Becoming a whole new mom.

For each step of my child’s life, I have painstakingly chosen caregivers. I’ve interviewed them — actually, I’ve interviewed many, and I could probably write a whole column on what to ask caregivers before handing over your child. I’ve done in-home care, care by relatives, nannies, large daycare facilities, church preschools, and, finally, Montessori preschool. I’ve experienced the gamut. This whole time, in the back of my mind I thought: “This stress is only temporary. Someday, not too far away, the girls will go to school. And the school I’m referring to is public school. The kind I pay for with my tax dollars, not my post-tax dollars.”

I thought of public school as a haven of sorts. I don’t have to make those choices any more — my child is taken care of and taught a curriculum, and I don’t have to write crazy expensive child care checks every month. Win-win, right? Less stress, right? Smooth sailing, right?

Whoa. It all hit me when we attended kindergarten open house. This school, while totally awesome (I honestly couldn’t have chosen a better spot for Ellis to go to elementary school), wasn’t my choice. It was chosen for her. Just as her teacher will be, and her principal, her classmates, and her curriculum. But I told myself the kindergarten transition will be fine. We’re tough. We’ve made these types of environmental changes before. This is just a little shift.

Then it hit me again. My nanny’s last day of work, she hugged Ellis and said: “Well, it’s time for the next chapter of our lives. I’m going to grad school and you’re going to kindergarten. You’re going to do great!”

MY DAUGHTER IS GOING TO KINDERGARTEN.

I teared up just writing that. Why is it so emotional? I’ve been dropping her off and picking her up from preschool for over three years! This is just another place to drop her off, and they even do curbside drop-off! Talk about convenient. Why is this step such a big deal?

Well, honestly, because it is a big deal — it’s the next chapter of her life. The day she walks through the doors of elementary school is the day we say goodbye to daycare woes and say hello to a whole new set of experiences and challenges.

I think I’m actually grieving the passing of her little girl days. Not so long ago, our greatest challenge was the little boy biting her at daycare. Our household rules currently include “no princess slippers on the stairs” and “no polluting mommy’s air space with tantrums.” Soon, we’ll be crying about a whole new set of drama. Biting will be set aside for secrets our friends are keeping from us and hurt feelings because of thoughtless words. We’ll have to add a rule about bedroom doors being open at all times (unless you’re changing clothes).

And here’s the other big deal — it’s not just the next chapter of her life . . . it’s the next chapter of mine. I’m not the mom of a little girl in daycare anymore. I’m the mom of an elementary school student.

Who is this new mom I’m becoming? What does she look like? I am a bit worried, because I don’t know her yet. I guess as Ellis meets her new teachers, I’ll meet this new mom. Monica, the mom of school-age children. I know she’s in me, just waiting to rise to the occasion. I hope she’s patient, forgiving, and graceful. I think I need to put that on a notecard and tape it to my dashboard.

As I lament over this transition, I realize how much harder it must be for those moms who are not only meeting the new mom in them as they drop their children off for the first day of kindergarten, but also facing a new job. Their full-time occupation of “mom” has taken on a new job description, one that also includes trusting the system and giving up the ability to choose the day-to-day routine of their little ones. We’ll all get through it. All moms do.

I have come to like Monica, the mom of little kids in daycare. I bet I can strike up a relationship with Monica, the mom of school-age children, and to all the new moms of school-age children this fall . . . I’m right there with you.

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