Breaking Away

Posted by on August 6, 2006

My firstborn started kindergarten last Thursday. It was, of course, a big day. I made her pose for a couple pictures before school, wearing her new uniform, and then I took a few more when I picked her up.

I was the picture of parental dorkiness, I’m sure, but I didn’t cry or get choked up like some do. This will be her third year in a school setting. I can finally separate from her without getting emotional or anxious or feeling guilty.

And her? Please. I hardly get so much as a backward glance anymore.

Her burgeoning independence is both heartening and heartbreaking all at once.

You grow a child inside you…

From mere cells they become full-fledged little beings with beating hearts and imploring eyes, depending on you for their very lives

…and all too soon, you have to start letting them go. They will never again need you the way they did before.

That is without a doubt, for me, the hardest part of being a mother.

So utterly bittersweet…it’s nature’s way.

And while intellectually, I know and understand this, it really doesn’t make it any easier.

(It should probably be noted that I am also the kind of sentimental fool who cries like a baby every single time I watch a nature show where the mother jaguar/cheetah/leopard, having determined her cubs are able to fend for themselves and must not depend on her anymore, leaves them, presumably to go hunt for food, and never returns. It absolutely slays me; like tearing my heart out with a butter knife…)


  • Nancy says:

    Oh! Happy Birthday and Happy Kindergarten to TQ!

    We’ve got one more year before Mimi starts and already I’m getting the jitters about it. Yeah, she’s been in day care for years already, but it’s just the symbolism of starting “real” school. Sigh.

  • Jerri Ann says:

    Happy Birthday to the little lady! And, enjoy school. I so dread the days that I have to do that letting go part. I have one that goes to pre-school as if it is one big party and one that screams bloody murder…I get so anxious thinking abour real school…..and I got 2 more years….hope you survive!

  • Chase says:

    Yay! Congrats on your independant little person starting this new stage in her life. You have to be insanely proud of her…and of yourself. Go, mom!

  • chelle says:

    Happy Birthday!!!!!
    (whoa school already?!?!?!?! In Canada they do not go back till September!)

  • It seems like every step is harder for the parents than for the child.

  • Chag says:

    I was a mess when my daughter started preschool. I can only imagine how I’ll be the day she starts kindergarten.

    I can’t believe she starts school this early. Is it a year-round program?

  • They started the same time here in MS. And I can’t imagine it.

  • J. says:

    Bittersweet – exactly!

  • Karl says:

    It is weird how early school starts in the south. Growing up in NY, we didn’t go back to school until after Labor Day. Down here, they start up like three days after school lets out for summer. :)

  • Elizabeth says:

    Aww, Mama! It’s always so much harder on the parents than it is on the kids. I hope she loves kindergarten.

  • mamaholler says:

    Hmm… Bunny will begin Montessori school from 9 to 11:30 three days a week this fall. I am dreading it. Really. I feel sick when I think about my daughter in a place where I am unable to monitor how she’s being treated and make sideways comments if I see that it’s not fairly. Or, if I’m not there to help her if she cries or gets scared. I feel sick, sick, sick.

  • Congratulations to you both.

    I do know what you mean about how it’s not that much different, given that she’s been in pre-school for a while already. I wonder sometimes about how Tacy will react. I tend to get maudlin about the strangest so-called milestones, as opposed to the ones where every mother sheds a tear.

    BTW, our neighborhood school started a week ago Thursday, but they go year-round. Other schools in our area, on the traditional schedule, start next week.

  • Anne says:

    I beg your pardon…I never promised you a rose garden…along with the sunshine, there’s gonna be a little rain sometimes.

    Oh, the bittersweet…

    ps…loved the photos from Blogher…looked like a good party…Anne

  • tony says:

    Kindergarden and then Prom. That’s what would go through my head. Then I would cry.

  • Lady M says:

    Wow, I can barely imagine getting to kindegarten, we’re so far away from that now. Congratulations!

  • My son is the same age. His first day of senior kindergarten is in September and he too has been in school already and is entirely unphased. Me? It aches. But its all part of the bitersweet dance of growing up.

    Hooray for TQ

  • Stefanie says:

    Oh man. It’s funny that my little one is only 20 months and I’m appalled at the thought that she should get socialized a bit and perhaps go to daycare for a day or two a week. I am madly addicted to her. It’s so freaking cliche yet so true that it goes by really fast. Except when they’re having meltdowns. Then a minute seems like a year.

  • Kindergarten already started? We still have 30 days before first grade. My little man is going to FIRST GRADE! OMG! I know the feeling exactly, letting go is hard but a must as you said it…”nature’s way”. Somebody gives me a tissue!

  • tori says:

    My twins will be starting first grade in two weeks and my oldest will be in third grade. It will be just me and the baby at home and I am not happy about this at all! I really wish someone could invent something to freeze my kids at this age or even go back and do it all again! I love the people they are growing into, but I miss their innocent baby ways!

  • Mom101 says:

    Oh I shouldn’t be reading things like this! I mean, I get sentimental about her being able to pick up a cheerio by herself.

  • mamatulip says:

    I’ve got Julia on the waiting list for preschool, starting ASAP. I know that when she starts, I’ll sit in the parking lot and cry for a good while before I actually leave the premesis.

  • Mrs. Davis says:

    Congratulations on the first day of school! I kwym about it not being so hard after having her in a school setting prior to this, but still it is a big step. I hope she is loving it so far.

  • Pattie says:

    no, it doesn’t make it any easier, does it? But that is the pain of motherhood, and unfortunately, totally unavoidable…

  • Jill says:

    I think I cried more J.’s first day of Kindergarten. Wow, your school starts early! In northern california, my daughter goes back to school on August 21st.

    Congrats on this new milestone!

  • Mayberry says:

    Happy birthday! I’m looking forward to my daughter starting kindergarten (one more year) because hey, cost-free and guilt-free day care. But at the same time… my little girl? at SCHOOL?

  • Kindergarten comes quickly doesn’t it? I hadn’t anticipated getting emotional when Thing One started kindergarten as he had been doing the preschool thing since he was three. But I remember walking him in to school with his dad the first day of kindergarten. He was nervous and wanted to hold our hands. I felt comforted that he still needed us. Then it happened. He saw his friends, let go of our hands, and never looked back. I still feel it as if it happened yesterday. It is a double edged sword isn’t it? Feelings of pride and pain from their independence? Will it ever get easier?

  • Kristen says:

    We’re in the same boat. And what’s going to kill me silently is the fact that my youngest, my BABY, is heading off to more of a school setting this year. Next year it’ll be REAL school. OY.

  • miah says:

    this is why we’ve made an agreement with lila that she’s going to stay at seven months for the next several years.

  • petite mommy says:

    My son is of kindergarten age but he’s not going to attend kindergarten this year but he will next year unless we officially decide on homeschooling. I totally understand the feeling though and it doesnt help that mine hasn’t been out of my site since birth…

  • Dawn says:

    Aw. I really was looking forward to Jeremy’s going to kindergarden last year but I ended up being in the hospital and missed it. I know what you mean about the backwards glance!! Cuddles now are so precious! School doesn’t start here for another month. Bittersweet…yes that describes the feeling totally. I know Jeremy still needs me but it will never be exactly how it was….

  • My daughter starts in just a few weeks, and I am dreading it. I will be the sobbing mess. I can guarantee it.

  • That vignette about the jaguar got ME all teary-eyed too. Do they really do that? So sad!

    I get so sad when I think of my son growing up and not “needing me” anymore. Sometimes I think about him moving out to go to college and I want to cry. And he’s only one!

  • Ah, choke, sniff!

    I’m so terrified of this inevitable separation. TERRIFIED. I want to just clutch her to me forever. That I can’t breaks my heart.

    You brave, brave lady, Izzy… with your little jaguar…

  • With my first, I cried. My second, and last, I did a little happy dance. Is that so wrong? Wait. Don’t answer that. ;?)

  • wordgirl says:

    When my three started kindergarten? I cried like a big baby. Every. Single. Time.

  • jennster says:

    awwwwwww- but wait, they started school ALREADY?!?!?!

  • dorothy says:

    You know what is weird? I happily bop to my car when the little angel trots off without a backward glance. It’s when she breaks down and clings to my leg, begging me not to leave that I can’t stand it. Perhaps this has something to do with my insecurities as a mother – I feel better when she doesn’t seem to need me – like she’s going to be okay out there in that big, bad world without me.

    I realize I’m probably unusual.

  • kittenpie says:

    Ach, even though I’m nowhere near kindergarten with Pumpkinpie yet, I totally know that combination of heart-swelling pride and choking down some tears. Sending hugs from up north…

  • Wham! And suddenly they’re off. I wept for days when my daughter started K. My son starts in a few weeks and I know I’ll be weeping again. Bittersweet.

  • dennis says:

    Tony forgot after prom then some bastard makes you walk her down the aisle so he can steal her away…
    Until then I plan to enjoy all the moments (even when she does not look back over her shoulder at me…)

  • Mocha says:

    Oh, Izzy. Honey. I KNOW. I KNOW. The only thing that could possibly comfort you is knowing that as they get older you are too busy worrying about what they’re learning to have these same feelings.

    Or, maybe not. Why listen to me? I’m too busy worrying about what my kids are learning to remember.

  • Mrs. Chicky says:

    Stop. You’re killing me. I’d like to think that school, and independence will never come but you’re making it very clear that it happens and there’s nothing I can do about it. Damn.
    I like your attitude. Tough on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside.

  • Lisa B says:

    I think I’m going to be a total mess! Sounds like you handled it beautifully.

  • Allysun says:

    Oh GOD! I don’t even want to think about it.

    She’s so perfect right now, at 15 months. I just want to hit pause.

  • lildb says:

    oy. oy, oy, oy.


  • Izzy says:

    I don’t think so and I hate it. So. Much.

  • Izzy says:

    We used to not go back until after Labor Day. I think it might have something to do with hurricane season.

  • Izzy says:

    Prom? Prom? That drunken night of debauchery and virginity-losing that costs an assload of money? No. We’re skipping that. Nope. Uh-uh. Not going.

  • Izzy says:

    If only we could do that… I’m loving 13 months with my son.

  • Kim says:

    My daughter (my youngest) starts Kindergarten tomorrow and I keep hoping I will be like you, but I think I’ll feel a tear or two. If only she was nasty and difficult like her brothers. I’m going to miss her.

  • Silly Hily says:

    I got all teary eyed and choked up just reading this. My oldest just turned 2 and I can’t even imagine watching her get on that bus for the first time and leave me and go make her own friends and be her own person. I can’t do it. See, now I’m crying, literally, just thinking about it. What if no one talks to her and she’s all alone? What if someone hurts her? What if someone is mean to her? What if someone makes her cry? What if someone makes fun of her? What if everyone absolutely adores her? No matter what happens it will hurt because she is doing it all without me. I will have to let her go though b/c I refuse to be “that” mom.
    Enough about what a freak I am. I hope your little one had the most fantastic first day of school ever!

  • Happy birthday!

    Sounds like you handled the kindergarten thing very well. I, on the other hand, will definitely be a sniveling mess, since that will probably be the first school my kid goes to (besides the one-day-a-week program her sisters attended from three on).

    Good for you both! :)

  • Izzy says:

    Yes! That’s exactly what I mean about it being both heartening and heartbreaking.

    You know it’s a good thing, you know that being independent is best for them but yet, it represents the end of an era…the end of very early childhood, the end of being needed in that special way.

    Conversely, no matter how much I hate it, I could never begrudge her that independence

    …and therein lies the proverbial paradox that makes me so damned melancholic.

  • metro mama says:

    We’re nowhere near that milestone but I dread even think about it.

    Hope it gets better for you soon.

  • My daughter will go to Kindergarten this year, too, and in a uniform! But wow, you’ve already got school going on? Again, wow.

    I am curious how this will go. She has been in daycare her whole life until two months ago. She was always independent, and you described so well the dichotomy in the way that feels; both making you proud as a parent and ripping your heart out. Man!

    Lately she’s been much more clingy to me, which has been weird but also kind of nice to know she still needs me…

  • Glad to have found your site. I will make sure to check it out more often

  • Deb_LA says:

    God, I love reading all of you Moms now! It makes me feel, well, I guess more ready than I was before. I mean I am not running out the door to get a ovulation kit or anything but you guys are starting to make me think I may be actually be able to keep this thing alive. At least long enough to get to kindergarten!

    Congrats to you and the little lady on her first day!

  • Stephanie A. says:

    What a milestone! One I’m sure I’ll be a trainwreck during, of course. I just feel so vulnerable about my little guy growing up. Daily.

  • carrie says:

    I can relate to this too – I posted about my baby getting older in a post called “Grown Up” last month on my blog. It breaks my heart to see her maturing, and at the same time, I am so proud of her. But, if I could freeze her I totally would, and relish in her cute 2-year-oldness forever and ever!

  • Lisa says:

    Oh, man, my heart is breaking. That was such a sweet, and sad and beautiful post. My sister in law told me this great quoe: children don’t belong to us, children come through us. or something like that. I probably botched it.


  • Mama C-ta says:

    Wait, nobody told me our kids have (or worse…will want!) to leave our side at some point. Damn it! If only I knew this 13 months ago…

  • tracey says:

    Perfectly said Izzy. I think about that all the time. My children’s independance both elates me and crushes me in the same breath.
    This mother stuff never lets up. Daaaaang.

  • Mary says:

    Hi Izzy, this post and my son’s nearing first day of high school started me remembering his first days of kindergarten. I wrote about it here and linked it back to you (for the inspiration.)

    I feel a little funny putting a link to my blog here but I just wanted to let you know that your post got me thinking.

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