I remember my oldest daughter’s first day of preschool like it was yesterday. After being my little buddy for nearly four years, suddenly I was expected to drop her off at school with strangers, no longer knowing what she was doing every moment of the day. In hindsight, I realize how minuscule preschool’s two-and-a-half-hour day is compared to the hours I spent at home with her, but I panicked and wished I would’ve been more prepared. Maybe I should’ve left her with a babysitter more often, or maybe this adjustment would’ve been easier if we’d spent more time apart when she was younger.
I had a million different worries running through my head, and the only way to settle those worries was to do the scary thing and send her to school. Would she make friends? Would she be brave enough to raise her hand and ask to go to the bathroom? Would she be able to navigate the playground equipment without me? Would she have fun?
On that first day of preschool, I dropped her off at the door, and she ran in and didn’t look back. She was so happy, but I was emotional. I managed to make it to my car before the tears started flowing. I was excited for her, but sad that life as we knew it was changing. Ready or not, we were entering the school years. I had to let her go.
A lot of things happened between that first day of preschool and the next time I had to let my children go. A global pandemic cut that year of preschool short, and I found myself at home with three young kids for a year and a half. I knew it’d feel like starting over when it was time to go back to school. Sure enough, when we emerged from our bubble to send my oldest back to school–this time, to kindergarten–I panicked again. Does letting go ever get easier?
I answered my own question when my middle child’s first day of preschool arrived. Just a few days after his big sister started kindergarten, it was my son’s turn to go to school for the first time. While I had some of the same worries that I had when my oldest was starting preschool, I also had a different sense of calm that I didn’t feel the first time. I knew he’d only be there a few hours a day. I knew he had an extra change of clothes if he didn’t make it to the bathroom on time. I knew his teachers would watch him carefully on the playground equipment. I knew that he’d have fun, but even in the rare event that he hated it, I knew I could advocate for him.
No one ever promised that motherhood would be easy, especially when it comes to letting our babies become their own people. The only way for me to learn that letting go gets easier, is to do exactly that; I had to let her go. When it is time for my son to start kindergarten, and my youngest daughter to start preschool, I hope I’ll have had enough time in this school mom world to not be quite as panicked. Until then, one day at a time.
Emily Roark | @emilyeroark
Emily is a stay-at home/work-from-home mom living in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband and three young kids. When she’s not filling milk cups or sweeping up Cheerios off of the floor, she works as a freelance editor. During her alone time, she enjoys working out, baking, and binging her favorite TV shows.