My baby is going to kindergarten. Cue the (totally unexpected) angst.

Just a little under six years ago, I was snuggling this:

baby Grace

On Friday that bundle of snuggles is going to kindergarten. And I’m a mess.

I’ve been talking tough for practically a year about how great it’s going to be when both my kids are in school. I thought of all the things I’d accomplish without them around. The peace and quiet I’d enjoy. The gobs of work I’d do and the projects I’d get done.

Yeah. I really thought I was going to be more than okay with this whole “my baby is going to school” thing. In fact, I was sure I would be all Braveheart-like after Grace got on the bus with her big sister. You know, whooping and hollering, “FREEEEDOM!!!!” as I sprinted from the bus stop and into my quiet house.

Instead, what am I doing? I’m scrolling though my iPhoto archives, sniffling and sometimes all-out bawling while staring at my baby’s face, wondering how six years flew by, and positively dreading my empty house.

How did this happen to me, the mom who has been craving the day when my kids were finally big enough to climb on the big yellow bus and ride off to school, leaving me to my FREEEEDOM?

Surprise! Freedom ain’t looking so great now.

Naturally, I’ve been overanalyzing why I’ve been so sad about Grace going to kindergarten. And I’ve come up with a plethora of reasons, including:

1) Grace was home with me more than Annie.

2) The baby going to school is always harder.

3) I’m feeling a little ambivalent about my career and not looking forward to days filled with work.

4) I just finished the Divergent trilogy and I’m SO MAD about how it all ended. (I mean, COME ON. Really? REALLY?)

They’re all natural reasons to be a bit mopey right now. (Though I really need to get over Divergent.)

But really, I think my angst goes a little deeper. And embarrassingly, it’s less about Grace and more about me.

Grace going to kindergarten signals a graduation of sorts – not for her, but for ME. Because – despite my frequent doubts that I would – I actually made it. I made it through those really, really, REALLY tough years of no sleep, postpartum depression, tantrums, and potty training. Eight years of it, between two kids. And it’s done. I have officially graduated from the early years of parenting.

There is no ceremony or recognition of my achievements. I didn’t get a final grade. And there sure isn’t an awesome graduation present waiting for me in the driveway. But just like when I graduated from college, there is a lot of great stuff I’m leaving behind – and an awful lot of unknown stretching out ahead of me.

I’m sad to say goodbye to playgroups and playdates. Outings to the farm to pick apples. Going to story time at the library. Snuggling on the couch and reading book after book together. Doing nothing at all on a Monday afternoon, just because we could.

I’m scared about being alone every day. I know I’ll end up being busy between work and household tasks and errands and volunteering at my kids’ schools. For some reason, though, the prospect of Monday through Friday, 8:30am – 3:30pm, often all by myself, is making me morose.

What I need to do now is exactly what I did in the weeks after college graduation: Remind myself there is no turning back, no matter how much I want to, and embrace the future.

So here goes.sending the last kid to school is graduation for mom

I will have a blast volunteering at Grace’s school and finally get to volunteer at Annie’s school, since I won’t have Grace to worry about. The girls are SO excited about me helping in their classrooms and it’s going to be awesome.

I will get to take my career in new directions, try different kinds of writing, and finally have time to continue my education through reading and maybe an online course or two.

I will be able to get the laundry and grocery shopping (mostly) done during the week so we can have more relaxing weekends as a family.

I will have time to exercise again. (Remind me of this one, okay?)

I will be able to carve out time here and there for myself. To read. To garden. To just chill.

I will get to do all these things. And more, I’m sure. And it will be great. The kids will be happy, I will be happy, and all will be well.

But tonight, I will allow myself to stare at that picture of Grace, snuggled on me in the hospital, her trademark crease between the eyebrows already developed. She looked perpetually concerned, that one, and she still gets that look when she’s puzzled or upset today.

Tomorrow, I’ll take Grace to her orientation, and I know that crease between her eyebrows won’t be there. Unlike her mama, this kid is more than ready to leave her baby years behind. She is raring to go to kindergarten and has not a single hesitation about all that lies before her. She will have a huge grin on her face that will light her way wherever she goes.

I will miss her like crazy. This I know. But I have every confidence that she’s going to shine. And I’ll give myself a little pat on the back because yes, I helped that little munchkin get where she is today. She’s ready. And she’s psyched.

Sigh.

Well, here’s to commencement, mamas. To all you sending off your babies to school – WE DID IT!

(And I promise I won’t judge if you ugly-cry when your baby gets on the bus. I know I will.)

Is your baby going to school this year? Are you sad or totally psyched?

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