A First-Day-of-School Letter to My Child
By Jessica Guerrieri
For your first birthday I ordered a cake to look like your favorite book. Because you were my only child, I had all kinds of time for such things. The woman at the bakery asked me if I had cried over my baby turning one.
That’s silly, why would I feel sad about you getting older? I thought.
I had yet to learn that the days are long, but the years are short.
Four years later, I’m sitting here nursing my third baby, while my middle daughter yells for more toilet paper and you, my love, are writing all nine letters of your name on the last of said toilet paper, in preparation for kindergarten. If I could, I’d return to that bakery clutching your very first lost tooth, and explain how I wept alone in my bathroom because I experience each of my children’s milestones as if they’re being etched inside the walls of my heart. I couldn’t understand it back then like I can now.
It’s hard to believe that while you were once inside of my body and I gave you life, you must now go experience a place without me. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall, soundlessly observing from up above, secretly witnessing all the magical ways you’ll grow. I’m envious of those who will see what I was not meant to.
Watching you, I feel so many things.
I feel curious about what kinds of life lessons I was not meant to teach you.
I feel scared about things I cannot even type on this page—things so terrifying my breath catches in my throat. If you are there and I am here, how would I use my body to shield yours and why do I have to worry about such things?
I feel grateful that you have a place to go. After the year we’ve had, I’ve never been more thrilled to leave things like “phonemic awareness” and “place value” to the experts, so I can exclusively focus on my role as your mother.
I feel excited about all that will unfold in front of you, the stuff that spans beyond the classroom walls. School is a place that unlocks the jungle gym of your mind and explores new vulnerabilities of the heart.
I feel jealous because there will be pieces of your story that I know you must write alone.
While I’m here deep inside these feelings, I recognize this is not about me and my blubbery tears; it’s about you. Of course, you’re too young to understand the enormity of these moments. Instead, you’ve got that crinkle in your forehead, the one that carries all your uncertainty. It would be impossible to ascertain whether your fear has sprouted from being a child inside a COVID-world, or more simply the heaviness of venturing out into the unknown. Either way, I hope that, as your mother, I’ve given you enough tools to withstand the weight of it all.
Most of all, I feel nostalgic for the days where I alone was the sun, the moon, and all your stars—just as you’re mine. Now you must unlock your own unique universe, as I applaud from a distance. I know this is only the beginning of your adventure, my child, just know that somehow, I miss you already.
Jessica Guerrieri is a freelance writer/blogger and a mom to three. Find her at witandspitup.com and follow her on Instagram @witandspitup.