an open letter to The Kidling and to kidlings of a certain age*

The Kidling was happier than this to return to school. I swear.

The Kidling was happier than this about her return to school. I swear.

On this day that is traditionally the first day of school, The Mama stands in

Sappy, whiny, sentimental

solidarity with family members everywhere sending their

Kids who are totally ready to go to school and have probably been ready for months but whose parents/grandparents/responsible adults are worried sick. Seriously! Think of all the things that could go wrong! I could send lunch money when all the other parents packed lunch, I could pack lunch when all the other parents sent lunch money, I could forget to pack lunch or send lunch money, thereby making me a pariah and–

babies to the first day of kindergarten. May your worries be unfounded, may your tears be few, and may the force be with you… or something.


A few days ago on a morning run, my running pals and I were making conversation. Idle chit-chat, at first glance. The kind that helps us get through the miles but that, in the aggregate, shines light into the corners of our souls.

“How are you dealing with Kindergarten?” the fastest of us asked.

“What?” I replied. “Oh. Great! Honestly, I am just excited for her. She is damn smart. She is really ready to be a reader.”

And with that, I brushed aside all thoughts of anxiety regarding my youngest–my only–child’s matriculation into the garden of children… until two Saturdays ago. On that day, it all came. At first it whispered, politely tiptoeing toward me. Shortly thereafter, it spoke more firmly and picked up its pace. Then it whacked me right over the head.


Because on that fateful Saturday, I found myself at Generic Department Store. Yes, the same one that gave me corduroy shorts with opaque tights in adolescence. Perms and bad bobs in my childhood. But that day, it gave me something else: anxiety.

On that far-from-fine day, The Mama decided to buy The Kidling’s new school clothes. Pretty striped cotton dresses, practical tees and leggings, perhaps a fall jacket… things that scream “The Kindergartner from The Middle(west).” And I did find those things. It’s just that I also found other…


Things that I wasn’t ready to see in size 5.  The details aren’t worthy of recounting,

Tight things, short things, one-shouldered things, things with words I don’t want to read in places I don’t want to read them

but the outcome is: fear. Genuine, chest-tightening fear. Fear of the influence of the world. Fear that The Dada and I will no longer control the message. Fear that–god forbid–The Kidling will actually want those awful things.

Fear that the world won’t be kind.

Fear that The Kidling won’t be kind.

Fear that she will struggle–with friendships, with learning, with anything.

Fear that she will be cruel to friends who struggle.

Fear that she will be judged.

Fear that she will judge.

Fear that she will be hurt.

Fear that she will hurt.






I was so busy with my fear that I nearly forgot to notice today. But first times are sacred and deserve to be memorialized. So, to you, Dear Kidling, I write:


Dear The Kidling (and friends);

This morning

After you went outside in your perfect first-day-of-school outfit and played with sidewalk chalk in your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit and covered your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit with said sidewalk chalk and apologized for covering your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit with sidewalk chalk and went inside to take off your perfect-first-day-of-school outfit and changed into clothes.

you went to Kindergarten. Kindergarten! I know you are a genius, but this seems extreme. You were, after all, born just yesterday.

A few weeks ago, we sat on our front steps and ate ice cream. When I thanked you for being part of my life, you laughed at me. Then you shrugged your tiny little shoulders

Shoulders on which the weight of the world seems sometimes to rest.

and said “Well, you created me,” because you had no choice in the matter.

Which is kind of awesome, because I know you would choose Nana.

Whether by choice or by nature, I am ridiculously lucky to have you. Not that I am foolish enough to think that you are meant to be had. Rather, I am so, so fortunate to have you here. With me. With The Dada. Every day, as part of our crazy little ride on this planet. And, for what it’s worth, I have no idea what I did to deserve you, but whatever it was, I am damn glad I did it. And if that thing that I did occurred in a past life, then I am seriously thanking dead-previous-The-Mama.

Really. Thank you for not being a total jerk to someone with the power to ensure future-The-Mama got screwed over with a boring, bratty kid.

On such a monumental day, I don’t have nearly as much advice as I wish I did. What little I have to offer is so very important: No matter what, be you. Always be you. Even when you forget who “you” are. Even when you lose “you.” Even when the “you” you find is wholly different from the one you lost. Be you. Strong, kind, quirky, clever, smart, stubborn, loving, rambunctious, curious, agile, witty, loud, beautiful, spunky, mouthy,

but not too mouthy

you. Because I love the shit out of you. And I always will.

The Mama


* This post originally appeared (in an ever-so-slightly different form) in Kidlingville on September 3, 2013. And you know what? Not a damn thing has changed.

About The Mamahttp://kidlingville.comProfessional talker, editor, emailer, problem solver, adjunct lecturer, blogger, and mother to the brilliantly absurd Kidling.

46 thoughts on “an open letter to The Kidling and to kidlings of a certain age*

  1. and remember, i, and many others, are kindy teachers, and we will watch over them with love and care and do our best to make sure the world is kind to them. i’m happy she made it through her kindy year, and each year it will be a bit of a struggle to let her go, as she eases towards finding her way through the world. hugs – beth

    • Oh, Tessa. Thank you for your kind words. Best of luck with your Peanut in the coming week. My thoughts are with you, my fingers are crossed for you, and I’m hoping like hell that things go well for you.

  2. Pounding on the ‘like’ button in hopes that, with enough clicks, it will transform to ‘love.’ You’ll both be *fine* Mama. Cannot *wait* to read your post when she goes to college…. 😉

    • Oh, Lori. You are simultaneously too sweet and viciously cruel. When that day comes, I hope I am wise enough to be grateful for all that she is and proud of whatever small role my crazy-Mama love will play in getting her there. Unless she gets tire of me first and joins the circus.

  3. I read this last night and thought about it again when I dropped off my little boy at school and saw a pre-teen wearing the shortest shorts I’d ever seen. How can we help but feel fear for our children every day, especially when they’re not with us where we can try our best to keep them safe from… everything.

    Reading it again I have tears in my eyes. This is a beautiful post that will stay with me for a very long time.

  4. Hi there,

    That was quite a heart warming post. Loved the letter you’ve written here, written straight from the heart in a straightforward manner. Looking forward to more posts from your end.


    My Blog

  5. A beautiful post don’t worry about the clothes you keep on doing what you do and she won’t need them. She will need clothes bit not that type. I said goodbye to my 21 year old heading for her new grad job in a new city a few weeks ago and the feeling’s just the same as that first day at school x

  6. Ah, the first day of kindergarten. It sneaks up on you right? It seems like just a day to figure out where to park or how to drop-off or which bus stop when or whatever and then suddenly, you realize the world has just shifted. Baby bird has left. the. nest.
    You’ve captured it gorgeously here.

  7. Hi! I’m glad to have stumbled across your blog in cyberspace. This gorgeous post rang familiar bells for me, but these feelings are hitting me now as my eldest child takes his first steps alone as an independent adult… enjoy eating ice cream on the step, and cherish every minute of it.

  8. Though I’m not a kidling anymore (well, maybe I am at heart), I started the first day of 11th grade the other day and I can assure you the fears you have, us kiddos do too. But don’t even trip chocolate chip, having mum and dad to reassure us is more than enough to calm those fears. I hope your kidling is enjoying kindergarten and all the yummy packed lunches to come!

  9. So beautiful. Takes me back 20+ years to my own kids’ first days.

    You expressed the fears so profoundly. Is it comforting to know that all those fears will, inevitably, come to pass — just as they certainly did in your own childhood — and that she’ll survive them and grow up to be incredible?

    Keep enjoying these precious years, and thank you for the post.

    • Indeed, it is the thing that gets me to pause my worry and focus on all of the joys and good fortune to which I have been gifted. Thanks eversomuch for the reminder.

  10. Congrats on being freshly pressed. I love your essay. I too just wrote an essay about my anxiety sending my oldest to Kindergarten. Suddenly, all the trauma I experienced in elementary school cascaded down upon me. I felt I was releasing my quiet girl to the wild dogs – mean girls, bullies, etc. Amazing, how my anxiety ran away with me. I hope she had a good start to the year.

    • I think that letting our anxiety run wild falls into the “and other duties as assigned” portion of a parent’s job description. Sounds to me like you are doing a fantastic job. 🙂

  11. This is beautiful….. beautiful post en-wrapping all the emotions and fears of a caring sweetest Mom of the world. I have no words to tell you how much warmth this very post has produced in my heart. Some people know the art of doing that…you are one of them.

  12. Beautifully written, witty and emotional – perfectly captures how I feel about my son…and he doesn’t even start school until next September, by which time I imagine I’ll be a wreck! Thank you for putting how I feel into words.

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