Today was your first day of kindergarten - such a big milestone.
I remember your first day of preschool two years ago. I dropped you off on the playground and you only hesitated for a moment before you began playing with some of your classmates. I got back in my car and was so proud of myself for not crying even though it was so hard to say goodbye to you. I pulled around the corner where I could watch you playing from my car for a few minutes, just to make sure you were still having fun. All of a sudden, you turned around towards the gate where I had dropped you off. My heart broke. I knew you were looking for me. Looking to see if I was watching you play. You knew of no other way. I had always been there - watching you and taking care of you - always there for you to run to if you needed me.
I wasn't there this time though and my heart stopped for a moment as I watched for your reaction. You kept looking - trying to find me among the other moms who were dropping off their own children. After a minute, you stopped looking. I couldn't bear to imagine what you must have been thinking. Did you think I had left you? Did you know I was coming back in just a few hours? Were you worried because you were surrounded by strangers? You were standing there by yourself and then one of your teachers came over to guide you towards the sandbox. I finally started to drive away but then had to park the car because I couldn't see through my tears. Your teachers later told me that you had a great day and only began asking for me after lunch - saying you missed me and wanted me to come take you home. It was only an hour later that I picked you up and you were so happy to see me. You did great that year - preschool was only one day a week.
Last year, you were scheduled to go to school every day, but that never happened. I kept you out at least once a week so we could do something fun together. That is one of the benefits of preschool - it's completely voluntary so I kept you for myself much more than I probably should have. But, we had so much fun on those days (most of them spent out at Disney) and I don't regret a single second of it.
Because now you HAVE to go to school every day. This is kindergarten. The big leagues. I can't just keep you home because I've been missing you. The days are longer and there won't be as much time for playing like there was at preschool. There definitely won't be rest time. Daddy and I went to open house and found out that kindergarten is serious business these days. Your teacher is wonderful, but there are lots of requirements and expectations, and the days are jam packed with learning. I know your teacher will make it fun though. She seems like the perfect teacher for you - structured, yet very kind and caring.
Last night was difficult for me as I tucked you in for bed. It's hard to be confronted with this enormous change that leaves no room to deny the fact that you are growing up. You are gaining more and more independence and you've left your baby years far behind. However, you will always be my baby and those reflections on your first 5 years of life are what left me in a heap of tears for most of the night.
I'm so blessed that I was able to stay home and spend that time with you. It's the best thing I've ever done in my life.
As we drove to school, I told you that today I would hold your hand as we walked to the classroom and then tomorrow you could walk in front of me to show me that you know the way so you'd be ready when I'm not allowed to walk you to class anymore. At first you agreed and then you told me, "Actually mama, I can walk in front of you today. I know the way. I'll show you." I wanted to tell you that it was ME who needed to hold YOUR hand, but I knew I needed to let you build your confidence and trust in yourself.
So that's what you did. You walked in front of me - checking over your shoulder a few times to make sure that I was still there. As we got to the classroom door you suddenly grabbed my hand and looked at me with uncertainty. We walked into the classroom together and your teacher told you to pick any seat you liked. We chose blue (your favorite color) and you were just fine.
I had thought about the last thing I would say to you before I left. I decided to keep it simple as I looked straight into your eyes and told you, "Drew, I'm so proud of you and I know you'll have a great day. Just know that I'm always loving you. I am always loving you." You leaned over to kiss me and said, "Oh mama, I'm just loving you too!" I hugged your sweet body as the teacher let the parents know that it was time to go. You waved goodbye to me without hesitation.
There's been a lump in my throat all day as I try to imagine what you might be doing. And the tears are so close to the surface whenever anyone asks me how I'm doing. We spent almost every day together this summer, and Abby and I were definitely missing you as we continued with our day. I lost track of how many times she asked, "Is it time to go get my Drew yet?"
And then it finally was time to get you and I waved to you from the car as we waited our turn in line. You had a huge smile on your face and you waved to me excitedly. You bounced into the car wearing a hat that you had made and you said, "It was a great day, mama! I love kindergarten! I made this hat and the playground was my favorite part!" I breathed a sigh of relief and soaked up all of your excitement. I couldn't have asked for a better first day for you.
I know this is just one big step in that process of letting go. It is so very hard for me to do. For the first three years of your life, I knew what you were doing every day at any given moment. You were my entire life and I yours. Slowly, with each passing year, I've had to let more and more of that go - it's my job as your mama. And, this kindergarten year, it is a big step towards even more independence.
I'm so proud of you. So very proud. And though I'll have to continue to let go, I know it will only be so I can watch you spread your wings. Through it all, no matter what might happen, I just want you to know that I'll always be here for you. You will never have to look far to find me. You can be sure that I will always be within reach, loving you more than you will ever know. I am your biggest fan, sweet boy.
And, just remember -
I am always loving you...