Transitions: the Kindergarten edition

I’m sitting in the library, attempting to write. And although I am following proper sound-blocking protocol (ear plugs+head phones+sound cancelling+white noise), a few muffled shrieks from the kids’ area upstairs still penetrate the border wall I have erected on the sides of my head. I have mixed feelings about those shrieks. Mostly, because I am a crotchety old bag, I think they’re incredibly irritating. But today they’re also making me feel a little wistful. Because my own two shriekers are in school this afternoon: L in preschool, and Z in Kindergarten. 

Oh, Kindergarten. Everyone promised that the transition would be hard, and I kinda believed them. But I also secretly thought that since I am a chronic over-feeler/over-thinker, I’d already done a sufficient amount of feeling/thinking about this transition. I was wrong. Today, I am feeling all the feels and thinking all the thinks thoughts. 

Which isn’t a bad thing. Overall, this has been a good episode in my parenting journey. Z is learning so much, and the school seems like a good fit. I’m so proud of her. And even as I feel a bit wistful, I’m happy about this new phase. Both of us were ready for this. She was ready for “real” school, and I’m ready to see her go to real school, and to have the chance myself to lean into some new opportunities. But it still feels bittersweet.

It’s not that I want to stop her from growing up. I don’t. Every year, she becomes more and more interesting, more and more herself. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not that magical baby mom, who just loves the baby phase and having tiny people. I miss the cuteness, but I didn’t love the constant neediness. I’m much more a fan of where my kids are now. But I still have a sense of grief, of acknowledging that I won’t get “this” again. And the older I get, the more the reality of “this” passing hits me. 

The bittersweet feeling of transition isn’t unique to parenting. Parenting provides a glaring example – it’s hard not to notice time passing when there are humans literally growing up in front of your eyes – but the choked-up nostalgia is not just for parents. Life is full of passing. It’s knowing that you’ll never have another first love or first kiss. You’ll never recapture the thrill of getting your first job, or your first university acceptance letter, or your first house. It won’t come again. Sometimes that feels hard to me, the knowledge that at the tender age of 34, there are many things in life that have simply passed. 

I saw a quote from Dr. Seuss on the wall of a farmer’s market near my house. It read “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” And although I love Dr. Seuss, I think he’s got this one wrong. If anything, that sounds like a recipe for therapy down the road. Because grieving what has gone is essential. As much as I hate the bittersweet feeling of watching my babies grow up, I’m trying to lean into it. Grieving shows us that something really mattered, and allows us to internalize that value. I think it’s important not to wallow in grief, or to dwell there indefinitely, but to ignore it is to avoid part of what it means to be human. And once we’ve grieved, I think we’re more able to truly smile, as Dr. Seuss recommends, about what happened.

So I’m doing my best to embrace the Kindergarten tears, and celebrating my big girl becoming a student. I’m grateful for the years that have passed, and I’m looking forward to the ones ahead. And next I work in the library, I’ll upgrade my earplugs to “industrial strength.”

2 thoughts on “Transitions: the Kindergarten edition

  1. Sniff…I know what you mean. Nicely said. (And it keeps happening – I remember a similar grief when my daughter first left home, alone, to live overseas.)

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  2. And then all of a sudden, without permission, they grow up and actually leave home and suddenly there is no need for noise cancelling anything. Enjoy them in full while you have them 🙂

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