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No One Told Me This Year Would Change Everything

He started kindergarten as a toddler, now he’s full-blown kid.

kindergarten graduation
Sue Barr/Image Source/Getty Images

When my son’s kindergarten cap and gown photo arrived, I took one look and laughed out loud. It is hilariously adorable. He is the spitting image of my husband at his age: long neck, the cutest ears that stick out just enough, and not very many teeth to speak of left rooted in his little baby gums. He is in a deliciously awkward, adorable phase that I absolutely adore.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not feeling a little sad that the end of kindergarten is drawing near for this little boy who has worked so hard and grown so much this year. I’m a first-time kinder grad mom, and I was not prepared for how emotional it was all going to be.

The differences between a first-day kindergarten student and a kindergarten graduate are huge. Seeing my child grow and thrive makes me swell with pride, but it also makes me a little wistful for the baby he left behind when he started “big kid school.”

For the first week of kindergarten, I got to walk him to class. I helped him hang his backpack and find his seat, and I got to see with my own to eyes that he was in his room and doing okay. His first Friday was “Independence Day.” He got to wear a special shirt that read, “I’m a kindergartener!” and all of the teachers wore red, white and blue and lined the hallways to direct our little babies to their classrooms.

Driving away that morning was agony. I didn’t have the assurance of watching him happily settle into class. I had to just trust that he wasn’t going to be afraid or get lost or miss me, and that felt almost impossible to me. Tears flowed down my face as I drove the 10 minutes back home, just wishing for 2:30 so I could have him back in my arms.

Like children often do, my kindergartener rose to the occasion. He was ready for Independence Day, even though to me, it felt like I’d just passed his due date five minutes earlier.

Still, he was green. He didn’t know how to write, find the bathroom or use a drinking fountain. He had to wear a little tag on a lanyard around his neck so we would remember the code to enter in the lunch line to pay for his meal. Once in a while, he cried at school because he missed his mommy, and his beautiful soul of a teacher had to give him a quick, reassuring hug.

As we approach graduation, all of his uncertainty is gone. He knows how to get around the school building, and confidently leads me by the hand when I volunteer in his classroom. His teacher even allows him to visit the bathroom on his own now because he knows and follows the procedures without a reminder. Thankfully — unlike at home — he doesn’t spend his time in there flushing household objects down the toilet! Mischievous monkey!

Like most of his peers, he learned AMAZING amounts of information this year. On day one, he could only write his name and read single words. Now he can read books, write anything you ask him to write, and do simple math. This morning he told my husband, “Mom bought 20 bags of crackers, but we ate three. 20 minus 3 is 17! We have 17 left!” Kindergarten did that.

I handed his teacher a timid baby, and months later, she is handing me back a confident, capable student, ready to take on the rest of his education. As we come up on all the “lasts” of his kindergarten year, I am equal parts misty-eyed for the baby that’s disappeared this year, awed at the maturity he’s gained, and excited about his bright future.

Katie Cloyd lives just outside of Nashville, TN with her husband, three kids and two big pups. She writes about living a full life in a fat body, parenting and marriage. Her work has been featured on Scary Mommy, Parents.com, TinyBeans, SheKnows, Love What Matters and more. Connect with Katie on Facebook or Instagram.