Dear son: A letter to my kindergartner

I remember how you held our hands on the way into your elementary school on the first day of kindergarten.

You were using that baby voice you sometimes used when you were nervous. We had talked about you going to kindergarten for months, and done all of the orientation, but now it was real. 

We made our way down the long hallway into the gym where all of the other kindergartners were being cattle called. Your principal spoke to all of us about the excitement for the year, and then dismissed the students by teacher. Your teacher’s name was called, and you made your way to her, and just like that, you and your classmates were out the door and gone.

It was just the parents left. Your mom and I looked at each other with a “Um, well, I guess he’s in kindergarten now” exchange, and listened to the rest of the presentation. 

Approximately 2 minutes and 7 seconds later, you finished kindergarten.

You don’t use the baby voice anymore. You grew several inches. You are too independent now (For some reason, when daddy says “Don’t run across the street until a grown up is with you,” you interpret this as “Do anything you want! No rules! Have a great time running with reckless abandon!”)

For the first five years of your life, I wrote letters for each of your birthdays.

But, at age 6, you’re done with kindergarten. And that also means you’re at the age where people refer to you by grade, not how old you are. When you’re an adult, you’ll learn that people refer to you based on how much delight or disdain they have for your age bracket. “A millennial. Ugh.” 

So I’m starting a new tradition with you of writing an end-of-school year letter, which just so happens to come just a couple weeks after your birthday. Dad is certainly not doing this because he didn’t have time to write this post on your birthday. It’s definitely because of this much better approach.

Daddy’s thoughts on you finishing kindergarten

  1. You can freaking read. I know that’s the expectation for kids your age, but it still blows me and your mom away that you can read. And not just simple books. You read everything you see. You had an amazing teacher, for sure, but I also know you worked at it. Now if I can just get you to read in between the lines when I say things like “Let’s try to have some quiet time,” we’d be on to something.

  2. You take such good care of your sisters. They don’t even realize yet how fortunate they are to have a big brother like you. And it melts daddy’s heart when you hold one of their hands. Not enough melting to make daddy want to give you more sisters. But a solid melt.

  3. Each year I’ve done this, I’ve said, “What an idiot I was for not believing you'd be even more amazing the following year.” I’ll say it again. Your fifth year in this world was so incredible. I miss some of the little boy moments that I know are gone, but I also love seeing how your mind works now. And I’ll assume year 6 is going to be even better.

  4. Things you can do since you started kindergarten: Read. Ride a bike, which you were able to do on your first try (Tip: Have your kid use a pedal-less gliding bike for a bit first to help them learn how to balance. Elliott’s grandfather did that and it worked wonders.) Do simple math. Have deeper interests. Do more to help mommy and daddy around the house. Accidentally order an entire season of Curious George through daddy’s Amazon Prime video account because you memorized the passcode.

  5. Things you can’d do yet: Take naps. You have just never been good at naps. Daddy would kill for a nap. I don’t understand how you’re not begging for one every day.

  6. You got to go to Disney World for your birthday. DISNEY WORLD. Mommy and daddy were so glad to be able to take you and your sisters there.  You are a very fortunate boy to be able to go at all. One day you’ll realize that. But I’ll never forget the look on your face when you got to meet princesses, or how excited you were going on rides. You were the poster child for why people go through all the hassle and money.

  7. You spent the entire school year trying to think of nice things to do for your teacher. Seemingly every time we went to Target, you found something you wanted us to buy for her. If everyone treated public school teachers the way you do, the world would be a better place.

  8. Seriously, you can’t just run across the street. Your uncle got hit by a car once. True story. But I know you do stuff like that because you’re just so excited. You enjoy things to the fullest.

  9. “Thanks for (Insert thing you want us to do).” - You have a funny way of passive-aggressively thanking us for doing something we didn’t even agree to do yet. I think it’s because you’re trying to be kind, but it also might be you trying to subliminally trick us into doing it. Real sneak

  10. You still sleep in the same room as your sisters. It’s still adorable.

When mommy and I dropped you off for your last day of kindergarten, it felt at once so run-of-the-mill and so monumental. Daddy often says that you never know when the last time is of something until after it already happened. This wasn’t one of those times. I knew exactly that was your last day as a kindergartener, which is when a lot of people divide being a little kid to just being a kid.

And so when daddy drove to work, he listened to the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” song with the ukelele, the same song mommy had playing when you were born.

And daddy teared up a little bit. Because he remembers holding your tiny hand when you were born as the nurses warmed you up. And how mommy cried with happiness.

And then daddy cried a little bit more. Because he remembers dropping you off for your first day of daycare, when you still fit in a car seat. And how dropping off your sisters for the first time at day care two years later - and how you made me carry you, too, with you on one side and two car seats in my other arm. You wanted a little bit more security, and daddy could do that.

And then daddy cried a lot. Because he wishes he had done more paying attention when you asked for it. And been more patient when you needed it. And enjoyed the baby giggles just a little bit more while they lasted.

Because you never know when the last time your baby does something until it’s already happened.

And so daddy cried. Most of all because he’s so very, very proud of you.