I’ve always had a fascination with school. My mother was a teacher, and her classroom was like a second home to me. As far back as I can remember, I dreamed of being part of that world, with its smell of chalk and heady promises of learning.

I wanted to read and write and understand everything. I wanted to be a big girl.

I was also a nervous child. I didn’t give up my soother until the summer before I started kindergarten. My dad came up with a clever plan to convince me to give it up. He let me trade it for any lunchbox I wanted. With that trade, I officially became a big girl.

The more things change…

This year, I’m experiencing the first day of school from a whole new angle. My son is starting kindergarten.

He has the same eagerness to learn. His curiosity is boundless. He can’t wait to go to school and be with his friends. He’s been fed up with daycare since last spring. To encourage him and make the wait less painful, I asked him what he’d really like. His answer almost brought a tear to my eye. “I want a backpack, mom. A real one.” So we embarked together on our adventure, a sort of rite of initiation in the form of a quest for a coveted object.

He knew he wanted that rather plain black, grey, and white bag the moment he say it. “THAT’S THE ONE!” I showed him different ones and told him there were plenty of other options, but his mind was made up. He had the bag he’d take with him on the first day of school. In the meantime, it will fuel his dreams of the big-kids’ world he waits to enter so (im)patiently.

Feeling torn

Obviously, the mommy in me isn’t ready to let “my baby boy” slip away yet. There’s something reassuring in seeing him that way. But the little girl in me remembers all too well how kindergarten was the most important thing in the world. And that little girl must be as determined as ever, because my joy at watching him grow wins out over my wish that he would stay little forever.

Have a great first day at school, my little man. (Message to my daughter: Take your time growing up, my darling. Mommy is in no hurry. None whatsoever.)