What it Feels Like to Send Kid #2 to Kindergarten



My 5-year-old son put his hand through the playroom window the other day.

He ran through the kitchen, a bright blur of blonde hair and dimples, before I heard the sickening sound of shattered glass. Miraculously, he wasn’t hurt. I looked him over from head to toe, swept up the shards, and taped cardboard over the hole in the window before stress-eating an entire row of Oreos.

Had my first child done this at that age, I would have been a basket case; but this is my second kid, and I’ve been hardened by years of chaos. Everything is different the second time around — it’s less stressful, because I know what I’m doing (I think?!), but also bittersweet, because I know how fast time zips by. I’m not even sure what I’ve been doing the past few years, or when my kids all learned how to use the toilet, but I’m going to go ahead and take full credit for all of it.

My younger son is an introvert. I often find him playing alone in his wardrobe or under his bed, hiding treasures like tiny pieces of cardboard or marbles in hard-to-find places. He chatters quietly to himself. He’s shy, clumsy and yet athletic. He’s dry and quirky; so different and yet so similar to the rest of the family. He is a walking contradiction with dimples.

Each of my children are equally special to me, but this one holds a piece of my heart that makes it extra-hard for me to step back and let him grow up.

He started Kindergarten this year, and I steeled myself for all the emotions that accompany putting a tiny kid on a big bus and watching it drive away. I found myself endlessly grateful for his big brother, who is in Year 3 and made sure he didn’t wander into oncoming traffic, get lost in the school playground or any of my other irrational concerns.

My internal dialogue was different this time. He seemed tinier than I remember his brother being at that age, more innocent and in need of my protection. Those feelings, of course, are all skewed by the fact that he’s simply my second child.

Every morning, as I stood in the kitchen with a cup of coffee watching them wait for the school bus to arrive, I experienced the following thoughts:

How can such a little guy carry such a big backpack?

HE IS SO TINY.

What if he misses me while he’s at school and gets really sad?

What if the older kids are mean to him?

Will he eat his lunch?

While the actual act of sending him to school may have been tough, dealing with everything else was easier. Since I’ve been through this once already, I was armed with the knowledge that I am a TERRIBLE class mum — no, really, I’m the worst — and at best, I am a subpar classroom volunteer. I didn’t feel compelled to sign up for things that I know I’m not good at. I don’t pretend to be a different kind of mum than the one that I am.

At orientation, I told his teacher that I don’t really like children aside from my own, and sometimes I don’t even like them… but I would be happy to help her in any way I can. Ways that don’t necessarily involve, you know, children. Her eyes grew wide before she started laughing, because she recognised that I’m a damn good mum. One who knows her limits and owns who she is.

So how did it really feel to send my second child off to kindergarten? I pondered that question as I peeked in on my little blonde boy, sitting happily at his desk.

It feels like freedom.

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Image: Getty