Last week, we sent Brendan off on his week of Kindergarten Jump Start – a half-day program that helps our littlest learners adjust to the grandness of “big kid school.” We snapped pics in front of his school. He skipped around in one second and clung to me the next, flipping his emotions about this big change like a light switch. I did the same, but didn’t let it show as he hugged and high-fived us while nervously walking into the building. 

The last time I went ‘back to school’ before college, the year was 1999 and Y2K was all the talk. My biggest concerns were keeping up with Dawson’s Creek and applying for in-state college – equally terrified and overjoyed at the mere possibility of living somewhere at least two hours away from home. Now, all these years later, my son is gearing up to go to school for the very first time. Time is a thief and I feel robbed. 

Last week, I saw a TikTok from a dad realizing his daughter was experiencing her final days without school for the next eighteen-plus years of her life. His reflective tone made me reflective, and even a little apprehensive. 

As we prepare to put Brendan in school, I’m back at that space of terrified, mixed with apprehension and a dash of fear. Not of this life stage as much, but the circumstances surrounding it. Although it is true what they say – ‘the days are long, but the years are short.’ Sometimes, raising a little one feels like pressing on the gas and not realizing you’re going too fast down the interstate until it’s too late. 

I’m excited for him. I can’t wait to see how he’ll find his way, make new friends, and probably not learn cursive. (Let’s face it, my handwriting is illegible so I can’t judge.) The apprehension comes in waves – what about the teacher shortages? The viruses? My fears of gun violence? Even the widespread use of social media makes me scared for kids of today. 

To cope, I’m trying to tell myself that every parent throughout history has had fears and anxieties for their children, but all found a way and made it to today. Sure, they didn’t worry about apps tracking our eye movement, or the planet imploding, or genetically-modified foods. But they had their own unique fears and worries, as much a part of the human condition as breathing. . 

I called my mother on the way home and asked her what she remembered of my first day on Kindergarten. She remembered being scared, just as I did, and that I bounced onto the bus around 6am without looking back. “I found out I was the one who didn’t need to be scared – you had it under control,” she said. It’s funny how those same scenes replay themselves decades and generations later. 

I held my breath and snuggled into Brendan’s bed to work for the three hours between drop-off and pickup. The stuffed animals of my youth that are now handed down to him were my comforters once again, snuggled around me.  At pickup, his face lit up as he recounted his teacher’s name and the game of tag they played during their break. “Mama, I was scared at first, but that really wasn’t scary!” It made me recall a litany of those moments where I overcame those fears at his age, all on my own. Letting the dude leave the nest means that I need to lean into the present. I’m here to learn alongside Brendan – not be the anxious bug in his ear. I want him to find strength in his own two feet planted on the ground, and not in living in an ultra-safe bubble I could create for him if all my fears and worries had their way. 

As you send your kids back to school, what are your tips for handling the insecurity of it all, and more importantly, not passing that fear onto your little ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below ⬇️

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