Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

Elementary school is flying by…

My firstborn starts third grade this year. With three years at our neighborhood school under our belt, our family is well-accustomed to elementary school life. We are veterans of drop-off and pickup routines, lunch money accounts, and school supply shopping. I have grown comfortable placing my daughter in the capable, kind hands of the grownups at her school.

Except that sending my daughter off to third grade this year has been more bittersweet for me than I anticipated. It’s not as hard as sending her to kindergarten. On the first day of each successive school year, the lump in my throat has gotten a little smaller.

But this year comes with a realization: With three years of elementary school behind her and three more ahead, my daughter stands poised exactly at the midpoint of her elementary school career, halfway between preschool and middle school. When she turns 9 during this school year, she also will be halfway to adulthood.

She is moving upstairs in the building, where the big kids’ classrooms are. She’s old enough to join the girls’ running club this year if she wants to. She’s almost old enough to join the band, orchestra, or safety patrol.

This all adds to the realization that she is continuing to grow up. Every time I adjust and learn to accept change with my daughter, our new situation does not last.

From her first steps to her first day of preschool to kindergarten, each milestone my daughter has reached has been only a precursor to more changes in the future.

After taking a few months to get over my kindergarten blues three years ago, I felt okay being the parent of a young elementary student, but I can’t stay an elementary parent. Children’s milestones are relentless in the way they keep coming, heedless of mothers’ wishes to slow down even a little. No one has ever asked me if I was ready for kindergarten, or for third grade.

Now, middle school looms in the not-so-distant future. I will barely have time to adjust to having a middle schooler when suddenly I will have a high schooler, then a college student, an empty nest, grandchildren.

Time marches on regardless of my feelings.

Children never stop growing simply to oblige their sentimental mothers. I will keep adjusting, adapting, and coping as all the mothers who have gone ahead of me have done, as our own mothers had to do with us, and as my daughter will have to do with her own children.

And so, the backpack is packed, the lunch money account is loaded, and my daughter’s new pink Star Wars Rey t-shirt is washed and hanging in the closet, ready for the first day of class.

Elementary school starts again this week. There’s no stopping it.

I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, which is perhaps not saying much. The lump in my throat will still be there as I watch her walk into the building to begin third grade, as I remember tender childhood moments that have long passed. That lump in my throat also signifies my pride in all that my daughter is now and all she has accomplished so far. I marvel at the big girl she is becoming.

Even though my daughter would prefer that summer vacation never ended, with its road trips and late nights reading novels in bed, she is ready. That’s all there is to it.

So bring it on, third grade.

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Category: Education

Tags: Back to school