The First Day of Kindergarten for a Single Dad

School is back, and a lot of moms have been sharing how hard they expect the first day of Kindergarten to be.

I have some experience with that.

I walked that journey by myself nearly two years ago.

Below is an edited version of what I posted on Facebook when Elizabeth first started school two years ago.

Today (Tuesday, August 27) was Elizabeth’s first day of Kindergarten. I thought it was supposed to be Monday, but the staggered entrance confused me.  I’m sure Elizabeth’s mother would have been able to figure it out. She was the expert on all things related to school. Even if she hadn’t been sure, she would have called to ask all the right questions. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t know and couldn’t remember what to ask. I felt so out of place, too. All the other kids had their moms with them, moms who were trying so hard to hold back the tears. Most of the dads were already at work.

We had picked out Elizabeth’s clothes earlier in the week, but I forgot to have her try them on ahead of time. Turns out they’re too big for her, even though they’re in her size, so we had to find something else fast. Elizabeth wasn’t fazed by it at all, but I was. Her mother would have planned everything perfectly. She was always better at remembering the day-to-day details and expecting the unexpected. Now it’s all up to me.

I asked Elizabeth at least three times if she wanted me to walk her to her classroom or just drop her off outside the school. Each time she proudly responded to drop her off. So that’s what I did. Her mother probably would have walked her to class, insisting that it’d be too much to let our 5-year-old navigate the school corridors by herself, but I let her decide. I don’t know how she would have responded had her mother been there with us. Maybe she would have wanted her to come along. I don’t know. I’ll never know.

One of the teachers met us at the car and helped Elizabeth out. I told her goodbye and that I loved her. Elizabeth’s mind, though, was in a different place. She’d been looking forward to school for so many weeks and months that all she could think about was going to Kindergarten. So with that, Elizabeth walked confidently to the front entrance and never looked back. I had been hoping for something more cinematic. A sweet hug and kiss on the cheek, a gentle wave and an innocent smile as I drove away. But none of that happened. Instead, the only thing I felt on my cheek as I drove back home were the warm tears flowing from my eyes.

I didn’t get much done today. I didn’t think I would. I finished some of my readings but mostly stayed busy with little things I’d been putting off. I kept wondering about my little girl and how she was doing. It made me wonder what this day was like for my own parents when they sent me off into a new world. But at least they had each other for support. They never experienced this day like I did. I was exhausted physically and mentally, my mind had grown weary and my body weak, so I retreated to our bedroom and fell asleep in awkward silence.

When I picked up Elizabeth this afternoon, she was the happiest I’ve ever seen her, the excitement just bubbling over. She loved Kindergarten! She told me all about the new friends she’d made, the new things she’d learned, and the times she’d spent playing outside. She smiled widely; her spirit soared. I guess Kristen and I did something right.  In spite of all my fears and anxieties, worries and doubts, Elizabeth was OK. My little girl, my sweet, miracle baby, embraced what awaited her and loved it.

The first day of Kindergarten was an emotional rollercoaster, but it was OK.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and I don’t know how I’ll feel each time my children reach another milestone and their mother isn’t here to see it. But I do know this: even before Elizabeth was born, God had planned her first day of school. He knew I’d face this task alone. He knew Elizabeth would face this day without her mother. Nothing about this day surprised Him. When others might have thought it would be impossible to find joy and peace in this day, He made a way. He is God our Provider, Jehovah Jireh. He works in ways we cannot see, and I rejoice in that promise every day.

Elizabeth was ready for her first day of school!
Elizabeth was ready for her first day of school!

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