First Day Jitters – Hers or Mine?

“It’s going to be great!” I told Molly, as I smeared peanut butter on burnt toast. “It’s going to be great!” I said, as I snagged a brush in her hair. “It’s going to be…..”

“Mooom” Molly said, “I knooooow”.

How could this have happened? How could I be taking my daughter to her first day of kindergarten, when only yesterday I was swaddling her tiny frame? How could five years have blinked by so fast? Having kids must cause a temporal distortion in your brain. There’s no other way to explain how 1,825 days had come and gone.

I knew this moment was coming. I had attended all the kindergarten meet-and-greets and read all the newsletters. I had asked, cajoled, and threatened my friends for advice, and I was still unprepared. I had mixed feelings: sorrow, joy, and uncertainty tumbled in my stomach, fighting to see which would disgorge itself first.

I held it together as I stuffed Andy and Molly into the van. I was okay when I unbuckled everyone in the school parking lot. When Molly chirped “bye, Mom!” and walked into school without a backward glance, I didn’t cry. But later, when the cashier at the drive-thru asked how my day was going, I started quietly crying into my cup.

“I’m sorry,” I gulped, “my daughter started kindergarten.”

“Ah,” she said sympathetically, “I remember sending mine. You’ll be okay, I promise. That’ll be $4.22”.

I paid for my coffee and commiseration and headed home. The house was so quiet; instead of two kids having a “who can scream the loudest” contest, it was just Andy and me. I never, ever, thought I would miss Molly’s deafening stomps on the floor as she played “elephant tap-dance”. I knew I shouldn’t worry about her so much. She’s so confident and fearless. She climbs the jungle gym with ease, is happy to meet new people, and isn’t the least bit shy. I wish I could be more like her. Still, I worried. Was she making friends? Were people being kind to her? Was her teacher nice, or was she like some of the humorless trolls that I was stuck with as a child?

The day passed slowly and didn’t speed up no matter how often I checked the clock. Andy, however, was in a great mood! There was no one around to steal his toys or chase him around the coffee table. Turns out, he’s pretty quiet when his sister isn’t teasing him.

Eventually, the time came, and I loaded Andy into the van for the short drive to school. I held his hand as we waited for Molly outside her class, and once again, I underestimated her. She came flying out with a huge smile on her face, her hair bouncing, and one shoe untied.

“Mommy!” she exclaimed, “I ate all my lunch except for the carrots and yogurt because I don’t like those and we sang a song do you want to hear it and then we drew letters and I used a green crayon because green is my favorite color….” Molly rattled on excitedly, forgetting to breathe. I smiled and hugged her tightly.

“Mowwy!” Andy cried. Molly babbled non-stop as I buckled her up and drove home. At dinner, she made sure to explain everything to my husband, Jeremy, including the part where one kid barfed all over the lunch table. I cut her off when she started describing the color.

It’s bittersweet, letting your kids out into the world. For five years, Jeremy and I worked hard to create a universe that was safe and comfortable, where it was okay to burp at the table and drink milk from the carton. Now, Molly had to abide by other people’s rules; would she be ready? Would the outside world be kind to her? As I tucked her into bed, I asked her if she’d had a fun day.

“Yep!” she said, “I can’t wait for tomorrow!”

I looked down at my happy, brave little girl. Watch out world, I thought with a smile, here she comes!