I remember the first day of kindergarten.
I remember how far away your senior year in high school seemed and how unimaginable it was that one day you would be leaving me.
I once heard the older your child gets, the closer the goodbye becomes—and it’s so painfully true.
I remember not sleeping the night before your first day of school wondering which of us would cry first, would you make new friends, and would you be happy?
I remember the sporty new outfit you picked out for the first day of school, the new backpack and lunchbox, the anticipation we felt and the disbelief that you were already old enough to be headed off to school, alone.
I remember taking pictures out front by our big tree and knowing that this was the start of a tradition I would force you to do every year until you no longer had a first day of school at our house.
I remember holding tight to your tiny hand as we walked to the classroom, wanting to be connected to you for as long as you would let me be.
I remember looking around, wondering who your new friends might be and praying they would grow to love you as much I do.
I remember the smile on your face, the bravery in your heart, the excitement in your step and the butterflies in your stomach because you somehow knew this day was a rite of passage.
I remember kissing your sweet little face good-bye, turning around and walking away so you wouldn’t see the tears coming down my face . . . only to have you come running after me to give me one more big hug. And then you cried and didn’t want to let go.
I remember picking you up that day, feeling a mix of eagerness and nerves, hoping to see a big smile on your face as you ran out of the classroom ready to tell me all about your day, step-by-step sharing every detail of how amazing it was.
I remember hearing you talk about new names I didn’t know yet and share funny stories with an impish giggle I wish I could have bottled up and kept forever.
I remember sitting in the parking lot during your recess, hoping you wouldn’t see me, but loving every second of watching you run around and play so carelessly.
I remember seeing the fifth graders, the “big kids” and thinking how old they seemed to me and how cool they seemed to you.
I remember asking who you sat with at snack time, who you played with at break and who was nice to you just to be sure you weren’t alone. And each time you would say a name, I would silently sigh a breath of relief.
I remember losing your front tooth, excited to get your name on the special board in the classroom and even more excited to put it under your pillow that night.
I remember bringing treats to school on your birthday and watching you beam with joy when the class sang to you knowing how very special you felt in that moment.
I remember how happy you were to see us at school, proud of us, and still willing to give us hugs and kisses in front of all your classmates.
I remember your artwork, your potato people with wide bodies and short arms, your dirty knees, your toothless grin, and all the dreams you weren’t afraid to speak up and share.
I remember your love of the playground, begging me to “stay for just a few more minutes” so you could play a little longer.
I remember tucking you into bed, saying prayers, singing songs about how much Jesus loved you and wishing you sweet dreams every night before I turned out the light . . . only to get called back at least once a night to either get you a glass of water or just because you wanted to tell me one more time that you loved me.
I remember the school projects, the smiley faces, and stars on top of the papers encouraging you to be a good student and try your hardest. I kept those papers, tucked away in a box because I couldn’t dare throw away anything you had worked on.
I remember your favorite shirt, how I had to wash it at night after you went to sleep so you would have it ready to wear the next day, and the day after that. Life was simple and you cared more about comfort than fashion, so you rocked your favorite shirt day in and day out.
I remember the All-Goblins costume parade, the Candyland Breakfast, the Valentines we made for everyone in the class, and the clever trap you made in hopes of catching a mischievous leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day. I remember the glue, the glitter, and the messes we made creating our masterpieces.
I remember the last day of kindergarten, the disbelief that the year was over and the sadness knowing that each year ahead would pass that fast.
I remember these moments because they are part of the quilt of memories that make up your life. They are the fabric of who you are, and they remained tucked away safely in my heart forever. Watching you grow up has been an amazing journey and the lump in my throat grows bigger each time I realize our journey together is about to change. Instead of being your guide on this journey, I will be your traveling companion.
Now, as you are in your final days of high school, your final days calling my home your home, your final hoorah with the people you have grown up with, I stand in amazement at how very fast it all happened.
I blinked and you went from kindergarten to college, from diapers to diplomas, from chapter books to chemistry books, from sharing to SATs, from playdates to proms, and from childhood to adulthood.
It’s time to bend the bow back and release you into battle where you’ll make your own choices and forge your path ahead. It’s time to cheer for you but mourn for me because while you are just starting your life, I’m letting go of what has been my life. And if I’m being honest, letting go is my least favorite thing about motherhood but if I don’t then I’m not doing the job.
Enjoy the moments and memories that are ahead. Lean into how special these last days together will be. Celebrate your past and be excited about your future. But in the middle of it all, make sure you pause long enough to remember it all started in kindergarten, and even though you don’t want to hold my hand anymore, you will always hold my heart.
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