When my first-born daughter was a baby, I couldn't wait for her to reach the next milestone. I was eager for her to roll, crawl, walk and talk. She is now five and those early milestones are firmly in the rear-vision mirror.
There are so many firsts in a young child's life; the first smile, the first word, the first steps. These beginnings are highly anticipated and cause for great celebration. But there are many endings too, and often these bring mixed emotions. I remember shedding tears during my last breastfeed. I wanted to hold onto that feed forever.
People often tell you that babies grow up fast. And indeed they do. But no one told me years would disappear in a blink; that time would speed up right when I want it to slow down.
Recently my firstborn daughter attended her transition sessions for school. When we bought her school uniform, it struck me with brutal force that she is no longer a pre-schooler. Soon, she will skip through those school gates and into the next fabulous phase of her life. And this means an ending is also imminent.
As her last day of kinder approaches, I find myself reflecting on her pre-school journey, and contemplating her school life ahead.
I remember her first day of kinder like it was yesterday. We were both apprehensive as we had never really been apart. She took her faithful soft companion "Doggy" along to help with the separation. As I bid her farewell, I felt a lump in my throat that came out of nowhere. Only it hadn't come out of nowhere; it had been building - quietly swelling since the moment she was placed in my arms in the delivery suite. Life is a series of beginnings and endings, and one makes way for the other.
Kinder has given her a flying start to life and learning. And the environment has been fun; pure, uninhibited fun. It has given her a rich, imaginative, playful space to grow and develop without the pressures of structured learning. She has loved every minute she has spent there. It will be an emotional day for us both when she removes her much-loved backpack from a familiar hook and we walk out the kinder gate.
The adage, when one door closes, another one opens is well-known for a reason. The kinder gate must close in order for the school gate to open.
A few years ago, when my niece had her first day of school, my sister told me the school was putting on champagne and tissues. I understood what the champagne was for, but why the tissues? "Because some mothers feel sad," she told me.
And now I "get it".
As my daughter prepares to skip through those school gates, my heart aches at what she's leaving behind. Kinder has been a place of energy, curiosity and play. Within those walls is a space of eager learning and discovery. I have watched her grow into a curious, kind and creative young girl with a quiet confidence and focus.
As we both prepare for the last kinder pick-up, I find myself at the intersection of joy and sorrow, loss and excitement. Soon, I'll be losing my baby, my companion, and my "buddy". It will no longer just be me. In my place will be the influences of her peers and school teachers. But I will send her off knowing that the pre-school years have been filled with play, the perfect building block for lifelong learning.
My daughter is the perfect measure of excited and ready for school. But she knows she's saying goodbye to a much-loved chapter of her life. She understands a big change is ahead.
I am feeling a mixture of pride, nostalgia, and sentiment in the lead up to next week. Mostly, it is immense pride. I am so happy for my little girl. It's the end of her pre-school journey. Another exciting journey awaits her.
I'll try to contain my emotions as we leave kinder for the final time, knowing that it represents all that is good about childhood.