I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Matthew is starting kindergarten. Â 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. Â 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. Â And this transition into kindergarten is exacerbated somewhat by a few other transitions in our household. Â Last weekend, Â 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. Â It has bright primary colors, a little frieze of simple giraffes and elephants and birds and letters and numbers. Â 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. Â Matthew’s room looks very different now. Â It’s not the room of a little kid. Â 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. Â But if you’re a mom, Â change is also bittersweet, because it means something is lost that cannot be regained. Â 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. Â Kids do grow up fast, very fast. Â 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 Â to the way it was before. Â There’s an ache that comes with realizing that, honestly. Â I recently heard the song “Sunrise, Sunset,” and it made me want to bawl like a baby. Â And it’s not like my son is getting married; he’s just starting kindergarten, for Pete’s sake. Â But in the span of my five years as his mom, it’s the single biggest transition that he’s had. Â No wonder I get a little teary-eyed sometimes, thinking about it.
But the truth is, Â this is not all about me. Â It’s about him. Â And he’s more than ready for these changes. Â 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. Â Would we need to phase it out gradually? Â Convince him that he’s too big for it? Â 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. Â He smiled at the ceiling, a broad, contented smile, and then drummed his legs gleefully. Â He adores it: the space, the height of the bed, the room to sprawl and read contentedly. Â He never once has asked to have his old bed back. Â He was ready for the change.
That’s the thing about kids: they grow. Â They need bigger beds and more space and new opportunities. Â 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.