Many times during the week, I go for a walk after dropping my girl off at her classroom. Down the street from the school is an amazing, awe-inspiring tree. Towering over the single-story blue house, the tree is proof of what I don't want to know.
Time is passing.
Throughout the months of this school year, I have seen the tree in all of its lush green glory of summer, its bejeweled red of autumn, the stark beauty of leafless limbs in winter. And now, lush green glory once again. Full circle.
The school year is over. We've made it through the year. And now, it's time to move on. Like it or not. Deny it or not. The tree doesn't lie.
Today was the last day of school. I could smell it in the air. It's like students and teachers emit some kind of summer pheromone or something. It changes the way the school looks, the way the students act, the way teachers behave. It's something that has not changed since I was in school. Even without a calendar, I would know it was the last day.
As I walked in the door of K2, I saw the kids all curled up on the reading carpet, watching a movie. "Mary Poppins." And immediately, I remembered the summer all those years ago I sat in our local movie theater parking lot, watching an outdoor screening of "Mary Poppins" as my girl, still with a few months of growth time left before she was born, kicked and jabbed my ribs.
And now, about 20 minutes later, here she is, on the last day of kindergarten, watching the beloved classic. How did that happen so quickly?
I'm living a cliché right now. I cannot bear to say or hear "it goes by so fast" or "blink and they're in college" one more time. I may smack them—or me—across the face with a wet sock if it doesn't stop. How can kindergarten be past-tense? How can I have a first-grade student? How is it possible it was just yesterday (cliché!) I walked her in the door that first day? How can it be over?
This stunned sense of time speeding up is nothing novel to anyone, and especially not for parents. I once heard that as we age, there's a part of our brains that stops functioning properly when it comes to processing the passing of time. It actually does seem like time goes faster as we get older. My sister and I have birthdays three weeks apart. The time between her day and mine seemed to last three years when I was a kid. Now? I can barely get a "happy birthday" out of my mouth before it's my turn to receive such well-wishes.
Having children taught me to be in the moment much more than I ever have before. Babies force you to do that. There aren't many things you can do when nursing a newborn, or changing a diaper, or bathing a toddler. You have to focus on the task at hand. For a perpetual multi-tasker like me, the shift to present tense was welcomed, and rough, all at once.
But now, I'm glad I learned such a lesson. This year went so fast, my only consolation was to remember the times I dialed in and paid attention to what was happening. And even with that tool in my arsenal, I still felt shocked and unprepared on the last day of school. I fought the urge to bumble around campus, grabbing any parent I could see and screaming "Where did the time go?! How did my baby grow up so fast?! Someone hit me before I continue spouting off clichés! Here's my sock!"
As the final bell rang and a red-eyed teacher came out of K2 bidding her students goodbye, I looked at all of them and wondered where we would be next year. I hoped my girl would be with some of her good friends. I hoped we'd have a good teacher who would really inspire a love of books and reading in my firstborn. I mourned the daily routine of kinder drop off (didn't I curse that chaos every day since September?), the faces I wouldn't see every day in the classroom next year, the beautiful simplicity of kindergarten and all of its glitter/paint/glue/crayon glory.
But as I wrote at the start of the year, today's ending is tomorrow's beginning. If we never left preschool, we would have missed out on this amazing, growth-filled year. The good friends we have today would have been missed, as would the lessons we learned, the skills we acquired (counting to 300! Writing! Reading a handful of big words! The ability to memorize the fact that seahorse daddies carry the babies in a pouch!). If my girl stays in kinder, she will miss all of the glorious gifts awaiting her in first grade.
And she can't wait to open them all. Summer already is something she must get through in order to FINALLY land in first grade. I bite my tongue when I feel an Eeyore moment coming on. "Oh, I really miss kindergarten" is more apt to come out of my mouth than hers. The last thing I want to do is create a child with my sentimentality issues and inability to painlessly embrace change. But I'm so good at it!
So on this last day of school, I gleefully greeted my girl, mirrored her excitement that she gets to move on to the next grade and then drowned my sorrows in our traditional ice cream date to celebrate the last day of school.
I have the whole summer to enjoy my kid. I can deal with her being a first grader in August. For now, she will be a kindergartner. And she will, like it or not, always be that sweet baby who jabbed me continuously through my first viewing of "Mary Poppins."