I stood back, socially distanced from the other parents, watching my son stand on his number and wait to be called into class. It is his first day of kindergarten. Some of the kids are whining for their parents or refusing to go into the room. Not my boy, he is eager and doesn’t give me a second look once the door opens.

Child holding "First Day of Kindergarten" sign - Why I didn't cry at the first day of school

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Thoma

A parent next to me and I start chatting about how our kids aren’t crying. They say, “I’ll be sobbing later.” I agree, because it seems like the right thing to say.

I don’t though. I don’t sob. I don’t shed a single tear.

Family at first day of school sign

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Thoma

I am so proud of this boy. This boy born after his brother died. This boy who is small for his age, but has big energy and big ideas. I know I am supposed to feel pangs of longing as we exit the preschool years. I am supposed to wish for these adorable days of little-ness to continue.

I don’t. I know what it feels like to have a forever baby, and I wouldn’t wish that on any parent.

Are the feelings complex and varied? Of course.

There is a wistfulness, marveling at when he got so big and I didn’t notice, excitement for all he gets to experience. I think of his brother, who died before hitting any of these milestones. Who should have been bounding off to first grade. If anything was going to make me cry today, it would have been that. Missing my child who died.

I’m at a point in my grief where parents whining about trivial things doesn’t trigger me. The parents wiping away tears don’t stir up anger or jealousy or annoyance. I simply notice, and I realize that’s not how I feel.

Big smile on the first day of school

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Thoma

My second son is growing and learning and maturing in countless ways. The biggest feeling I have… is joy. So I smile, with no tears today.

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