To the mama putting your child in day care for the first time: I see you over there, agonizing over your decision. Will your child flourish under the care of someone else? Will she cry when you leave them? What if he doesn’t? What if the day care provider doesn’t know the correct way to soothe or the right song to sing or the way they like their back rubbed as they nod off to sleep? I see you comparing yourself to other mothers who get to stay home with their children. I know that you have a tsunami of complicated feelings and you aren’t sure how to vocalize them in a way that makes others understand without coming across in a manner you don’t wish to portray. Rest assured that your child is going to be okay. You are going to be okay. You are more than enough, and your child will love you, no matter who he or she spends their daytime hours with.
To the mama sending her child off to pre-school for the first time: I see you putting on a brave face while inside your heart is breaking. Is your child old enough for this? Are you making the right choice? Is she ready for school? What if he don’t make any friends? Or, what if you have the kid that the teacher has to call home about once a week, or worse, once a day? What if your child cries every time you walk out the door or refuses to get out of the car without having a tantrum every day? I see you second-guessing yourself, wondering if you can manage to keep him or her home for one more year. It’s only pre-school after all, kids don’t need that, right? Your child is going to do just fine, even if it’s hard at first. The social interaction they get at pre-school will only benefit him or her in the long room, so let go of the guilt. You made the right choice.
To the mama sending her child off to kindergarten for the first time: I see you fighting back tears as you take the first day of school photo. Is someone going to help your child tie his or her shoe if it comes undone during the day? What about that snap on his pants? Or the tie on her skirt? What if she can’t remember which backpack is hers at the end of the day? What if he can’t remember which line he’s supposed to get into after recess? Who else but you knows the magic words that stop the tears when knees are skinned, feelings are hurt, or exhaustion sets in? Trust that your child’s teacher has it under control and you can let go of yours. It’s okay to cry after drop off, even beyond that first day. This is a big adjustment, you’ll all be just fine.
To the mama sending her child back to school after a long summer: I see you fighting back your jubilation. It has been a long summer and you are done with the nagging, done with the bickering, done with the talking back. You wonder if other parents feel the same frustration at the end of the summer or it’s just you. You want to enjoy having your children home, but there is a limit to your patience and it has been reached. No matter how much structure and routine you try and keep during the summer, chaos abounds and by the last month you are ready for them to go back to school. There is no shame to be had in those thoughts and feelings. You love your children, and they know that. Love is more than being able to entertain and referee and chauffeur for three months a year. Push aside your guilt, and enjoy your first kid-free day.
To the mama who wishes summer was just a big longer: I see you trying to cram in one last swim at the pool, one last trip to the beach, one last outing with your friends. She is counting the days until school starts and he is nagging you to go back-to-school shopping. You aren’t ready yet, and that’s okay. You enjoy having your children home for the summer and there is no shame in that. Rest assured that your children know they are loved and someday they will look back on these summers with fondness. Be brave enough to acknowledge your children’s excitement about school beginning. Don’t let your sadness get in the way of their preparations. Take comfort in the fact that Labour Day will be here soon and you’ll have an extended weekend to share together.
To the mama sending her child into HS for the first year: I see you wondering where the years have gone. Have you prepared them for what is coming next? Will she make good friends? Will he emerge out of his shell? Will they play sports, join band, perform on the stage? Who are these young men and women and what happened to your children? Take heart, your kids are still there, hidden under hair that is too long and faces that scowl. When the world they are navigating gets too big and too loud, they will return to the shelter of your home. Be prepared to offer their favorite movies, favorite snacks, and favorite dinners on a whim. Cherish the time they spend with you during these next four years because it will all go by faster than you are ready for.
To the mama dropping her child off at college for freshman year: I see you fighting back the tears as you help your child unload their things. You have spent the last eighteen-or-so years preparing your child for this moment, but who was preparing you? Did he pack enough clothes? Will she like her roommate? Who will he call in the middle of the night when his fever spikes and he doesn’t feel good? Who is she going to tell about the crush she has and which teachers are her favorite? How are you going to get back in the car and leave your child in this new place with these strange people? Trust that you have done everything you could to prepare your child for this new journey. They will be okay. You will be okay. And remember, Thanksgiving isn’t too far away.
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