Surviving Milestones: Reflections on the First Day of School

Sam baby smiles

My little boy, age six months

It’s never easy, watching him walk out the door on the first day of school. Every first day takes him one step closer to adulthood and further away from me. He grew and changed so much during his freshman year of high school. I am so proud of the young man I see before me, but I ache for the little boy who wanted nothing more than to hold my hand.

That little boy is now several inches taller than me and wears the same size shoes as his father. This morning when I asked to take his photo, he politely indulged me. He let me give him a hug before he left, and I even managed to plant a good-bye kiss on his cheek. I teased him about how tough it must be to have a mom who loves him so much and makes a big deal out of everything. But even though I know it annoys him sometimes, I won’t stop. In just three years, he will start college. The time is going to zip by, and I plan to savor and make the most of it. I will grasp firmly to each of the little moments. I will photograph them and tuck them away in my mind. I can only imagine how much I am going to need them later.

No one tells you before you have children what it feels like to watch them grow up, how your heart aches with every milestone. Even if someone does try to prepare you, I don’t think it’s something you can understand until you experience it. The first day of preschool, when the teacher has to practically peel your child out of the back seat, wrecks you, but it could not possibly compare to putting him on the bus for kindergarten the first time. Eighth-grade graduation, when you see your kid in a cap and gown accepting a diploma, blows your mind a little, but it’s got nothing on the first day of high school. The big moments don’t get any easier because with each one you realize your child needs you a little less.

It’s never easy, watching him walk out the door on the first day of school. I cried a little this morning. I always do. I know that the biggest milestones, high school graduation and the first day of college, are right around the corner. I know he will be ready. He is a bright, confident young man, but I still see in him that little boy who wanted nothing more than to hold my hand. I’m not ready to let him go. I don’t know if I ever will be.

My sophomore

My sophomore, age 15


6 thoughts on “Surviving Milestones: Reflections on the First Day of School

  1. I feel for you, Kathleen. I’m crying now…feeling the same feelings. Joanne is at band camp this week. When I dropped her off yesterday, she gave me a hug and told me to go, to not be one of those lingering parents. And I haven’t heard from her since. Yep, she needs me less. This was the plan all along — raising an independent person, but you’re right. My heart just aches for this “milestone.”

    • Oh, Rene! I feel for you as well. Sam was the same way when he went to band camp last summer. This year, they had on-campus camp, so he was home every night — much easier for this mama to handle.

      So true: We are succeeding in our goals to raise independent people. Who knew it would be such a difficult success to swallow? Hugs!

  2. Aw, this made me cry! Seeing the pics of your son really brought it home. I am currently trying to make it through the last two weeks before preschool starts for my 3 year old. The days are long and hard, so I’ll keep reminding myself that someday he’ll be in high school and won’t want to sit in my lap and read a book!

    • Oh, boy! I remember those days all too well. I know it’s hard to believe, but someday you will cherish those times — even the difficult ones. Think how wonderful it will be to have a few hours to yourself several times a week. You’re almost there. Enjoy!

  3. i’m a few years behind you, as my kids are 4 & 6 but this septemer will be especially tough for this mama, because my youngest is starting school! as a SAHM this is going to really change my life, routine and role.
    ok, can’t think about it more or i might burst into teary mess!!!

    good luck!!!

    • That is such a huge milestone, when the youngest starts kindergarten. I remember feeling so conflicted about wanting more time to focus on myself/career/hobbies/etc. while at the same time not wanting them to leave pretty much ever. Good luck to you, mama! You deserve this time to reconnect with yourself and concentrate on your own needs. Enjoy it.

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