I don’t cry at those big milestones like the first day of kindergarten or the end of fifth grade ceremony or the eighth grade social. It’s gradual and comes in spurts. Like crying for a whole month every day on the drive home from work when you find out that the details of maternity leave suck and you’ll have to take your baby to daycare sooner than you wanted. Hell, it sucks when you realize you have to drop your baby off at daycare. Period.
You don’t cry on the first day of kindergarten. You cry at night at the end of the first day of kindergarten when you process the first day of school (and work), when you pick up your kid from after school care and the counselor tells you another kid hit yours because he stood up for and defended his new friend. And his little cheekbone is bruised under his eye. It hurts that you have to spend all day with strangers’ kids, defending them from the meanies in the classroom.
You don’t cry on the last day of school. You drag yourself from home, exhausted, then sleep in from a year’s worth of sleep deprivation and grading and meetings and motherhood. Then you have to figure out what kind of fun stuff to do because, thankfully, the summer is long, or at least it used to be. But you cry when you have those PD days and you have to drop your kid off again at daycare because the summer isn’t long after all.
You don’t cry on the first day of middle school because you’re pulling teeth just to get a picture and rushing out the door to get child number two to, you guessed it–daycare, while trying to make it to work early enough so you can welcome the new sixth graders whose parents are crying all the while trying not to crack your ankle while running in heels. Gotta make a good first impression, but in the back of your mind you get choked up because you ran out the door saying “Have a great first day, don’t miss the bus!” You cry months later when you hear them practice the cello in the middle of the year and it sounds like real music, when you’re frustrated because they don’t seem to care about their school work, and when they upgrade to buying clothes from the men’s department because they somehow became too big for the clothes in the kids’ department.
You don’t cry when you drop them off at the eighth grade social. You cry months before when you drop them off at the high school orchestra’s incoming freshman meet and greet, in the middle of the grocery store. You decided to run errands because what’s the point in going home if you’ll have to turn around to pick them up again as soon as you arrive?
It’s a gradual process, this milestone thing. I didn’t even think about it until my Facebook feed (thanks, social media) reminded me. At work. So I cry at my desk and remember and look forward to what this kiddo will do in high school. We didn’t have an eighth grade graduation, but we had plenty of milestones in between.