I dropped my baby off at Kindergarten this morning.
And y’all. I cried. Which I know isn’t surprising in and of itself, all moms cry when they drop off their babies, right?
But this time, it was different.
This time, my tears were a mix of nostalgia and excitement and a “we-finally-did-it” relief.
Five years ago ago, I dropped my first baby off for kindergarten. After I pulled out of the school parking lot, I had to pull over the car because I was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t drive home. I was nostalgic, yes, because Joey had grown up so fast and he was so sweet and precious and full of hope. But my mama heart also felt so worried for him. So protective. I remember watching him walk into those big double doors and having to resist the urge to chase after him, to follow him down that hallway on the long walk to his classroom. What if he never found his classroom or his teacher? Would he make friends? Would he be able to eat his lunch? And what if some big fifth grader picked on him on the playground?
I was also a raging mess of exhausted hormones that day, having spent the 104th straight night up with my three-month-old desperately looking for a way to get the child to sleep. That morning had been a whirlwind of craziness. After hours of rocking that baby boy to sleep, he had finally dozed off just as the sun started to rise. And so, as Joey downed his first-day-of-Kindergarten pancakes, I carried my still-sleeping three-year-old to the car, followed by my just-sleeping newborn and strapped them into their car seats. The baby immediately started screaming, wanting to nurse. When I arrived at the school, I realized Will had peed through his pajamas. And so, Joey walked into his kindergarten classroom with a pajama-clad toddler sister and a diaper-clad screaming baby brother in tow. Welcome to the real world, buddy.
That first year was so hard.
Joey was fine. Great, even. But I wasn’t. Wake-the-baby-up-and-throw-him-in-the-car-screaming became our daily morning routine. Kate, my easy-going second spent her mornings entertaining herself while I desperately tried to get Will to nap. To eat. To calm down. And then, every afternoon, we’d do it again. Wake the baby up from his nap. Put him in the car screaming. Drive to go get Joey. Come home and desperately try to find sanity with three exhausted, cranky kids and a mom who hadn’t slept in months.
Y’all, Joey’s kindergarten year wasn’t the magical, creative, inspiring year that I imagined it to be. It was chaos. I hated it. I hated the driving and carpooling and homework that I had to do with a screaming baby on my hip. I hated that I didn’t have the ability to go eat lunch with Joey very often, that I hardly ever volunteered in his classroom, that making it to the holiday party was such a stretch for me.
I felt like a failure as a mom.
Like I was ruining this great, important rite-of-passage for my son.
Like I had ruined kindergarten.
I would like to say it got easier two years later when my daughter started kinder, but that would be a lie. It was easier in some ways, but also harder.
By the time Kate was ready to start school, we had made the decision to change schools. Their new school was two days a week at school and two days home school. (Yay! I only had to wake the baby up from his nap twice a week!) But I still felt so frazzled. So crazy. Because now those home days were frantic. Finding time to work with my older kids with a toddler tearing homework and tearing through the house felt almost impossible. Once again, I felt like a failure. Once again, I felt like I was ruining kindergarten for my daughter.
I was batting zero for two.
Things were hard here for years.
We battled through kindergarten with Joey. And we battled through Kindergarten with Kate. There were childcare struggles and forgotten pick-ups and forgotten projects. There were lunches scraped together with whatever I found in the pantry, with crumbled crackers and baggies full of cheerios. There were many days where I had to cancel play dates, miss soccer practices and stand in line for pick-up with a phone to my ear.
It wasn’t pretty.
It was chaotic and messy and humbling.
But today was different. I walked into that Kindergarten classroom this morning full of hope. Instead of worry, I’m full of confidence. Instead of walking in with a screaming baby on one hip and a pajama-clad toddler on the other, I walked Will into his classroom alone. I had time to take the pictures. To give him a kiss goodbye. To tell him “you’ve got this” and “have a great day.” And you know what? Tonight, I’ll have time to look through his folder without someone tearing it in half. I’ll be able to read him a book in a quiet, calm voice instead of screaming over the screams of a baby. I will be able to take him to soccer practice. For the first time, I’ve got this.
I’m sure we’ll have our hard days. Days where I forget the homework, forget the project, forget to find something with protein for their lunches. But I pray those days will be less. Fewer and farther between. Less chaotic.
And so, yes, I cried today.
But they were happy nostalgic tears, not worried nostalgic tears. They were tears shed knowing that this year is going to be good. My baby is ready. He won’t get beat up by a 5th grader. He won’t get lost. He may forget homework or forget to eat his lunch, but he will be okay.
And for those of you who drug a screaming baby into school drop-off this morning. Who juggled a stroller and a backpack as they got out of the car. Who are imagining trying to do reading and math practice tonight with a baby on one hip and a spatula in your hand, I want to give you some special encouragement. It’s hard. I know this. It’s exhausting and demoralizing and depressing. It makes you feel like a failure. But let me reassure you: You are NOT failing.
Because at the same time I dropped my baby off at Kindergarten, I dropped Joey off for his first day of middle school. Yes, the same child who timidly walked into that Kindergarten classroom five years ago, walked into first period science this morning. He walked in with a smile on his face, his right books in his hands, three friends by his side. He walked in excited, jittery because he loves school and loves learning. He walked in confident.
I’m telling you this not to brag on my kid– although he is pretty awesome– but instead to tell you that those frantic years when I had no time for making homemade play dough or doing Pinterest crafts. When his screaming baby brother kept him up at night, when I didn’t get his homework done, when I didn’t pack him a fruit and a vegetable in his lunch. Those years: They didn’t ruin him. They didn’t set him up for failure. They didn’t cause him to resent me.
Because yes, his kindergarten experience was different than that of his brothers.
But not worse.
So, today, I’m praying for my beautiful precious kids. That their days are full of hope and creativity and confidence and hugs. That they have days that help them to grow into strong, confident, God-loving adults . But I’m also praying for you. I’m praying that you walked out of that school drop-off smiling and knowing that you are a great mom. That you’ve got this. That regardless of pajama-clad toddlers and screaming babies and forgotten binders and forgotten lunches, you are a good mom.
And your babies will be just fine.