Posed for this afternoon since he was too quick this morning!

Posed for this afternoon since he was too quick this morning! (Thus the “socks only” look.)

So the morning didn’t go as I’d imagined for myself, the nostalgic Mommy who wanted to Norman Rockwell “First Day of Kindergarten” all-around experience. But it ended up being a great day for MJ, and that’s what matters! Despite all my well-thought-out plans and strategizing, sh** happened. (That’s just life, right? The Universe mocking my plans!) Determined to stick with our new “Manders Family Schedule” which I’d carefully laid out and explained in a weekend family meeting over lollipops, I was hoping to rise early myself to get some work done. But I was up late buying a last-minute back-pack and bike lock at Target, arguing with my husband about parenting strategies for our very strong-willed new little Kindergartener, then up again at 4:30am thinking about how the shirt we’d laid out for MJ was really more of a “spirit day” shirt so I had to go find the school uniform policy… Then shortly after I’d gotten back to sleep, MJ wandered in my room and bed at 5:30am and I begged him to go back to sleep until the designated 7:00 wake-up time! (Did he not get the memo?!?) Then I lay still and stewing, trying to will him back to sleep, worrying that he would not be able to make it through the first day!  In spite of the light coming from the bathroom where Daddy was getting ready, MJ did finally fall back to sleep when Ellie wandered in to join us. By some miracle they ended up both sleeping in my bed while I escaped to breathe in some loving energy and coffee fumes in the kitchen before awakening them. We did get out the door at 7:40 according to schedule, immediately following WRR‘s peppy “March of the Day”!

However, this was only after a few stressful moments….like when I couldn’t get the TV working properly to play a show for Ellie (even though “Ready to go, watch a show” was on the schedule), and when I stepped on a mysterious piece of glass in the kitchen and my foot would not stop dripping blood.  (I found some gauze and a red sock, and went about re-heating Sunday’s pancakes to put in plastic cups with vitamin gummies.) Then not two blocks from the house, Ellie gave up on her scooter, and tried to run back home in frustration. as I dealt with Ellie on the side of the road, MJ kept going and never looked back. As my son rode off into his future without me, I tried  everything: coaxing, threats, humiliation….(sorry Becky Bailey, she got NO empathy from me this morning)…I was gonna miss dropping off my son for his first day of Kindergarten because of her, and I was pretty pissed. He was gonna do it without me!

We finally made it, and he had. He had parked and locked his bike, walked across the parking lot with the aid of a crossing guard, walked into the building past the principle who was greeting students, found his locker, put his helmet and backpack away, and was sitting at his desk in his new classroom when we found him. The parents got to go in today, so I pulled him out into the hall for a “Goodbye and good luck” hug, though by this time it was obvious to me that he didn’t need it. (But I still did.) Then Ellie and I went to the “Cheers and Tears” gathering for parents in the school library where I had a minute over donut holes to take a deep breath and realize that I truly was experiencing a little of both happiness and sadness on this occasion. My precious first little baby, my “sunshine boy” is growing up and away from me! But Michael James has been a major challenge of late, challenging us nearly every minute of the day it seems, exhausting us, and often bringing out the worst in each of us. I simply adore him and his amazing personality, but the kid has really been preparing me well to see less of him. (No, I am not looking into any boarding schools!) But I believe having him away from me for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week will  really help our relationship. I mean that sincerely – just like it helped my relationship with my parents when I went to college. (We were more excited to see each other when we did, and enjoyed our time together more.) Instead of taking it as a sign of failure as a mother, I now see that it is a sign that we’re both ready for Kindergarten! He’s ready for some more independence and I’m ready for a little break.

I had built this morning up to be a big deal. But then MJ, through his brave and cheerfully nonchalant attitude about the whole thing, reminded me that it really wasn’t that big of a deal for him, so it shouldn’t be for me either. He was fine. He could handle it. So I needed to take a deep breath, and handle it as well! And I did. I wondered about him a few times throughout the day, but never worried about him. Ellie and I sang our song “We wish him well, we wish him well. All through the day today, we wish him well.” He had on his bike helmet and usual dimpled grin when he spotted me outside waiting for him under the shade of a playground tree, but I had to request a post first-day-of-K-hug! We wandered over to the bike rack, and still emboldened and invigorated by the sense of independence he’d felt on his accidental solo ride this morning, he barely masked his disappointment that Mommy’s bike was there, too. We would ride home together. Concerned that he might be too worn out from his day, I asked if he had enough energy to make it home, and he enthusiastically responded, “Oh, yeah!

My kind neighbor down the street let Ellie stay and play for a while so I could have some one-on-one time with my boy to debrief. We just chatted during our “Story, Snack, and Snuggle” time, MJ recalling and reenacting activities and highlights from the day….everyone was kind; only one kid cried;  yes, he stayed on “green” on the behavior chart; he rode the swing at recess, keeping himself moving with his feet like this (standing on tiptoe and swaying forward and back), then he ran up and down, then spent the rest of the time resting in the shade and staring at ants. Only one kid bought lunch today, “But Mommy, what days can I buy my lunch?” And they have three kinds of milk you can choose: full, skim, and chocolate! They moved like this (waddle and cluck) around cones in PE; they will learn a song every day in music;  and some of the kids had also read “The Kissing Hand” before; and there is a John at my table, but it’s not John from church. It’s the John from CCDC that I built a giant sandcastle with once on the playground…and on and on.

“Metamorphosis means change. All living things change as they grow.” These are the first words I read to him tonight in bed from a book about monarch butterflies. (MJ was super-excited to bring home some monarch eggs that he cleverly spotted in a neighbors yard this afternoon, making them a comfy place to hatch and grow and change in a vase in our kitchen.) Somehow it seems appropriate that we ended our day talking about change and growth. As parents, If we are lucky, we will get to watch as our children change and grow, becoming beautiful independent butterflies for the world! But we forget that we must also change and grow as parents – constantly adjusting and re-imagining – to allow this metamorphosis to take place. To allow their little wings to spread out and take shape, apart from the tight grip of our loving cocoons.

READ more articles from my ““Back to School” Series” series, and join me for my FREE ““Back to School/ Back to Reality”seminar this Friday morning or next Tuesday evening, with lots of great tips and ideas based in child development for your family. READ MORE about our journey towards getting ready!



  1. Tamara says:

    Way to go, Lowry and MJ! I remember being both disappointed and proud when Callie was not at all concerned about leaving me for kindergarten last year. She kind of stole my cry moment.

    • Liz says:

      Just read your account of your day. It recalls many first days of school for all of our six children. We had a tradition that everyone was given a chance to “TELL…” This continued even to the time when we had one at Rice University, one at Baylor University, one in Richardson High School, one in West Junior High, one in Arapaho Elementary, and one in pre-school. Your account is both funny and inspiring. Thanks for sharing. BTW, one grandson started at
      A and M today. Time marches on!

  2. Kara Welch says:

    I am so happy for you and MJ! It sounds like he was ready and excited. Good for you for knowing when the time was right! Love you!