All right, kiddo. Have a great day. I know it’ll be awesome. I know you’ll be awesome. I’ll see you when you get home. I ...
(... can’t believe you’re in kindergarten. How did this happen? I know that must be the exact same thought of every single parent who has ever sent a child to kindergarten, but still. How the hell did this happen? I remember the night you were born, there was a massive thunderstorm. I don’t know why I remember that or, more accurately, why I ascribe meaning to the timing of the weather and your birth. But I remember hoping that thunderstorm was a harbinger to the world. Be prepared, y’all. Everything is different now.
I don’t want you to go. I want you to stay home and be my child forever. I want us to play and read and draw and paint and play music and pick flowers in the backyard until the world ends. You just as you are now and me just as I am now. I’d be good with that. The feeling I get when you rest your head on my shoulder when we sit on the couch and read books is one I could live on for the rest of my days.
But I want you to go. Not just because I know there is so much out there for you to learn—a nigh-on infinitely long list of cool stuff to figure out, ponder, grapple with, ruminate upon, put your hands on, try on, try out, get good at, master. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Ars gratia artis. And not just because your mind could suck it all up and you’d still be curious. But because of you, because of who you are, because of how much better the great big world will be—already is, in fact—with you in it.
Now, I could see that might, in some way, sound like I’m bragging—about myself. "I’m such a great parent! Look at my awesome kid! I did that!" Though that’s true, that you are awesome, I’m not bragging about me. You, at the age of a kindergartener, have already way, way overshot what my paltry abilities as a parent could have turned you into. I’m hanging on for the ride from here on out, kiddo. I’m going to guide you still, yes. I’m going to keep you inbounds, sure. But you are you. Already. You are ready for this big step.
I don’t remember my first day of kindergarten, but I do remember my first day of first grade. A similar feeling, perhaps. I got on the school bus after saying goodbye to my own parents—your grandparents—and by the time the bus pulled into the turnaround at school, my stomach hurt so badly I could barely straighten up. They told me to loosen my belt, which I did, but that didn’t change anything—and eventually I went home for the day. Truth be told, I was scared to death.
It’s OK to be scared, kiddo. I won’t tell you, "Don’t be scared; don’t be nervous," because feeling scared and/or nervous on your first day of school is perfectly normal and there’s nothing wrong with feeling those feelings. [At least, I hope not I’m scared and nervous too!] The good news is, those feelings of fear or nervousness that you might feel now will soon melt away. They’ll be replaced with endless excitement as you learn and make friends and try all kinds of new things.
Now look. You should know that some days it’s going to be a drag. That’s just the truth. There will be days you want to stay in bed. There will be things that are hard to learn or, worse, plain old boring. You’ll look outside and realize you’d rather be doing anything else out there instead of practicing your capital letters inside. You’ll look at your easel at home and realize you’d rather be painting than doing homework. But here’s the deal, kiddo: Hang on. Some day, you might love that stuff you hate now, but even if not, you’ll learn patience and tenacity—and those transfer to anything else you find in your life that you’ll deem worth doing.
I better get going. I don’t want to be that parent that your new teacher is going to talk about in the break room: "Holy crap, the Luikart kid’s dad WOULD NOT FREAKING LEAVE." I don’t want to be a helicopter parent now or ever. I mean, naturally I do. Naturally I want to hold you tight and feel your face against mine and beat back the world on your behalf and never let you go. But I fight my instincts now because you’re going to love school. It’s where you should be now. It’s going to be great. You’ll be great. I’ll be fine.)
... love you.
Paul Luikart is a writer whose work has appeared in a number of places over the years. His most recent book, "Animal Heart," is available now from Hyperborea Publishing. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.