“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
She is gone. I packed her lunch, combed her hair, snapped a dozen pictures and kissed her goodbye. Then my beautiful redhead marched giddy and proud into her classroom. Her dad and I waved from the doorway to where she sat quietly in her new desk, flashing my favorite pretty smile and lifting her hand to wave back—and my little girl grew up before my eyes.
I dreaded this day all summer. In my mommy mind, kindergarten was a big green ugly monster coming to snatch my daughter away from her safe place. From me.
Here at home, we know her in detail—how she makes up praise songs, loves the color blue, gets skittish near bees, eats bologna but never on bread. Will kindergarten appreciate her like I do? Will the other kids be kind? What if she can’t open her milk carton or needs to use the bathroom during Spanish class? Will the monster care at all?
I moped around the house and blotted my eyes, watching the clock and wondering if it was snack time, reading time, science, music, recess. For five and a half years, my daughter was my day job. Now, she belongs to kindergarten.
She’s MINE, you big ugly beast! Spit her out! I want her back!
But then. Three o’ clock arrived and I stood in the swarm of parents eager to buckle their wandering hearts back into their minivans. I spied her face in a row of classmates. Her hair was disheveled, her expression tired. She scanned the room until our eyes locked, then she ran toward me, smiling.
I scooped her up and hugged her tight. “How was your day? Did you love it?”
“Mom—it was the best day ever in my whole life! I want to go back and back and back for a hundred days!”
On the ride home, she rattled off happy tales of new friends, piano songs, the pledge of allegiance and monkey bars. Her voice was medicine for my aching heart. I felt my spirits shift from sadness to relief to assurance—that she was right where she needed to be.
Maybe the monster isn’t so ugly after all. Think less Incredible Hulk and more Herry from Sesame Street. A friendly monster.
Of course I’ve known that all along. But I felt like picking a fight, as if blaming kindergarten would somehow justify my struggle to let go. When my daughter’s enthusiasm showed me how school treated her, how it was already building her character and confidence after just one day, I conceded—letting go is the only choice I have. And it’s a good one.
Okay, kindergarten. You can have her. But only on weekdays until mid-afternoon, then I’m picking her out of your claws. This is not a shared custody deal; you’re just borrowing her, understand? All I ask is that you come to see how special she is, and help her to see it, too.
Oh, and give her a hand with those milk cartons every once in a while, would you? Meanwhile—I’ll be praying for you both.
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