My oldest boy is 5, and has been in a structured, educational environment for over two years. He has moved from nursery to pre-school to pre-K to kindergarten, and I have shed nary a tear.
I absolutely understand the emotions of parents who send their beloved child of to the big world of kindergarten, especially if it’s their first. It’s a big deal. It’s no longer a couple of hours in preschool. It’s longer hours of learning and socializing, which means longer hours doing things without you, the parent. It’s the beginning of a separation that will be normal. Your child will do things without you watching every step, or capturing every moment. You’re letting them go, just a little bit.
I am not that parent. I didn’t cry when he turned 5, or when the realization hit that my son is a kindergartener. Five! One whole hand. So big yet so little. So different (and less of a horror, let’s admit it) than 3 or 4.
I didn’t cry because I’m not sad that he’s 5, that he’s old enough to read and write. I’m not sad that he’s a big brother of three younger siblings. I’m not sad that he’s finally, FINALLY talking (thank you speech therapy). I’m not sad that he has turned the corner on so many issues, and behavioural challenges.
I love that that he’s 5, and helps me around the house (when he feels like it). I love that he understands actions and consequences (also, bribery and incentives). I love that he knows what sharing means, and is willing to do so half the time. I love that he has friends and plays with others. I love that he’s athletic. I love that he is no longer afraid in the pool, and enjoys swimming.
We have come a long, long way with him. 5 looks amazing on him and I know that 6 will be even more so.
A few weeks before he turned 5, I confessed to a few close friends that I couldn’t write a birthday post for him, because things were challenging between us. The child I spent the most one-on-one time with by virtue of being the firstborn, felt distant.
It was of course, early days with the twins, and managing the emotions of a 2 1/2 year old going through the notorious terrible twos, and horrendous threes. It was me, up to my neck with nursing and not sleeping and four children and household and husband and needing to write. It was him, going through all kinds of transitions from 4 to 5, from big brother of one to big brother of three, and goodness knows what else.
Our bond was lost in all the mess and chaos, and I didn’t focus on finding it. Instead, I was tired and angry a lot. I was impatient and frustrated. I didn’t like him sometimes, and disliked myself more for feeling that way. I was stingy with my affection and time.
It was not my finest mothering moment.
The new year brought a new boy. It was like a lightbulb went off in him, and he turned so many corners. His transitions smoothed out, he shed that prickly skin, and emerged shiny and bright. With his light, I found my way back to us.
So no, I shed no tears over the fact that my son is old enough for kindergarten. I rejoice in his growing up, the milestones, the many steps he has taken, the obstacles he has overcome. I do not wish time to stop, to freeze him as he is, because I want to see him grow up to be the fine young man he is meant to be.
But ask me again in 13 years time when he heads off to college, I’ll probably be hanging onto his shirt and bawling my eyes out.