Her Last First Day

Today is her last first day of school.

It’s her last time waiting with anticipation to see friends that have been separated by summer months.  It’s her last time of putting on her “first-day clothes” and hauling a backpack filled with brand new school supplies with her.  It’s her last time to cherish the first memory of a school year.

The pig-tailed toddler has grown into a beautiful young lady.  The little girl who used to crawl into my lap with a book to read is now taking college-level classes. Somehow she went from patent leather shoes and a plaid scooby-doo jumper to a T-shirt and blue jeans overnight. And although she is much more confident than she used to be, every once in a while I catch the flicker of that insecure little girl who was afraid to get on the bus to middle-school just six short years ago.

I am reminded with pangs of nostalgia and memory, that I have been charged with raising adults, not children.  With a glacier’s methodical pace, this moment, and more like them, have been approaching with dogged determination.  This will be a year of firsts and lasts.  Her first senior portraits. Her last homecoming. Her first nursing class. Her last prom. Her first campus visit. Her last spring break. Her first college application. Her last softball season. Her first graduation gift. Her last day of school.

With each moment comes another bittersweet reminder that she is mine to raise, but not mine to keep, and such reminders nearly break me.  Children can be the source of immeasurable joy and indescribable pain.  Yes, pain.  I ache to see her as a spunky toddler eating cereal with sticky fingers. I long for simpler days when my biggest worry was making sure she packed a decent lunch.  Now there looms ahead of me graduation days, college years, and (gulp) maybe even marriage (that wet spot on your screen is me crying).  No one told me the hardest part of raising kids is finishing the job.  No one told me that first last days would be this hard.  No one told me that letting go meant shredding your heart.

There will come a day to let her go.

But for now, I will hold on to her, and not for the first or last time.

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