Through Facebook, I saw you this week. The new mums and dads with polished little babies about to start school with perfectly straight clothes and shiny shoes (at least until recess when lunch and sweaty games took their toll).
I heard your stories about kids needing to be taken away from you crying and listened at your heartbreak.
I heard great stories too of new friends, cheerful discoveries and teachers who made them feel loved and cherished.
You see, I remember being you. I remember worrying about everything from bullying to home readers and lost hats. I remember arbitrating friendship fall-outs and watching my baby boy forget his bravery at night when he still needed his stuffed Liony and a hall light left on.
I learned so many things over my many years as a mother of school kids. What I have not learned is how to let go at the end of it all.
You see, mums and dads, there will come a time when you have to navigate an even bigger farewell than the school gate, the school camp or the sleepover.
My eldest son is about to move out of home to go to university.
Living in a rural area means that leaving home is the only way he can continue tertiary study apart from studying via correspondence.
None of us are ready.
We have all, our son, his father, his brothers and I had a few unplanned and unpredictable teary moments. Those tears come unbidden and a simple ‘family one liner’ or the realisation that it will be mid semester when it is his Dad’s birthday can stop us in our tracks. We are acutely aware as the deadline looms that nothing will ever be the same.
Tomorrow will be our last family dinner in the same way it has always been. Tomorrow will be the last time (for some time at least) where his naughty dog will leap on the dining table to jump into his arms. Tomorrow I will pack his worldly possessions and send him into a world that he is probably not ready for.
I know that children are only loaned to us, that we teach them, love them and let them go. As Khalil Gibran says "you are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth". We know that we have given him a good foundation of supportive love and that our boy will return to the fold as a man, adding new richness to our family story.
And yet....once he was a little boy obsessed with Thomas The Tank Engine. Once he could name every dinosaur.
Believe all those old aunties and nannas who tell you 'it goes so fast ' and 'blink and you'll miss it' because the cliches are painfully true.
So, while you new school mums and dads are busy battling nits, squashed bag bananas and the exhaustion that comes with realising that kindergarten is every-single-day, spare a thought for those of us who are about to send our kids out there (with a 'Liony' secretly packed in his suitcase) on a new journey.
Jowen Hillyer is a 44-year-old Australian mother of three.