In the morning, my oldest daughter was going to her first ever day of preschool.

I had wanted to wait until she was three years old, which she had turned in November.  It was now January, and I was getting all her school items ready as she slept peacefully upstairs.  I put her school-provided tote bag by the garage door.  I lined up the shoes she had picked out new for this day – little pink ballet flats with a butterfly embellishment on the toes.  At her breakfast spot, I put a little card that had two bracelets tied to it with pretty pink ribbon and a poem printed on it:

Here are two bracelets,
One for you and one for me,
For your first day at preschool,
To be the bravest you can be.

I’ll wear the big one,
And I’ll think of you.
The small one is yours,
So you’ll think of me, too.

Wear it to preschool,
While you learn and you play,
To have my heart with you,
While you are away.

In the morning, I’d read this poem to her.  I’d place the tiny pink beaded bracelet on her smooth, delicate wrist and slip the larger bracelet onto my own wrist.  We’d talk about, if she missed me, she could rub the bracelet and know that I was thinking of her and my love was with her, and I could do the same with my bracelet.  We’d refer to these as our “Brave Bracelets.”

This was our last evening as a non-school family.  Tomorrow, everything would change.

We’d be on the school’s schedule.  We’d be referring to nights as “school nights.”  We no longer would be a little family just hunkering down in our little house between our childlike explorations of the outside world.

In the morning, I’d dress her in the adorable pink plaid jumper she chose at the store, bundle her up in her ruffled dress coat, and drive her to school for the first time.  She’d hold the hand of someone else as she walked away from my car and through those doors, where she’d now be influenced by other adults and other children, for better or for worse.  Now she no longer would only be under the guidance of family and close friends.  Ideas would be put into her head by others; she’d watch and absorb the reactions of others to the people and world around them; she’d be left to process so much on her own, in her own innocent mind and in her own sweet, sweet heart.

She’d walk through those doors, and our lives would change forever.

Tomorrow, my youngest daughter is going to her last ever day of preschool.

She is now five years old, and she’s completed three precious years of social, scholastic, and self-focused learning.  I’m prepping thank you cards and a little flower gift for her teachers and planning out the food for tomorrow’s preschool picnic.  At her spot at the kitchen table is a stack of reader books she’s been treasuring – 25 books she completed in 25 days.  This child has learned so much and is very much ready for the next phase of schooling and of life.

This is our last evening as a preschool family.  Tomorrow, everything will change

We’ll fully be an elementary school family.  Every day, both my daughters will be in school all day.  No longer will we have our little lunches together, which always were a kind of oasis from the big, busy world around us and a time when we’d talk about simple things (the preschool snack, which princess is currently our favorite… and second favorite… and third favorite, how we’re going to design the house we’re going to share when she’s all grown up and we move to Hawaii together and sew beautiful princess clothes on our matching sewing machines).

In the morning, we’ll put her little butterfly backpack to use one last time (it’s been through three years of preschool and so is looking a little dingy, but the butterfly is still smiling just as happily as its first day on duty).  She’ll get herself dressed in whatever she chooses from her closet.  We’ll get in the car and drive to her last preschool picnic.  There, she’ll play one last time with the children I’ve heard all about daily for years (she goes to preschool with children who all go to kindergarten in different districts… in reality, we probably won’t see these children again once elementary school life sweeps us all up).  She’ll give bouncy, excited hugs to her truly amazing teachers who have guided her, taught her and, most importantly, loved her.

She’ll walk away from that sweet preschool picnic and our lives will change forever.

We no longer will be a preschool family

Everyone said the years would fly by. Everyone said the preschool years are to be savored.  And, like everyone, none of this meant much to me until it’s already happening.  Our preschool era is ending.

I don’t shed tears because I don’t want my children to grow up.  Of course, I want them to grow up.  I’ve watched my older child blossom through kindergarten and first grade, and I’m truly excited to have my youngest child experience this transformation.  There is something golden about the elementary school years, too – there is an excitement and energy that isn’t there during the calm, precious preschool years.  So, I don’t shed tears because my youngest is going into kindergarten.

The tears I shed are spurred on by the farewell I find myself facing.  Farewell to simple afternoons.  Farewell to dissecting every moment of the preschool morning over lukewarm mac and cheese.  Farewell to hugging my child midday.  Farewell to the beginning.

But I will wipe away the tears.

And the day after the Preschool Era has ended, I will turn a hopeful face to the future, hold my child’s trusting hand, and say, “Okay, baby girl.  Here we go – let’s DO this!”. Because she’s ready.  And, because of that, I’m ready(ish).