The Night Before the Very First Day of School


After you fell asleep tonight, I peaked into your room. You lay with your arms spread wide across your bed, your body impossibly long and lean. Watching you lie there in the semi-darkness, all I could think is that you look like such a little kid.

You’re no longer a toddler and definitely not my baby anymore.

It’s all happened so quickly. It was only a few years ago that you were a little snail curled deep inside my body. Then you were born and there was the year that never seemed to end, when you were a baby and my repertoire of all things parenting was so incredibly limited. But somehow, you survived all my mistakes and I carefully checked off each week and then finally began to count your age in months. Until it stopped feeling weird to say that I was someone’s mother.


Now here we are at the edge of charted territory again, getting ready to step-off together into the unknown.

Tomorrow you begin school for the very first time.  And when I say goodbye to you in your new classroom, you will go off into the world on your own. As I watched you sleep tonight, I tried to imagine what tomorrow will be like.  I tried to picture what you will look like in your first-day-of-school-outfit with your new haircut and new shoes. How your backpack will look so gigantic on your small shoulders. I tried to picture you doing the things other students do: standing in line waiting for your turn at the water fountain, unwrapping your snack, sitting on your spot on the rug. Can my child possibly be this grown up already? Can he really do all of this on his own?

Tomorrow is the day we’ve both been looking forward to for a long time. It is your very first day of school. It not just your first day of the school year: tomorrow is your very first day of your very first school year.

It’s a beginning, that’s for sure. But it’s also an ending too.

It’s an ending to slow mornings, with you distractedly running into the kitchen to snag bites of toast between building train tracks and racing off to play outside. And there won’t be any more late Sunday night movies or dinners with your grandparents. School means being on a schedule and always getting plenty of rest. Tomorrow is the end of squeezing in a play date before lunch, the end of going to story time, and play group too. It’s the end of my being in on all your jokes and understanding just where you learned to do ‘that thing’.

When you wake up tomorrow, it’s the beginning of squishing your lunchbox and gym shoes into your backpack. It’s the beginning of scheduling our family’s lives around school concerts, open houses, and soccer games. It’s also the beginning of you choosing your own friends. Tomorrow is the moment that I release you into the world and hope that I did a really good job of being your first very teacher. These past years, I’ve been working so hard with you to teach you to use your words and to use the potty. Tomorrow, when you walk through the door of your classroom and wave good-bye to me, it’s show-time. Everything up to this point has just been a rehearsal.

I hate to say it but I used to sort of look down upon the mothers who cried on the first day of school.  The ones who held back their tears just long enough to get into their cars. I didn’t understand it. I thought that I would just be so happy when my kid finally got to this stage. I figured I would just have a big smile on my face skipping out of the school all by myself. But now I completely understand. Those tears don’t come from sadness but they aren’t quite tears of happiness either. It’s mixed. I feel so ridiculously proud and excited that my child is starting school, but I’m also sad to see this chapter of being home with him come to end.  It’s been a special couple of years for both of us and now that time is over.

Tomorrow morning, when I leave my child at school for the very first time, and head back to my car all alone, I know I’ll be fighting those tears right along with the other mothers in the parking lot.


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