Helen Magazine is a local magazine geared towards the women in my community.  I am blessed to write the “Home and Family” column.  Enjoy!

Having been an elementary teacher in my “LBK” life (Life Before Kids) and a lover of school pretty much my entire life, the “Back to School” season is one of my favorite times of the year – in fact, I would like to petition to make it our fifth season. The smell of newly-sharpened pencils, the sales on supplies in our local stores, the intensity of the ink in a new set of markers, and new lunchboxes without a rancid odor and caked-on leftovers of lunches past are just a few of the things that I love beyond measure.  I still feel a rush of excitement when I think of the lesson plans teachers are making to greet their new students at the start of the year and I miss the time in which I went to school to prepare my classroom to greet those eager little faces.

However, this year I am looking forward to my favorite season with a sense of bittersweet melancholy as I prepare to send my oldest child to Kindergarten.  Feeling as if she was just a newborn yesterday, I marvel at the thought of her starting her elementary years and yet at the same time, absolutely cannot fathom the idea of her being gone eight hours a day.  I understand that the point of this whole parenting gig is to teach our children to have wings so they will grow a little more independent each day but honestly?  I’m not quite ready to let her go.

As we bought her supplies and picked out her new “Zhu-Zhu Pet” backpack (of which thrills her to no end), I couldn’t help but feel like this new chapter of her life is less about me and more about her.  It’s about her journey of learning, her meeting of new friends, and her experiences of successes and failures.  I know it isn’t healthy to keep her in a bubble and yet I admit that I would by lying if I said I didn’t have the desire to do so.

I want to shelter her from disappointment and shield her from “mean girls”.  I want to encourage her to be caring to other people, particularly the underdog, and to treat her teachers with respect.  I want her to love to learn and yet also know that sometimes it won’t come easy and she will have to persevere.  I want her to keep the joy she has about every little thing and ensure that her innocent spirit will never be crushed.  I want to hold her close but send her far.

This is the first time I have had to let go a little bit and perhaps I will mellow out with my other two children but I suspect not.  It’s true that fostering the sprouting of our children’s wings is our responsibility but it’s also our requirement that we allow them to exercise those wings and try them out for measure.

I’m looking forward to this new chapter in her life – really, I am.  However, I know that the first day of school will bring tears to my eyes as I watch my baby girl bounce into Kindergarten and open a new chapter in her book of life.  I may not physically be with her during the day but if I have done my job well up to this point, it won’t matter.  It’s time to let her try out those wings but this mama will be doing so with a tear in her eye, excitement in her heart, and a desire to stop the clock for just a little bit longer.

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