There are certain moments in one’s life which will forever evoke a vivid, emotional memory – and my daughter’s first day of school is one of them. It was a cold, sunny morning in February and my tiny baby girl, barely 9 weeks old, was asleep in the backseat. I’d been crying for two weeks just thinking about this moment and continued to cry the entire 45-minute commute to her school, bitter at the fact that my husband and I couldn’t afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom and fearful of what consequences my daughter would suffer because I wasn’t able to care for her during the day. I was worried.
Looking back, my apprehension was amplified due to postpartum hormones and the typical anxiety associated with going back to work and leaving your child in someone else’s care for the first time. I wasn’t ready to let go. But by the end of Cate’s first day at school, I knew I’d made the right decision.
Not only did it feel good to be back at work where I felt confident in my routine and could eat lunch without interruption, but Cate’s teachers immediately became my partners in parenting. I trusted Mrs. C and Ms. Marques with my whole heart. They loved Cate and were just as excited as I was to watch her grow and develop into a toddler – and I quickly learned to lean on them for guidance. Life was great, and Cate and I were completely settled in our routine.
And then came the time for Cate to transition to her next classroom. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I tried to say, “But we’re not ready!” Truthfully, I wasn’t ready to let Cate move on, but she was ready. She was bored playing with baby toys and was desperate to walk and talk and meet new teachers and friends. Of course, Cate thrived making the transition to her new class.
Looking back, those first days of school feel like they happened a lifetime ago. Cate is now 2-and-a-half (going on 16), and we’re already thinking about Pre-K and Kindergarten. We received an invite this week to a Back-to-School parent meeting this week, in which my husband, Cate and I will meet her new teachers, learn about her new Preschool Pathways class, and work together on a plan to ensure she is ready – cognitively, emotionally and physically – for her transition to Preschool next year.
Every time I think “I’m not ready,” I remember that very first day of school. It’s completely normal to worry about our children and to want to protect them. But, we must acknowledge when they’re ready to grow, learn and try new things. And we have a responsibility to support them through these changes: I help prepare Cate for what to expect, help redirect her if she has a misstep and let my actions show that I trust her to be the best person she can be. She is a kind friend, a good listener and isn’t afraid of adventure – all because I’ve pushed through my worries and apprehension to allow her the opportunity to thrive during these important transitions.
I just need to remind myself to relax and focus on capturing photos of all the smile-inducing, proud mama moments along the way. Because if she’s ready, then I’m ready.
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