Today is preschool graduation day for the youngest of my four children—and it is bittersweet. Yes, I am grateful my energetic son is going to kindergarten in the fall (and boy, is he ready), but I also feel sentimental today. Tears fill my eyes hours before the graduation ceremony starts as I recall my son’s eager face on the first day of preschool. I look at my little boy in his handmade graduation cap with colorful pompoms glued on top and bite my lip to hold back tears.  

This is just one of many “lasts” for our family of six. Having four children, all of whom are two years apart, means preschool has been an integral part of our daily routine for eight consecutive years. I feel pride and excitement with each milestone my children achieve, but these “firsts” and “lasts” break my heart a bit too. No one prepared me for the mix of emotions that I experience with each milestone.  

My son is over the moon to start kindergarten in the fall. Although I am excited about this new chapter in his life, my joy is mixed with sadness as I say goodbye to the preschool version of him. Tears dampen my cheeks as I watch him sing in his final preschool performance and hug his teacher goodbye for the last time. I will miss these preschool days of innocence, sandbox play and messy art projects. My son’s preschool years, and his siblings’ preschool years, will always hold a special place in my heart.   

Related: To the mama sending her kids back to preschool

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Erin Leigh

I will miss:

Walking with my son to preschool as he chatters about trucks, construction workers and dogs he observes along the way.

Holding his little hand as we walk to the door of his classroom.

Seeing his exuberance to enter his classroom and play with his friends. 

Receiving his intense, ten-second goodbye hug that almost knocks me over.  

Hearing him say, “Mommy, come back for one more hug.”  

Watching his enthusiastic wave and beaming face when I arrive to pick him up.  

Feeling his sticky hands, speckled with dried clay, glue and purple paint. 

Observing his affection and love for his teachers who dedicate their days to helping him learn.

Related: I wasn’t prepared for the emotions of watching my child graduate preschool

When my son began this preschool journey, he was a toddler, unsure of himself and reluctant to leave the comfort of home. Now, he is a confident five-year-old boy prepared for elementary school.

His preschool graduation is an emotional milestone for both of us. For him, it brings excitement and anticipation. For me, it brings pride, joy and a bit of sadness. I cry because it is difficult to let go and accept that my preschool son is moving on.

Sometimes, even the happy moments can bring us to tears because we are so invested in each phase of our child’s life. Change can be difficult, even when it is a positive change. So, mama, embrace your emotions, even if you are crying when you feel you should be cheering. The milestones are bittersweet.   

A version of this post was published July 6, 2022. It has been updated.