Kids school their parents in how to let go

Lisa Schroeder is a reader columnist for The News Tribune in 2019.
Lisa Schroeder is a reader columnist for The News Tribune in 2019. Tacoma

My son started elementary school again and I’m not sure how to feel.

One side of me is feeling happy because now I’ll have time and space to work on my own projects. I won’t have the guilt that I should be spending time with him instead of tapping away at the computer.

I won’t have to schedule his days to keep him busy and fulfilled so he can sleep well at night. I won’t have the constant feeling of worrying that he’s doing enough educational activities to ensure he’ll be on track for the first day of school.

On the other hand, I’m equally sad that I won’t be spending as much time with him. His teacher, school administrators and schoolmates will be filling his days, and I’ll be an outside listener to their adventures.

His effervescent spirit won’t be ever-present and in need of my attention, which in a few years he probably won’t want anymore. Even though my home will be quieter and easier to maneuver around, it will feel somewhat empty without my son’s constant presence.

But I will manage as I’ve done before, and so will he.

I remember his first day of pre-school very well. His school was right next to our apartment building. Its playground was right below one of our bedroom windows. On that first day I dropped him off despite his wails of: “I want mom!” I felt a tear in my heart and wanted to turn around and grab him back and never let him go again.

But I didn’t.

I went for my first solo walk around the park thinking about his first two years and how I bet he was having a great time at his school.

When I returned home, however, things weren’t as good as I was expecting. From the playground I heard his pervasive weepings of: “I want mom!” I peeked out of the window and saw his little body and wet, teary face on the playground with the teachers and other kids surrounding him.

I felt a little better because his teacher was holding him and soothing him as best she could while trying to manage the other preschoolers at the same time. I knew my son was being cared for, but it still left a hole in my heart because I couldn’t help him then.

As the week went on, he cried less and less at the school drop off. And I saw him having fun on the playground. It was especially heartwarming to see him playing and being gentle with other students.

Once he was playing on the slide with a younger girl. They would both slide down, laughing and smiling, and then run together to do it again and again.

I learned then that letting go was a good thing. He was learning things from other kids his age that I could never teach him on my own. He was learning that other adults were also to be respected and would care for him just as well as I could.

I learned that he needed to be around other kids and adults in a place that could nurture him and contribute to his growth and education about the world.

So even now it’s a little hard to let him go on the first day of school. Yet I know that throughout the years past and the years to come, it gets easier. Especially since I know that letting others support and care for my son in turn lets me be a better parent.

Lisa Schroeder of Tacoma is a retired journalist, a full-time parent, and part-time writer. She’s one of six News Tribune reader columnists for 2019. Reach her at lischro@gmail.com or on Twitter @schroedli.