My firstborn started kindergarten this week! When that big yellow schoolbus turned the corner, she was literally jumping with joy (really – I have the Flip video to prove it!). She climbed aboard, posed for a quick picture, and then was off. OFF! A big piece of my heart rounded the curve ahead and simply drove away! It took all of 2 minutes from the time we arrived at the bus stop. I barely got the pictures I wanted! And I was emotional enough that I was rendered speechless.
We’d had a celebration for her that morning – a homemade card, the special pancake breakfast she requested, a thousand family pictures as we sent her off. We had a little parade to the bus stop – the five of us plus my parents – complete with neighbors waving and wishing her good luck as they watered their lawns or walked their dogs. My 3 year old was devastated that he couldn’t ride the bus once it got there, so my parents took him to the park as a consolation prize, leaving my husband and I home alone for a bit with the newborn and our thoughts. I cried. Then I laughed. Then I cried some more. We talked about the day we brought her home from the hospital, and what it was like on her first day of preschool, and how we’d likely feel at her high school graduation, or on her wedding day. We hugged each other…we looked at pictures…we laughed a little more and cried a little more.
I’m not actually SAD that she has started kindergarten – in fact, I’m thrilled for her! I loved school and hope that she’ll have every bit as good of an experience as I had and then some. I’m not even sad for me! It’s exciting to have new adventures to look forward to. Each phase of her life so far has been so fun and I’m confident this one will be no different.
So why all the emotion? Because it was a milestone. And because we paused, and dedicated time to honoring it. We’re good at this with kids. Birthdays are a BIG DEAL. Losing a tooth. Starting school. Riding a bike. We cheer and celebrate and hug and high five. There are presents! And cake! And cards! A special meal, a new outfit, whatever the rituals are, THERE ARE RITUALS.
We could all learn a thing or two about properly honoring milestones if we think about how we do it with children. Because sadly, somewhere along life’s journey, we seem to stop honoring milestones. We say things like “We don’t have to go out to dinner on our anniversary this year – we have something else going on.” Or “Don’t buy me a birthday gift, we just got the new washer and dryer.” Or “It’s just a promotion for heaven’s sake – don’t make such a big deal out if it.” We let the milestones slip by until life is just one big blur of soccer games and chicken dinners and trips to Target.
Life. Is supposed to be punctuated. By milestones.
And when they occur, it’s so important to pause, collect ourselves, and honor them. Buy the gift. Make the cake. Have the special dinner. Raise a glass. And most importantly, hug, cry, or laugh with the ones you love. Because these are the moments you’ll remember. These are your milestones along life’s journey. Stop at them and rest a while. And then get back on the road.