Watching her walk away


Why is the sight of your child walking away with a backpack on and a lunchbox in her hand the most heart-wrenching sight?

It’s my second year of sending my daughter off to school and although I am a little less anxious than her kindergarten year, I still hate watching my little girl walk away.

Last night as we laid out her clothes and packed her lunch, my head was spinning with all the things I wanted her to remember. Her bus number. Her address. Her phone number. Her teacher’s name. Her classroom. Listen to your teacher. Have fun! But also learn a lot. Be kind. Make friends. The right friends.

So, do you think I overwhelmed her?

Of course I didn’t rattle everything off in such a laundry list, but we did go over a few things she needs to know. I think that’s the hardest part of going back to school: the realization that the time to prepare is over. Really, that’s what parenting boils down to anyway – preparing our children to live without us. Everything we do is about cultivating their characters and independence so that one day they won’t need us anymore.

So when I see her walking away on the first day, I realize that another chapter in that preparation is closed. I can’t get that time back. I get a small glimpse of how it might feel when she someday walks away to college or down the aisle.

She’ll always be my little girl, but she won’t always need me in the same way. The time to prepare her for the world will have passed. I only hope that I can breathe a sigh of relief in that moment and know that I prepared her well.

Top on that list of preparations is one thing: I hope she knows how much I love her. Whether it’s now as a wide-eyed first-grader or as an eager 18-year-old, I hope the security of my love is enough to see her through hard times.

When the boy at school calls her “chicken legs” on the playground, I hope she feels my hug. When she feels lost finding her bus, I hope she feels my hand in hers. When she stumbles over words on the board, I hope she hears my voice encouraging her.

I hope she knows that my world is a little lonelier when she’s gone, and brightens back up when she runs off the bus in the afternoon.

We have a first-day ritual where we draw hearts on our hands and then think about each other during the day whenever we see our hearts. Today I will be looking at this little crooked heart on my palm all day. And each time I do, I will miss her, love her and hope I taught her well.

How do you handle sending your kids back to school?




  1. Shearl Knorr

    Beautiful story! Watching them walk away really doesn’t get easier. And the years go so fast before you know it they are walking away to college and, new chapters of their lives. It is, however, sweet to see them turn into amazing adults watching their own babies walk away and finally understanding mom’s tears.

  2. Patti

    So sweet – she knows how much she is loved and that is what is most important. Wish I could turn back time – enjoy these years.

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