Last September, I became a mother of a school-ager.
That’s right. The real deal.
Full day kindergarten.
I remember spending the weeks before the first day of school in anticipation and I worried about everything. Would he be nervous? What if he doesn’t make new friends? Will he know where to find his bus? Will he have a lot of homework? What if he forgets his hot lunch code? Will the older kids be nice to him?
You name it. I worried about it.
And when the time had finally come – the first day of school – it was moment I had been waiting for. Well, actually, it was the second day of school because Declan had the stomach flu and missed his ‘actual’ first day of school.
So on day #2, Tony and I took the morning off from work so we could be there while he got onto the bus for the first time. After taking over a hundred pictures and telling him 23 times to make sure he catches the rooster bus after school, the bus came around the corner.
This was it.
I was about to tell Declan not to worry, but he had no fear. He ran right up to the front of the line. Literally pushed his way to the front. As he stepped into the bus for the first time, I anxiously waited for him to turn around and wave excitedly at me as the bus took off.
I mean, that’s how it was supposed to go, right?
He trotted to the middle of the bus, sat down (actually, he was shoved into the seat by his friend Skye), and sat completely oblivious to my incessant waving until the bus took off.
That was not the moment I had in my head.
People immediately started asking me what it felt like to have my first child go to school and I remember fighting back the tears. I wanted to run to my car. I was annoyed that I couldn’t keep it together with ease like my husband. Equally annoyed that I wasn’t by myself so I could sob in comfort.
When I went back to work later that day, it bothered me that I was so upset. I knew that sending your first child to school is a big deal and that I was by no means the only mom out there who shed some tears. However, I had a vision of how that moment would play out in my head.
In my head, Declan waved at me as the bus drove away. In my head, I was super calm. In my head, my heart didn’t pound. And in my head, when parents asked me what it was like to have a kindergartner, I threw my head back in confidence and said, “I know, right!?”
It was then that I started laughing.
This wasn’t MY moment. This was HIS moment.
And. He. Did. Just. Fine.
He couldn’t have cared LESS that I was there. OK, maybe that made me feel sad for about two seconds, but then it felt great. He totally owned it. He was confident. Relentless, really. Although, I crossed my fingers that budging in the bus line wasn’t going to become a habit.
He was ready for that moment. And I was so proud of him.
Maybe Declan didn’t care I was there. Maybe I embarrassed the hell out of him jumping and waving as the bus left. And then, maybe yeah….I wanted to cry a little.
I was disappointed in myself that by putting so much pressure on how I was going to experience this moment, I completely forgot to experience the moment.
Now that I am officially halfway through the school year, I will admit I have had many moments like these. And undoubtedly, I will have many more. But these are all new moments for me. And with each tiny moment, I learn something new.
I am learning to let go of expectations. Almost always, things turn out different from what I imagine. Usually better. Better because they are our moments. Easier said than done, but isn’t that what its all about?
I am learning to embrace experiences for what they are, instead of being anxious for the outcome. I will always want to protect my kids. I will want them to do well. I will want them to have lots of friends. And I will want them to be happy. However, I am learning that I have to let them create these moments for themselves, good or bad. That is the only way they will grow.
I am learning not to compare my experiences to others. Sounds so cliché, right? But its true, and I have to remind myself this often. Every child experiences things their own way. They will have their own struggles. Their own triumphs. And their own path.
Embrace their dance.
Most importantly, I am learning that letting go doesn’t mean that I don’t have to care as much. It doesn’t mean I can’t help guide them. It doesn’t mean I should stop worrying (because lord knows that will never happen). And it doesnt mean that I will stop feeling more deeply through my children.
What I think it means is that I can trust that I am preparing them for their experiences as best I can. And that’s good enough.
Better than good enough.
It’s ok to let them experience moments for themselves. To let them make mistakes. Its how they learn. How they cope. How they thrive. And how they get back up.
It’s how they figure it all out.
And how they make their mark in the world.