“Mom, I’m so excited to ride the bus!!”
“Honey, you’re not riding the bus this year. That’s next year, for kindergarten.”
“Oh right. But I’m going to school every day this year, right?”
“I can’t wait! I am just remembering all the fun stuff we did last year!”
And just like that, my chubby, toddling, toothless little punkin girl is already thinking ahead to kindergarten. And I try not to, but it makes me think ahead to her leaving for college and suddenly I’m fighting back tears.
She gets herself dressed for her first day of pre-k. Wipes the donut crumbs off her face. Brushes her own teeth. Combs her own hair (although I pull it back for her). Straps on her own shoes. Chooses the Frozen soundtrack for the car ride to school.
She remembers that her little brother loves carrying her backpack for her so she gently hands it to him as we get out of the car. She smooths her dress and makes her way to her old teachers’ classroom. She gives them both a big hug, makes her way to her new classroom.
“Bye, mom,” she says, looking up at me with that brave smile that melts me into a puddle. She gives me a big hug.
“Bye, bubba,” she says, squeezing Gavin and kissing him on the forehead, even though he wants nothing to do with it. And she turns on her heel and walks into her new classroom.
I’m fine until I get out to the car. But seeing the other moms in tears just triggers my own. So I strap in little bubs, get in the car, and I cry to the tune of “For the First Time in Forever,” as it’s still playing from when Heidi was singing along just moments before.
It’s just pre-k. She’s only in school a few days a week until just after lunch. It’s just letters and colors and line leaders and snacks and finger-paint. But for some reason it’s an indication to me of how these milestones are going to go. They are a happy time, especially for her. And I’m so proud of her. But it’s still tugging on the heartstrings a little bit. Over time, they will rip, ever so gently and subtly. Before I know it, she will be on her own.
No, it doesn’t help to throw myself into the future and worry about those days just yet. But is this how it’s going to feel? The most intensely bittersweet feeling ever? Being simultaneously proud but also heartbroken at how independent she wants to be? How will I cope when the kids are mean to her at school? When she gets her first heartbreak? When life disappoints her? When she makes mistakes?
I suppose I will cope the only way I’ve ever been able to: by leaning on the One who daily watches me endure all the very same things, even still as an adult. Bittersweet endings New beginnings. Really hard days. Mistakes. Getting hurt. Asking forgiveness. Figuring life out one messy, beautiful day at a time. It’s not until the dust settles that we can see it really does make a pretty picture.
I sometimes wonder if God looks down and shakes His head and says, “Hang in there, little loves…I know it can be rough but trust me. It gets better and you’re doing just fine.”
And that’s exactly what I find myself telling Heidi when she gets home from school when she tells me how much fun she had at school. “Oh, trust me, Heidi…it just gets better.”