Mom of three, Carolyn Moore, was fully prepped for summer to end and school to start. She’d done the kindergarten routine before with her two eldest, who just started fifth and third grade respectively. But Moore, a writer at Assignment Mom, wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotions that came with sending her youngest off to school for the first time.
For anyone with kids (or friends with kids), these first few weeks back at school is when social media fills up with smiling kids holding signs with their upcoming school year while standing in new outfits outside their front doors.
But in a sweet Facebook post, Moore shared a different moment she had with her youngest amidst the morning rush on that first day.
She writes: “Over the next two weeks, you’ll see countless photos of smiling kids on their first days of school. I have three who started this morning, myself. Fifth, third, kindergarten.
We did take that smiling photo on the deck before we shoved off, but my oldest also snapped this photo in the middle of the morning rush.
And this…this is what it looks like to grow up.”
Moore says that in this moment, she and her daughter were able to share a sweet 60-seconds together where they could feel the very normal sadness about this big upcoming transition. It’s a big day so a flood of emotions on the first day of school is to be expected.
“It’s here, on the kitchen floor, where the child who was born just yesterday had to let go of the last bits of her babyhood,” says Moore.
“It’s here, leaning against the pantry, where the mother who was also born just yesterday had to relinquish another piece of her heart. No wonder we were both crying.”
This adorable, moving photo so perfectly captures the mixed emotions for both parent and child that come with taking a big leap out of babyhood and into childhood. Even with the rush to get out the door — because every parent knows, school mornings have zero downtime — Moore was able to carve out this time with her daughter.
“We spent a minute there together on the floor, just one minute when we allowed the nerves and trepidation and tears to wash over us,” Moore continues. “She sniffled as I murmured bits of bravery I wasn’t sure I possessed into her ear. I steadied my breath, and she gathered her courage.”
As Moore notes, on the other end of sadness and trepidation, is the excitement that comes with growing up and all that lies ahead. Change is scary for most people — big and small — but it’s important to embrace all the motions that come with big transitions. And it’s OK to embrace the flood of emotions that come on the first day of school.
“There are so many beautiful moments ahead for my kids, for me, for our family as we grow and change and test fledgling wings and unfurl wobbly legs,” Moore writes.
“But I know I’ll treasure this one—this brief moment when two hearts sat poised on the edge of what comes next—for the rest of my days.”
And the story doesn’t end there. After Moore’s post went viral, she got some comments that were … less than positive. Comments suggesting this was just more of today’s parents coddling their kids.
In a new post, Moore tackled this feedback head on: “Thousands of parents commented and shared the post, saying they recognized that bittersweet ache of kids growing up before our eyes.
But something’s been bothering me about another response that’s popped up few times: ‘Stop coddling your kids—the problem with youth today is parents like you who refuse to let them grow up’.
Respectfully, that’s flat-out wrong.”
Moore goes on to say that treating kids like kids shouldn’t be seen as “coddling”; it’s the reason childhood exists. And it’s incredibly normal that a five-year-old would experience a flood of emotions on her first day of real school.
“Sometimes I worry there’s a quiet epidemic creeping into our culture, and it’s not coddled children—it’s adults who seem to forget kids are kids, not miniature grown-ups.
Kids—especially the age 5 variety facing down the biggest transition of their lives to-date—don’t have the skill set we do as adults. They don’t have a working knowledge of how to identify anxiety and other big feelings, how to rationalize them, how to cope with the effects on their small bodies and minds.”
Basically, being a preschooler is an emotionally challenging time with big feelings but a lack of maturity to know how to deal with them appropriately. And, let’s face it, change and transition are hard even for adults!
“Maturity isn’t born of force; it’s coaxed out of childhood through compassion.
We want our kids to become adults who are strong, confident, and kind, yes. We hope for them to have compassion, sensitivity, and grit, absolutely.
And they will.
But they’re still learning.
And we get to love them—through the tears and the smiles.”
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