Phase One Of Letting Go: Tomorrow Is The First Day Of Kindergarten

Karen Johnson Elementary School

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On the eve of my first born baby boy starting kindergarten…

This day seemed light years away for so long, and now it is here. The emotional roller coaster has had me on a high: my little boy is confident, ready, brilliantly inquisitive, and just a fun kid to hang out with. And a low: but he's my baby boy. And the world is taking him away from me. Tonight, as I navigate through the fog of nervousness, sadness, and joy, at a mere 10 hours away from kissing him goodbye at the kindergarten door, I am reminded of a night 14 years ago.

It was early October and I was 20 years old. I was leaving the following morning for a year abroad to study in England. I had never been out of the country before; this was the first time I had held a passport. I had never gone more than a few weeks without seeing my parents, having attended college only 90 minutes from home. But the following day I was getting on a plane, all by myself, and flying to Europe. I am reminded of this night because I clearly remember my mother packing my suitcases for me. Here I was, a junior in college, heading off to live in another country for 10 months, and my mom was neatly folding each of my shirts and pairs of jeans into my bags, leaving room for socks on the side. A job she and I both knew I should be doing—But somehow it was right. I know now, why she did it. Why she needed to do it.

I was thinking of this tonight, as I packed my little man's lunchbox and made sure his backpack was all set and ready to go. I had originally thought, “Okay, Mommy. Let's start on the right foot with responsibility! He should take care of his own things and help pack his own lunch!” But for some reason (I know the reason) I waited until he was asleep and I did it all for him. I dutifully placed one piece of cheese between two slices of lunch meat. I snapped into tupperware fruit I was positive he wouldn't touch. And I filled up a Ninja Turtles water bottle that had his name scrawled across in black marker. I did it all for him because I am Mommy, and I am having a hard time letting go. And whatever I need to do to hold on a little bit longer, well damn-it, I am going to.

I think about my mom that night in October. Her baby girl (all grown up, but still a kid at the same time) was leaving on a plane the next day without her. For the next year, that mother was not going to be able to run some chicken soup up to her daughter when she was sick. Or bring her home for the weekend for a properly cooked meal and some laundry assistance. Or just see her in person, embrace her in a hug, and make sure she was ok. Phone calls and emails were going to have to do for a long time. And I think that packing her daughter's bags let her be Mommy one more time before saying goodbye.

I am only in phase 1 of letting go: first kid off to kindergarten. (2 more to go.) I am so full of pride for my son and I know that it is time and that he is ready. One hand wants to hold on tight for just a little bit longer and the other wants to nudge him along and send him to fly. As I get my first glimpse into this heart-wrenching piece of motherhood, tonight, I say to my mom: Thank you for packing my suitcase. And thank you for letting me go.

This post was originally published on The 21st Century SAHM.



About the Author

Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is a writer at and assistant editor at Sammiches & Psych Meds. Often sarcastic and always passionate, she writes about all things parenthood as well as issues of social justice. Karen has had work featured on sites such as Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, and Sammiches & Psych Meds and is a contributing writer in several anthologies. Follow Karen at and on , and Instagram as 21st Century SAHM.

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