An honest take on life and parenthood

On the First Day, She Cried

on September 30, 2014

From the moment she was born, the Pooh was a cling monster, a chubby cheeked human barnacle who wanted to attach herself to my maternal hull and never let go. She wanted to be with me constantly, and wanted nothing to do with anyone else.

She was happiest in my arms or snuggled up against me in the baby Bjorn. If I put her down or went to the other room, she cried and complained. She yelled at anyone who tried to pick her up, scaring them off in an effort to get back to me.

The Pooh in her droopy Baby Bjorn, aka her happy place

The Pooh in her droopy Baby Bjorn, aka her happy place

I struggled with her neediness. I need my space and time alone, and although I loved my tiny daughter to distraction, I still needed time away to center myself and regroup.

I had a decision to make.

Either I could show some tough love and get her accustomed to other people and time away from me, or I could stop fighting her neediness and respond to it.

I chose to respond to it.

If I could make her feel as much security as possible in these early formative years, I reasoned, then she would have a solid emotional foundation and go on to become strong and independent later. I found ways to get time alone to preserve my sanity, but for the most part, we became a package deal.


When she turned four earlier this year, I noticed that her neediness began to subside. Although she still had her moments, I could leave her with a relative and she would say goodbye without a backward glance.

Her daddy and I decided she was ready for school.

When the Pooh heard that she would finally go to school, she was delighted. She ran around in circles and jumped up and down and told everyone she knew. It was a pre-K program from 8 am to 12 pm. It would be her first time away from home and away from me or a close relative.

We filled the last few weeks of August with day trips to the beach, shopping for school clothes, and transitioning our sleep schedule. We counted down the days on the calendar to Wednesday, September 3.

Finally, the great day arrived.

That morning, her eyes flew open at 6:25 am. I helped her put on her new outfit, a red blouse with a plaid jumper dress, crisp white ankle socks and black mary janes. She brushed her teeth and washed her face. I pulled her hair back into a ponytail and attached a large red bow.

Modeling her first day of school outfit

Modeling her first day of school outfit

We grabbed her backpack and lunch bag, took a few pictures on the back step, and drove off to school.

The school was humming with all of the excitement and anticipation of the new academic year. Kids and parents and staff crisscrossed in front of us, greeting each other after the long summer, hustling along to new classrooms and new teachers.

The Pooh and I walked into her building and found our way to her Pre-K room. She hung her jacket and backpack on a hook outside. I escorted her into her sunny classroom, full of children and parents. She sat down at a round table immediately and started painting with watercolors. I looked around and saw some other parents lingering.

I bent down. “Sweetie, do you want me to stay a bit longer or do you want me to go?”

“It’s ok. You can go, Mommy.”

I was dismissed. I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and left.

I walked quickly down the hallway and opened the double doors, back into the brilliant September morning, thinking about the next item on my agenda for the day.

As soon as the fresh air kissed my face, my eyes stung and my vision blurred.

I was crying!

Embarrassed and completely surprised, I made a beeline for a bench and plopped down, hoping no one noticed my tears. I fought the emotions for a moment, and then relaxed into the sweet pain that washed over me. I took deep breaths, and laughed a little at myself.

I was prepared for the Pooh to cry on the first day of school. But me?

I was so busy that I had looked forward to my time alone during school hours. With my constant to-do list ticking away in my head, I did not expect to have any moment of sadness when I left her that morning. I had work to do, emails to write, and calls to make in a finally quiet house.

But as I sat there with tears leaking out of my eyes, and my heart feeling so tender, I remembered a story my husband had recently shared. He was chatting with the Pooh one day in August, and she confided, “I’m ready to start school, but I don’t think Mommy’s ready for me to go.”

I knew this child like the back of my hand, but now I knew that she had my number too.

I eventually calmed down on that bench and dried my tears. I walked back to the car, thinking about the milestone we had just reached together.

The Pooh was flapping her tiny wings. They were small, but they were strong. She still needed me, but not in the same primal way as before.

And although my heart gave a pang, I knew it was all as it should be. Because that is what being a parent is all about.

That we let our kids go on to become their own people.

And that it is ok to mourn the ending of one sweet chapter as we turn the page to a new one.

Have a great school year, everyone.


7 responses to “On the First Day, She Cried

  1. I cried when my first started Kindergarten (but not Preschool) and the other two I was like “Get out!” I was much more relaxed with the others.


  2. Ha! I never heard about this phenomena of crying when your kids started their first day of school until this year (I never paid attention before) but I am now realizing that it is common. I honestly thought I’d be throwing a dance party! Joke was on me.


  3. Amita Mehrotra says:

    Very touching! I’ve been on the receiving end of Pooh’s time away from you and I can attest to the fact that she was miserable without you! Glad to read she’s spreading her wings and ready to take on the world alone. No excuses now Mommy…we’re waiting for that first book you promised to write 🙂
    Good Luck to you both!
    xoxo Amita


    • Amita – you were actually one of the people I thought of while writing the first part of the post. My god, did she put you through the paces! And yes, as I am going through this transition and getting my land legs, I am back in the writing saddle. Just have to talk myself out of being a scaredy-cat on a regular basis.


  4. Shell says:

    I am a mess with all of my kids milestones and I cry at first days of preschool, kindergarten and I am sure I will again at middle school. Such a sweet post, and what a cutie-pie! 🙂


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