Back To School: I Have A Son Starting College. And One In Kindergarten This Year.

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As parents, our children have a few monumental milestones that bring smiles to our faces and tears to our eyes. From their first steps to their first day out of diapers, these moments stayed etched in the minds of parents for decades. They are filled with such emotional significance of growing up and getting older. Parents feel this intense conflict between their anticipation for their children’s future, their pride in how far their kids have come and their regret to see their little ones grow up.

In all of those firsts that we track and celebrate, few mean as much as the first day of kindergarten and the first day of college. Both symbolize gigantic leaps forward in our children’s education and independence. So imagine how it would feel to go through both at the same time.

If you’re guessing that it would create the most tumultuous and emotional back to school season ever, you’re pretty much spot on. A mother from my daughter’s dance school, Lucy*, told me her personal story of sending a son to college and a daughter in to kindergarten all at the same time.

“In general, this summer just felt like such a transition for us. We actually took three separate family vacations, because I felt like it was the end of an era for us all. We just wanted to hold on to our past for this summer.” It’s true, I would bet that a lot of families plan large vacations the summer before the oldest child leaves for college. It feels like the last chance to bond and connect as a unit before one of you moves out into the world. College is the first step towards adulthood. After a child moves out, they will never have the same relationship with their parents or their siblings. One last “Hoorah” trip seems like a great way to squeeze in a few more memories before that big step is taken.

I wondered if it was easy to brush over kindergarten, which also seems like a big step, when you have a child actually leaving home to prepare for. But Lucy said that watching her older brother leave for college seemed to get her daughter more excited for school. Having both occur at the same time gave her little girl more to look forward to instead of more to fear. Instead of fretting about being away from home for a couple hours a day, her daughter was asking if she got a new room as well.

“When you have children so far apart in age, it can be hard for them to really talk to each other. They just have such different interests. This gave my oldest and youngest kids something to bond over. They were starting new adventures together and it was really nice to hear my son talk to her little sister about it.” In large families, the oldest child can often feel like a spare parent to their littlest siblings. Even though college and kindergarten are very different, its nice that they could be talk about their fear of moving forward or their anticipation of what will happen next. Younger siblings have always idolized their big brothers and sisters, so seeing your role model take a big step towards independence has to be inspiring. I can only imagine that this little girl feels pretty ready to tackle elementary school and move out (way too quickly for their mother’s liking) just like her big brother did.

Logistically speaking, Lucy said that she literally separated everything. She took each child supply shopping as her one-on-one time with the kids. She had different “staging areas” for each child. “I actually kept separate files in our office for each kid with their paperwork, supply lists and budgets. Trying to do it all together was impossible.”

Even if the mechanics were separate, how special that this family’s journey forward all seemed to happen together. It may be a hectic and emotional August, watching one child drive away to college and one take their first step onto a school bus, but they are all taking this big step together. And for Lucy, she says, “I feel like we just took this huge hurdle as a family.” After all, family supports us during our biggest moments, why not make them all at once?