I’m the mom who cried after dropping my kid off for their first day of kindergarten

mom dropping daughter off at school- first day of kindergarten
Caleb Oquendo/ Pexels

I’m the mom who cried after dropping my kid off for their first day of kindergarten. It was a milestone moment for us both. An unprecedented situation; eight hours a day, five days a week away from each other. We had five years to prepare for this, right? For some reason, it felt more like I was sending my son off to college than his first year of elementary school.

There were the school walkthroughs and applications for out-of-district students if you decided to go to a school other than the one you were zoned for. There were waiting for acceptance letters, welcome packets and parent/teacher/student orientations. Then there were the kindergarten school supply lists.

I watched him excitedly picking out Pokémon backpacks, lunch bags and water bottles (it used to be dinosaurs). He was ready for big adventures without me, but I was not. How would he do without me all day? How would I do without him?

Related: Your first day of school is a first for me, too

One of my best mom friends says her job every day is to “put herself out of a job.” I’ve always had to let that sink in for a moment. My children need me in so many different ways in this season. But my job as their mom is to make sure they need me a little less each day and in different ways than the day before.

I’ll always be here to help them no matter how old they are. But their needs change with each season. The snacks, the tying of little shoelaces and the brushing of teeth all change before you are ready for it to. Before I was ready for it to happen, the first day of kindergarten came.

I now know I’ll get to show up for my son in new ways, as questions come up about something a teacher or fellow classmate said at school that day. As he has field days, field trips, class parties and 100 days of school projects.

He still needs me, just in different ways. His world has grown and will continue to grow, but I will always be his place to land.

One of my favorite moments each day now is dinner time. My husband and I ask our eldest son about his day and he tells us about circle time, morning work, the exact names of the games he played in P.E. and (my personal favorite) a very detailed description of what he had for lunch.

Related: The night before the first day of school feels so bittersweet

His class awards this year were “best reader, best dancer and best helper.” He also made the honor roll. While I’m proud of his hard work, I’m the proudest of the kind, caring and curious person that he is.

While we’ve had hard days, like days that other kids were mean or days that he was disappointed about losing a game or struggled with math or a test, I now know that no matter how big his world grows, it started with me. His world started with me and his dad and then his brother. His world used to be the walls of our home. And now it has grown to include a teacher, classmates, a classroom, cafeteria, playground, library and gym.

This is a bittersweet part of parenting. In the early days, weeks and months of parenting, you are their whole world. And the bigger they get, their world grows beyond just you—as it should.

Yes, I’m the mom who cried at kindergarten drop-off. As I watched my heart walking outside of my body down the school halls with his backpack to class, I counted down the hours till pickup. That first day, eight hours felt like an eternity. My whole body exhaled when he came home smiling.

He was ready for this. I helped him to be ready for this. And together, we’ll both face all the milestones and unprecedented situations and the “first day of _____”  that comes next.

A version of this post was published July 7, 2022. It has been updated.