Saying goodbye, and hello

It's our boy's last day of preschool.

He hugged me goodbye at home this morning before I left work work, snuggled his face into my neck, and said, "Mommy, I don't want it to be my last day." Then the tears welled up. For both of us.

Being 5 is hard. Hell, being 37 is hard. I told him I understood why he was sad and that it was perfectly understandable he'd be sad and miss his friends and teachers. I told him it was OK to be sad. And that on the first day of kindergarten, it was totally OK to be nervous and excited and a little scared. If he accepts the fact that he will have this flood of feelings, I hope that he will find it easier to make the change.

I also pointed out that these preschool friends of his aren't moving away, and even if they aren't going to school with him, we can still keep in touch and get together for playtime or a movie or whatever.

But I let him be sad. I encouraged him to embrace that feeling, because I know it won't last. Once he hits the rhythm of a new routine and meets other kids who live in our neighborhood and sees that kindergarten activities really aren't much different from preschool, he'll feel the joy again.

I'll even allow myself a few moments to be sad and unsure, apprehensive and questioning, wistful and reflective. I'll recognize this lump in my throat for what it is: acknowledgement of passing time, a major milestone, a life lesson for all of us.

The joy will return. There'll be plenty of other opportunities to practice these recognize-your-emotion-and-deal sorts of skills: sex ed, acne, algebra, riding the bus, getting a learner's permit, applying to college...

Learning how to line up from recess or go through the lunch line seem like a breeze in comparison.

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