Thoughts on my oldest son starting kindergarten

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Matthew is starting kindergarten.  That newborn who had teeny tiny hands with peeling skin, those little hands that grasped and clung to my index finger with surprising force — that newborn is now a big five-year-old with hands that can hold a pencil and write words and wave for the teacher’s attention.

And I am getting just a little bit emotional.

I don’t do well with my kids’ transitions, I’m finding.  It was an emotional wrench to say goodbye to the daycare provider who looked after them when they were babies, to bid farewell to the teachers at Luke’s first preschool.  And this transition into kindergarten is exacerbated somewhat by a few other transitions in our household.  Last weekend,  Scott started taking down the wallpaper border in Matthew’s room, one that we put up six years ago, when he was still in utero.  It has bright primary colors, a little frieze of simple giraffes and elephants and birds and letters and numbers.  I loved it then and I love it now, but it doesn’t look — what’s the word? — kindergarten-ish.

Last weekend, we also set up Matthew’s brand-new big person bed, passing his toddler bed on down the line to Luke.  Matthew’s room looks very different now.  It’s not the room of a little kid.  It’s the room of a little kid who is right on the cusp of being a big kid, and who needs a bed that will see him through the next twelve years.

Yes, change is good.  But if you’re a mom,  change is also bittersweet, because it means something is lost that cannot be regained.  It’s so hard to realize this when you’re smack in the middle of the exhaustion of newborns and babies and toddlers, but the time — it just flies.  Kids do grow up fast, very fast.   And it happens so gradually that you just don’t notice it until some big event — like a new bed, a transformed room, the start of kindergarten, or all three — makes you realize that you’ve passed some invisible boundary, and you can never go back  to the way it was before.   There’s an ache that comes with realizing that, honestly.  I recently heard the song “Sunrise, Sunset,” and it made me want to bawl like a baby.  And it’s not like my son is getting married; he’s just starting kindergarten, for Pete’s sake.   But in the span of my five years as his mom, it’s the single biggest transition that he’s had.   No wonder I get a little teary-eyed sometimes, thinking about it.

But the truth is,  this is not all about me.  It’s about him.  And he’s more than ready for these changes.  When we set up his big bed last week, I wondered if he’d have a hard time saying goodbye to the bed he’s slept in for more than three years.  Would we need to phase it out gradually?  Convince him that he’s too big for it?  Comfort him when he wakes up sad in the middle of the night?

In fact, the minute I made up the mattress for the new bed, Matthew climbed up onto it and lay on his back and stretched out his arms and legs.  He smiled at the ceiling, a broad, contented smile, and then drummed his legs gleefully.  He adores it: the space, the height of the bed, the room to sprawl and read contentedly.  He never once has asked to have his old bed back.  He was ready for the change.

That’s the thing about kids: they grow.  They need bigger beds and more space and new opportunities.  They need to stretch their limbs and their minds and their horizons.

And I guess it’s a chance for Mom to do the same.

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