That time was a crazy dance of laughter and tears. Of stretching and growing and learning each other.

There were hours of tummy time on the floor as the sun streamed in through the window. First smiles, giggles, and steps. Endless nights spent rocking you and trying not to think about how little sleep we were both getting.

“Don’t blink,” they said. And even though my heart felt pangs as I watched you grow, my mind never understood how such long days could add up to such quick years as they flew by one after another after another. 

And now, here we are. 

You, my baby, are no longer . . . a baby.

In just a few days, I’ll wake you up early. You’ll proudly tie the laces of your shoes all by yourself like you’ve been practicing all summer. I’ll memorize your smile as you slip the straps of your new backpack over your shoulders.

I wonder if you’ll be nervous. Will you squeeze my hand a little tighter than usual as we walk down the sidewalk together? I know I will. 

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I’ll try not to cry when I kiss you goodbye at the door, but I make no promises—and just like that, your first day of kindergarten will begin. 

I get this longing ache in my chest when I think about it—about how suddenly we got here. 

You were in preschool last year, but that didn’t hit me quite as hard. It felt temporary. Little-kiddish. 

Like you were still mine. 

This milestone feels so different. Maybe it’s because it’s the start of the longer school days when I’ll be away from you more hours than not. Our season of constant togetherness is ending, and I don’t know if I’m ready.

I hope I was everything you needed me to be these past five years. I pray I’m everything you need me to be moving forward, too.

I used to roll my eyes at all those colorful posters that say, “Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten,” but the older I get, the more I realize maybe that’s not so far off.

This year, you’ll learn things like kindness.

Helpfulness.

Determination.

Generosity.

You’ll learn how to comfort a classmate who’s hurt on the playground, and how to dig deep when you have a problem to solve.

You’ll discover friendship can be a little messy sometimes, and life isn’t always black and white.

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You’ll practice things like numbers and letters too, of course, but can I tell you a secret? The thing that will always matter most to your daddy and me—more than report cards or awards or wins—is character. Kindergarten will be one of your first chances to build that without us looking over your shoulder. 

It’s a big step you’re getting ready to take, and if on that first day butterflies flutter around your tummy and you start to miss me—know this: My love for you is bigger than any space that will ever be between us.

In a few days you’ll go to kindergarten, and dang it, that’s so bittersweet. 

Once you start these school years, you won’t stop until you’re an adult and it’s time to spread your wings and fly away from home. Each year will pass more quickly than the last—that’s the way it works when you’re raising babies, I’ve come to find. 

Today it’s kindergarten. Tomorrow, the world.

I know you’re ready, though, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the beauty and chaos of life through the lenses of motherhood, marriage, and mental health. To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward