My oldest started kindergarten last month. And with it, I started kindergarten—0r so it felt.
I’d been anticipating the day for a long time. I knew it would be tough, but I could never anticipate exactly how tough. I had first day jitters. I had a tough time sleeping. As we waited outside for his bus, I forgot to be the Pinterest mom and make the first day sign. I snapped a few quick photos before I just couldn’t anymore.
As we stood side by side at the end of the driveway, Ian looked up at me and quietly said, “Mom, I’m kinda scared about getting on the bus.”
“I get it sweetie! Going to school is a big deal! Maybe too big of a deal. In fact, let’s just forget the whole thing. We can do this again another time. Or homeschool. Or go next year. You’re right, it’s to scary, let’s not do it today!” is what my insides screamed.
Here’s what I actually said, “Ian, I’m kinda scared too.”
He furrowed his brow and dramatically whipped his head towards me.
“Why?” he asked.
“This is my first day too. I’m saying goodbye to you for a long time today. And I feel a little scared about not seeing you all day.”
The subject quickly changed to who knows what else. My palms were sweating, my stomach was churning and in some ways, I couldn’t wait for the bus to arrive to be done with the agony of the moment.
When the bus came, it happened so quickly. I watched a piece of my heart leap up those too-tall steps. The bus driver and I introduced ourselves, shook hands, exchanged quick pleasantries and I watched Ian sit down a couple rows back. He waved and grinned as the bus drove away.
I turned around and was surprised by the wave that hit me. Sobs overtook me and I just let them come. For the rest of the day, I was a mess.
I’ve talked and thought about this moment a lot over the past weeks. And as I’ve discussed the emotions of it all, there have been lots of interesting responses. Some said, “Yes it’s tough, hang in there, you’ll get through it.” People are trying to be helpful. Essentially they are saying, “It’s ok. I’ve been there and I got through it. You will too.”
But right now, getting over it isn’t the point. I don’t need to know it’ll be ok. Thankfully on that first day, I did hear what I needed to hear from a dear friend. She said, “Feel. Fully feel. You’re a great mom doing a great job.”
What if that’s what we did in these moments? When our friends hearts are breaking over their kid going to school or an earlier screaming match with their teen, or feeling guilty because they weren’t sad when their kid jumped on that school bus—what if instead of saying, “It’s gonna be ok,” we said, “Be messy. Be fully you. You’re a great mama.”
We don’t seem to be able to sit with each other in the discomfort because, well, it’s uncomfortable. But sometimes what we’re looking for isn’t a fix, but permission to be. I want to get better at sitting in that place. I want to get better at not trying to fix it.
And today, mama, I want to tell you: You have permission to be fully you today. You are a great mom.
I’m a little less of a mess when my kid hops on that bus. I know it’s going to be ok. But it’s not right now. And that’s ok.