Yesterday was the first day of kindergarten for my daughter, and she was simply a rock star. No tears—only excitement for her. On the other hand, my stomach was in knots, and I had to beat back the urge to take my child by the hand and run.
We arrived at school early so I could analyze the traffic flow and familiarize us both with the before-school standard operating procedures. Call me crazy, but I have a desperate need for knowing how things work in advance. I think it’s also a defense mechanism to help me control my emotions.
I knew I would need to work hard to keep myself in check, so I prepared an additional strategy the night before. That strategy included the following 5 ways to keep myself from crying in front of my daughter on her first day of school:
1. Keep talking. Just talk, talk, talk. It’s an excellent distraction. “Here honey, open your locker. Now close it. Will you remember tomorrow how we came to the classroom? There’s your teacher, let’s say hello. Be sure to introduce yourself to the girl sitting next to you. Let’s find your seat. You are so brave. You’re going to have so much fun. I’m so proud of you. Do your best. Remember my kiss is still on the palm of your hand whenever you need it. I will be here to pick you up after school. I love you…”
2. Take pictures. Take many, many pictures. Take as many pictures of my child as I can—until she orders me to stop, and indicates I’m embarrassing her. Take pictures of her outside and inside the school. At her locker. Her friends. Her teacher. Her classroom. Her seat. The reading circle. The parking lot.
3. Dig deep to find loads of empathy for that one inconsolably crying child. When we moms pull out our innate need to provide empathy and comfort to a heart-broken child, we are no longer aware of our own hearts. I know there will be at least one; I’m just praying it won’t be mine.
4. Say hello to everyone I pass. I will smile at every man, woman, and child I see. In the parking lot. In the hallways. In the classroom. I will study the faces that will soon become familiar for my daughter and me.
5. Don’t hang around too long. Don’t delay the inevitable—I must leave, so just do it without being shooed by the teacher.
The result of my intense planning? After saying my twentieth good-bye, I made it to the hallway outside of the classroom where I immediately ran into one of the other moms. She was sobbing miserably. And that’s all it took for me to lose it—just one second of eye contact between she and I.
As I pushed tears from my cheeks to make room for more, I heard her husband say, “Honey, stop crying. Please. Look one more time. See? Our boy is happy. Aw come on, honey—now look what you did. That mom was fine until she looked at you.”
There was no plan left. Nothing more to analyze. No strategy. Nothing more to say. So I walked quietly through the hallways, barely aware, but aware enough to notice I wasn’t alone with my emotions. I found other mom faces with flowing tears. And I felt several pats on my shoulders as I made my way to the exit. And when the fresh air rushed over me, I realized I had once again just journeyed through the motherhood sisterhood.
If you read my article last week, you know I was planning a celebration to enjoy my new freedom. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Maybe next week. Maybe next school year?