Tomorrow is my oldest child’s first day of kindergarten, and everyone keeps asking me if I’m freaked out. “I would be,” I say, “if I had the time.” Who knew getting a kid prepped for the first day would be such hard work?

When I started kindergarten, the fifth of six kids, my mom handed me off to a neighborhood mom who had a daughter in my class, and she walked us to school. My book bag was standard issue from the school—blue and yellow plastic with a drawstring—and it was pretty much empty, save the occasional newsletter, all year.

Oh, how times have changed.

For my son, I received a very lengthy, brand-specific school-supply list at the end of June. The list included three folders for homework. Homework. In kindergarten. I was told by several moms to buy everything by mid-August; most of the goods are gone by the end of the month, they sagely warned me. I was at Target this week and they were right—the Back to School section looked like the retail version of a post-apocalyptic landscape.

And don’t get me started on the forms. I’ve written our names, address, phone number on so many different papers, I’m starting to think it’s the schools who sell my information to telemarketers. Add to that my son’s peanut allergy, which requires extra forms, prescriptions and action plans from doctors. Why aren’t these things digital yet?

But any armchair therapist could tell you that I’m probably so fixated on all of the minutia to distract myself from the reality: My baby is growing up. Tomorrow I will put my son on the bus—which BTW, doesn’t have seatbelts—and put his care in the trust of adults I don’t really know. The more I think about it the more terrifying it seems. How will he sit still for an entire day? Will he know where to go when he gets off the bus? Will he get along with his classmates? Will they tease him about his leaky-faucet nose he never feels the need to wipe?

School is a world without mom. And I know that with each passing day, he’ll face hurdles, challenges and embarrassments all on his own. (Raise your hand with me if the memory of wetting your pants at school is seared into your brain.)  And with each passing grade, he’ll become his own person, wanting to spend more time with his friends than his parents. The first day of kindergarten isn’t just the beginning of a chapter, it’s also the end of one. That’s the one I’m not ready to think about.

Last night after dinner, I walked my son the few blocks to his new bus stop so he could see where it was. All excited, jabbering on and on a mile a minute, he grabbed on to my hand. “Can I hold your hand mom?” he asked, melting my heart. I gave it a good squeeze and repeated to myself, “Remember this moment, remember this moment, remember this moment.” Then he let go, running to catch up to his sister just ahead of us. And just like that he was gone, moving on to the next thing.

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