School Is Starting and I’m The One Crying

little-girl-walkling-to-schoolImage via Shutterstock

I’m the mom in the school supply aisle getting teary because another year is about to start and I might not be ready. I’m the one who buys shoes for feet that are suddenly two sizes bigger and I have to hide my watery eyes from the young saleslady lest she think I’m really strange. I’m the one who can’t hold the camera still as my little one walks down the aisle as a flower girl because she’s so much braver and bigger than I had realized. I call them motherhood tears – the tears born of an emotion unique, I think, to motherhood. They are tears of pride and gratitude, fear and awe, excitement and the deepest love.

They aren’t the tears of frustration or exhaustion – though I’ve cried plenty of those, too. These are the tears that come out of nowhere, that I sometimes feel silly for crying. Tears of the heart.

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I used to think this was just me – that other moms didn’t tear up at some of the simplest things. But it turns out that I was wrong. I’ve nodded at other moms crying at dance recitals and daycare drop-off, let them know I’m right there with them. Thankfully, my friends have owned up to shedding these tears as well.

Consequently, I’ve stopped trying to hide or hold in the tears. My six year old daughter has been noticing these moments. She caught me crying on my son’s last day in his toddler class at daycare and since then she wants to know why I “cry like a mom.”

So, why am I crying over school starting?

I’m crying because they are one year older. It doesn’t matter how prepared I am or how many years I’ve been dropping them off, I’m the mom tearing up by the door and ugly crying in the car all the way to work.

I’m crying because she asked me in the middle of a Saturday morning if Santa is real and I have to tell her the truth. There’s no warning before these big moments. There’s no lead-up or road-map to help navigate to the perfect answer at the perfect time. There’s just the jumping in with both feet hoping I’m doing it right, holding my breath until it’s over and then realizing as I stress-eat in the kitchen that I’m crying tears over Santa because she’s old enough to not believe.

I’m crying because he’s getting his first haircut. Those baby curls are my favorite. They smell like no-tears shampoo and curl out even more after nap-time and in the morning they make the most perfect bed-head. I know she will cut those curls, trim them just a bit because I’m clearly very protective of them, and those tiny snips will reveal that really he is just a little boy hiding under baby curls.

I’m crying because we are at Sesame Street Live and they love Elmo as much as he says he loves them. Is it a truth of parenting that the opportunities we have to help our children feel pure joy overwhelm us with emotion perhaps even more than them? I certainly hadn’t expected to tear up watching giant puppets parade on stage, but I did. Because they were so happy how could I not cry?

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I’m crying because she’ll soon be on the stage at her recital/play/performance. The costume, rehearsals, nerves. We’ll talk about it for weeks and then it will finally be here. And she’ll be up on that stage, singing or dancing, delivering lines or doing cartwheels, I won’t be able to help but cry tears of pride and relief and oh-my-god that can’t be her because she is just so brave and grown up.

I’m crying because the older kids will be on the stage at her recital/play/performance. They’ll be older, more trained and more mature. They’ll have more lines or harder dances or sing solos. And I won’t know them. At all. But every time I watch them perform, I’ll tear up and feel ridiculously silly. But those big kids? Those will be my kids one day. One day so much sooner than I think. And they will have more lines or harder dances or solos to sing and how will I handle that they are no longer small?

That’s why I’m crying.

Related post: A Letter To My Children On Their First Day of School


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  1. Tanya says

    Me too! Those tears come at the craziest, most unexpected times for me. Sigh. Then I’ve always been one who cries at tv commercials, so I don’t know why I didn’t expect I’d be a sobbing mess over those little motherhood moments.

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  2. It's me says

    I don’t cry. I’m excessively proud at the growth of my children. The simple fact that in 5 or 6 short years they have went from being 100% helpless to having the full ability to walk themselves onto the bus and into the world semi-alone is awe inspiring to me. Every time there is a new advancement, like when it stopped being obligatory for me to stay for parties or staying for sports practice, I’m all that more confident that what I’m doing is reflecting well enough on my kids that they are ready to face the world.

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  3. Caryn Francese says

    Sarah: Thank you for this post, thank you for your blog. I cannot thank you enough. I feel the same way, and I thought it was because I was a divorced mom who has her boys half of the time (Saturday night through Wednesday night) and that they were growing up double fast in half the time. I cannot believe my oldest who is 12 and going into the seventh grade (OMGosh Middle school) in 6 days and my baby who is 10 and up until February vacation was begging to sleep with me once a week, not because he needed to but because he wanted to and I was started to get worried I was going to have to start saying no! I have been weepy all summer. Tears of the heart! I love them so much I cannot get out of my own way sometimes. I am going to need a straight jacket when they go off to college.

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  4. JJ says

    “And they will have more lines or harder dances or solos to sing and how will I handle that they are no longer small?” – I don’t quite understand this question. How will you handle your kids getting older? Uh, you’ll still love them just the same as you do now. You’ll still be weepy and proud when they perform a harder dance or solo. Or is the author suggesting that it is harder to love your kids as they grow up? Everyone gets older – hopefully! I mean, the alternative is you die young. Aging is a blessing, not a curse. I personally love watching how my children grow and develop. They just keep getting better and better. I have two teenagers and I think I love them more now than I did when they were young. I’ve known them longer!

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  5. says

    My oldest is in 8th grade now—no more tears ( she’s been “bored” for weeks now—get back to school! WOOHOO!!) My 2nd child is starting kindergarten tomorrow though and I might tear up a little but, he’s SOOOOO ready to go, he’s been asking all summer when he starts school. I can’t help but be excited for him :) I did cry when my oldest started kindergarten, first baby of course and her dad had passed away not even a week before she started school, so lots of tears then…Tomorrow I will still have my baby ( 3 year old) home with me—I think she’ll probably take it harder than I will lol.

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