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She’s about to leave for kindergarten. Neither of us are sure how to cope

(Danielle Herzog)

Every morning my 5-year-old daughter climbs into my bed, nuzzles into the dip in my shoulder and asks me to scratch her back. It’s the 15 minutes we usually have alone together before her younger brother wakes up and brings the sound level up 4,000 decibels. However, this morning, when she laid her head against my arm, I could feel her tears hitting my skin.

“I’m afraid to go to Kindergarten,” she whispered softly.
“Why?” I asked, trying not to worry her with my response.
“I don’t know, I just feel afraid.”

The truth is, she isn’t the only one. I’m afraid too. I’m afraid of feeling like I have no time with her. I’m afraid of her struggling to meet friends. I’m afraid of someone making fun of the fact that she believes all the princesses in Disney World are real. But most of all, I’m afraid of change.

“It’s okay to be a little scared, sweetie,” I tell her, as I wipe the tears from her face and hold in my own.
“What if I don’t know how to do something the teacher asks me to do? What if she asks me to read a word and I can’t.”
I smile because we are so similar. We both want to succeed more for making others happy than even for our own joy. “She will teach you how.” I answer. “She won’t ask you to read without teaching you how to do it.”

She soon drifts off on to another topic but my mind still whirls from that conversation. I know that I will need to put on a happy face on the first day but I already feel the discomfort growing in my stomach.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s time. She spent every morning in preschool last year. I’m completely and utterly exhausted from the summer. I know that I can’t provide even half the stimulation that she needs. I’m terrible at crafts, can’t think of another (appropriate) thing for Barbie and Ken to do together, and there’s only so many times I can play Old Maid without starting to feel like I’m actually turning in to one myself.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to push her out the door. It’s very daunting to realize that it’s time to turn my child over to someone else for eight hours a day. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom to her since we came home from the hospital and now I’m the one who will actually spend less time with her. Her teachers will see her more each day than I will. That is a tough one to swallow.

But I didn’t show her those feelings. I showed her my smile and my encouragement. I need to show it to her so I can start believing it myself. I have one week to do that.

Follow Danielle Herzog and her daughter each week for this one-month series where they’ll share their experiences of what starting school for the first time means for both a mother and her child. Herzog blogs at Martinis and Minivans. You can follow her on Twitter.

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