A letter to my daughter as she graduates preschool

(last day of school and your first missing tooth!)
Hayleigh Grace,

Didn’t I just write this letter and this one? You will hear from me a couple hundred thousand times in your life how fast time goes. You will hear it sung in ballads and proclaimed by strangers in Wegmans. But you will never realize how head-shakingly true this statement is until you have kids of your own someday, God willing. I know I didn’t realize it. I used to get so tired of hearing my dad say to me “just yesterday I was cradling you like a football”. I used to roll my eyes. When I was pregnant with you and old ladies would stop me while I was running errands and rub my belly and tell me how quickly it goes. I would think to myself how much I wanted to slap their hand off of my stomach, (“you are not actually touching a baby, you know! That is still my swollen stomach you are rubbing…stranger lady!”). Then I would smile politely and wonder why everyone talks about how quickly time goes. Then you were born. You know, like…yesterday.And I blinked, as they say, and you are done with pre-school. I get it now, Dad.

Just writing that makes my eyes swell up with tears. I have spent so, so many hours of my life devoted to reading about, and gleaning wisdom and painstakingly parenting through the little years. And just like that, my first baby, you: my precious girl who made me a Mommy, is done with the little years. I wonder if I have done it right. I wonder if I have done enough. I wonder if I have made the most of the years I have had with you at home with me. I wonder if the over-sights I have made, the character flaws I have, the ways I have blown it-big time have damaged you. Oh, I am so thankful for the grace of our Father. I see that grace in so many areas of my life, but one of the biggest areas is in you.

When we named you “Hayleigh Grace” I didn’t know yet how fitting that middle name would be. But it fits. Oh, how it fits. It struck me anew just today how much it fits. I was looking through pictures of you from this year at preschool. One of your classmate’s grandmothers was wonderful enough to take hundreds of pictures of each kid throughout the year. She gave them to us on a disk at the end of the year. As I looked through the pictures she had given me and compiled them into a photo album for you, I began to weep. I was just so suddenly overcome with so many different emotions. Sadness. Joy. Pride. Nostalgia. Conviction. You grew so much this year-in confidence, in social skills, in just being who God made you to be.  In nearly every picture you were smiling so enthusiastically, so excitedly, so passionately, so joyfully (or at least the candid ones…still working on the non-awkward posed smile. Of course, so am I. I will let you know when I figure it out.). I could almost hear your giggles and squeals through the pictures. Through those pictures God spoke to me. He convicted my heart.

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I have been dreading, I mean dreading, you entering Kindergarten in the Fall. There are many reasons for this, but I have come to realize  many of them are completely selfish-the opposite of how a parent should act. I have no doubt that you will thrive in Kindergarten. You love social settings. You were the kid in preschool who literally could not contain her excitement. It spilled out of you in non-sequitors, gleeful giggles, hair twisting, little jumps, and hugging and grabbing any friend you could get your hands on. You were so eager, so invigorated by life and learning. Many of the moms would laugh and remark to me just how joyful and excited you always were and how refreshing it was. I love that about you. I just LOVE it. So, you see, I have no doubt that Kindergarten will be more challenging than preschool, but you will rise to the challenge and thrive.

I am dreading Kindergarten because I don’t want to give you up. I want you home with us. I want to spend my days hearing your laughter, answering your questions, watching through cracked doors as you play wild games of pretend, teaching, molding, caring for your heart. I want to have leisurely mornings where we eat breakfast at 9am in our pjs and then cuddle up on the couch to read books. I want to go on play dates or outings and not miss you. Because I will miss you, very much. For the past 5 years and 3 months you have been in large part what my days have revolved around. Not in a bad way, but in a necessary way. And while that is not always easy or pleasant, it is what I have become accustomed to. And it is what I love. So, selfishly I don’t want to give that up.

But as I looked at those pictures, God- just like the gentle Father that He is, chided me. I could see the joy you had in those pictures. But more than that, I could see the joy you were sharing with everyone around you. People smile and laugh because of you, Hayleigh. People love to be around you. Your teacher told me numerous times just how many friends you made this year and how wonderful you were with every kid in the class. I can’t keep that to myself. You are a gift that is meant to be shared. Not only would it be damaging to you to keep you away from a place you would thrive, but it would be detrimental to Kindergarten not to have you there. I firmly believe that every child in your class, every teacher you encounter will be better because of you, just as I have been (and continue to be in a new capacity). I can’t hoard you. You are too wonderful. To hoard you would be to squelch you. More than that, to hoard you would be to deprive people of potential encounters with the grace of God. Because you embody that. God speaks grace to me everyday through you. He gives me what I do not deserve. He lavishes His good favor on me in the form of you, my precious girl.

I love you with so much of my heart, my Little Momma. Thank you for showing me grace. Thank you for being a vessel of God to reach down deep in my hidden soul. Thank you for being just who you are. It is because of who you are and because of who our great God is that I can find joy and peace in how quickly time passes. It doesn’t mean I won’t have secret cry sessions between now and Fall. But it does mean that I can be confident and humbled by the fact that God has shared such a gift with me and now I get to share a little bit of that gift with a little corner of the world. So, as hard as it is for me to say, and even harder to do come September, I will proudly and joyfully send you to Kindergarten. I will share you with others, not just for your own good, but for theirs. Just as with God’s grace, you are a blessing that is too wonderful, too large and overflowing to keep to myself.

And if I am being truthful, I know you were never “mine” to begin with. You are God’s. I have always known this. I wrote it in journals to you before you were even born. Funny how much easier it is to write when all I know of you are kicks to the ribs and acid reflux. I guess I am still learning how to love with all I have and not be possessive of you. I kind of want to be greedy with you. But because of what God is teaching me, by watching you actually, I will share you. Because joy and grace are meant to be shared. And you do it with such ease. I admire that in you. You are such a giver. It just flows out of you naturally.

So, my sweet grace girl, go and spread yourself over new territory. Go share and give of yourself. Go love others. Go give them laughter and brighten their days. Go fill their buckets. Go show them God’s grace as you have for me over and over without even realizing it. Go thrive in Kindergarten and go make it a better place for you being there.

But first: summer. (You had to know I wasn’t ready to stop holding onto you quite yet, right?!) I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you more and more the more and more I know you.

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