She shut her eyes tight, willing her exhaustion to win the battle. But her worries just wouldn’t give up the fight.
“Will I go back to my preschool next year, Mommy? Will I see my teachers again?”
“Next year you get to start Kindergarten, sweet girl. Right down the street. We can walk there and back. You will be so close to home.”
“I know that, Mommy. Sometimes I’m excited, but sometimes I’m scared. I’m not used to Kindergarten.”
“How about one more relaxing story? How about this time we talk about Kindergarten.”
With a sigh, she closed her eyes and unclenched her jaw. Having shared her worries for night, she was ready to drift off to dreamland.
And so she did…
She woke up with excitement pouring from her soul.
“I graduate today! I’m not in preschool anymore, Mommy!”
Well slept and fresh faced, the tides had turned.
She chowed down an enormous plate of cinnamon butterscotch pancakes in record time.
She planned the perfect graduation outfit.
She ran around the house in a state of pure elation, doling out hugs and kisses to anyone who crossed her path.
She was on top of the world…
Until she wasn’t.
In one small moment, her joy unraveled.
One misstep, one bumped knee, caused the meltdown of the century.
“It’s too hard to be 5! I don’t want to graduate. I’m used to it there.”
“I know, sweet girl. I remember that feeling. I remember feeling nervous too. It’s ok to feel little because you are still little. But we have all summer to just be together. What will we do? Maybe you can help me make a list.”
And so we crafted a list. Because a little bit of control goes a very long way when life gets overwhelming.
Slowly, we made our way out the door and to her school for the very last time.
“I’m so proud of you, sweet girl. It wasn’t always easy, but you did it. You persevered. Even when you thought you couldn’t. You are brave, just like your name. You are sweet, and kind, and funny, and nice. You are an amazing little girl.”
With that, she ran off to join her friends.
And two hours later, we joined her to watch her graduate.
She sang the well-practiced songs at the top of her lungs.
She smiled from ear to ear.
She snuggled up to her daddy with all of her might.
And she stood tall when her name was called.
Because she earned it, this sweet girl of mine. She dealt with croup, asthma, and allergies. She dealt with teachers who didn’t quite appreciate her personality and made friends despite frequent absences. She found her way on her own, with very little help from the teachers who should have been there.
Every step of the way.
She learned, she grew, she socialized, and she thrived. Even when we wanted to pull her out.
She found her way.
And she graduated.
And we couldn’t possibly be more proud of our sweet little girl.
(Who will always be little to us.)
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, three year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog, Practical Parenting, and can also be found on Twitter.