Two years ago, I sat right here and wrote you a letter before your first, first day of school. I wrote about how big that moment was. How scary but how exciting. I wrote about how I would do my best to bring you only my excitement. None of my fear.
The fear, of course, did take over. We cried for weeks and struggled for months. But eventually, it faded. And then it disappeared, leaving only excitement. Every day since, you’ve greeted the sunrise with wide eyes and a bounce in your step and you’ve leaped off to school as if it is your second home. Which, of course, it sort of is now. We cry when the school year ends these days, not when it begins.
When it begins, as it will tomorrow, we smile and laugh and bubble over with delight. Today as I write to you, before your third, first day of school, I don’t have to promise you that I will bring the excitement. You have enough for us both.
But beyond all of that excitement, I am feeling something different this year. It’s not fear but what it is, I can’t exactly name.
See, this year, you go back to the same building, among many of the same people whom we’ve grown to love and trust. Following the same routine that felt awkward two years ago but soon became comfortable and predictable, you’ll head off to start a new year as if it is the same as both years that came before. And because of all the sameness and familiarity, we’ve been letting ourselves believe that this isn’t big. It’s just another year. It’s not the first, it’s nothing new, it’s just back to school.
And maybe it’s because everyone else is telling me this is big. Maybe it’s because every other mother who writes is writing about the hugeness of sending her little one off to Kindergarten right now. Maybe it’s because Kindergarten is a thing that conveys a very different feeling than ‘pre-school’ or even ‘pre-k.’ Maybe it’s because of all of the little differences that I know we’ll come across this year: work plans and more field trips and no more naps. Because this year you’ll be the big kid and there will be so many little kids to remind us that this is not your first, first day.
But I think what it is, is you. The difference this year, is you.
The difference is that three weeks ago, you walked off to summer camp with your head high, shedding not one tear, confident and ready to meet new friends and try new things, proving to me that two years is a long time and big things don’t scare you anymore. The difference is that you are no longer my little baby girl who cried at drop off every day for months. You are my big kid. My kindergartener. And that is big.
Two years ago I wrote to you about fear and excitement because I knew that the moment when my hand left yours on that first day of school would hold so much fear for us both and I knew I had to bring the excitement to help you not completely give into the fear.
But this year? There is no fear. There is only excitement and these emotions I can’t name but that feel a bit like nostalgia and the sadness of sweet old memories for the little girl you were. And wonder and awe and constant amazement at the big girl you’ve become.
My girl, I wish you all the best on this third, first day of school, your first day of Kindergarten. But you don’t need my wishes or my excitement. You’ve got this.