Dear mamas, on your firstborn’s first day of preschool,
My heart is with each of you in this season of firsts. I understand the lump in your throat and the streak of panic that arises every now and then as you prepare to send your firstborn off … I understand because I, too, have that lump and that panic.
We are in a unique slice of time here. Moms who have yet to cross this threshold don’t understand, because when you’re in the middle of babyhood, it’s hard to imagine your life will be anything but nap schedules and feeding routines and reaching the first-year milestones on time.
And moms who have already crossed this threshold tend to gently roll their eyes and think yeah, just wait until the first day of first grade … Or middle school … or high school … or [fill in the blank].
Yes, it’s only preschool—two days a week for a handful of hours. Yes, there are many, many more milestones, large and looming, to come. But that does not negate the very real emotion and significance of this seemingly small step …
It was hard to imagine it 3 years ago, but this quiet, beautiful season is coming to an end—even if for only a few hours a week. Our schedules will once again delineate between weekdays and weekends. Federal holidays will once again take on meaning. And probably for the first time since you yourself were in school, you’ll be thinking and planning within the bounds of semesters.
For those of us stay-at-home moms, this is the first step of separating from our child. For 3 years or more, our sweet firstborns have been wholly in our care. From the moment he was born, you’ve been the one loving, caring, and tending to him. You’ve been the one planning and organizing her days, living out the divine in the routine, everyday tasks of mom life.
And now we hand a small slice of that teaching, guiding, and learning into the hands of someone else. We begin helping our child peek outside the nest and see the world beyond the soft, safe feathers of home.
So I think perhaps this day is so emotional, not because of what it means in and of itself, but because of the enormous change it signifies: it is the first, small step onto a big, long path. The long path of separation. The long path of becoming his own person; of finding her own way. Of being immersed in influences other than that of your own family unit. Of learning to navigate their little worlds, baby step by baby step, on their own.
And that is why I cry. That is why my heart feels as though it might collapse on itself. This protected, precious child I’ve had the privilege of caring for now has to walk into the world and begin learning how to live in it.
There is pain in that world. There is hurt. There are hard, hard lessons to be learned, even for 3-year-olds. I’m in my 30’s, and I’m still not crazy about sharing (especially when it comes to dessert). I’m a wife and a mother and it still hurts when someone says or does something unkind, even though my adult brain can process the hurt and/or understand its origin.
As moms, we would do anything to shield our children from all hurt, if only that was possible … but it isn’t possible, and it isn’t our job, either. No, it is our job to shepherd and guide them as they enter the world—to love them with all our strength and pray that God gives us the words and the wisdom to handle the hurdles ahead.
Yes, I’m sure elementary school will be harder than this. And middle school harder than elementary. And high school harder than middle, and so on … but it all starts here.
Right where you and I find ourselves—helping our firstborn babies step their toes into the water.
So go ahead and shed those tears, mama. I know I will. Go ahead and feel those fears. I will whisper a prayer for you and for me.
Let it all out, and take it to the One who knows just what it’s like to let go and release His firstborn to a fallen world. The One who has carried your heart all this time will be faithful to carry it still … even when it leaves your body and walks through the doors of preschool.