Last week we started preschool.
Our preschool does gradual start dates, so only a couple of kids start at a time…which I love. It’s far less stressful for EVERYONE (parents, kids and teachers) to slowly grow the class instead of having 15 toddlers showing up on the same day and trying to adjust all at once. Start date is determined by age, and since Avery is on the older side of the class, he was in the first group to start.
We were told at the new parents orientation dinner (yes, we had to go to a new parent’s orientation dinner) that kids usually take 1-2 weeks to transition and to clear our schedules and prepare to stay at the school all day until they are transitioned completely. I cleared my schedule, and was ready to tag along by Avery’s side until he was completely comfortable.
We have been reading books about going to school for the past couple of weeks to get him used to the idea. (You can check out our favorites here.) And I’ve been talking to him about what’s going to happen. I told him that mommy would come to his new school with him until he felt like he didn’t need me to be there with him, then I would drop him off and come back when school was over and he was done playing. He was on board with this idea. I was on board with this idea.
What I wasn’t prepared for, was for him to tell me he didn’t need me anymore ON THE FIRST DAY! I told him I had to stay because all the mommies and daddies stay the first day. This seemed to settle his urge to fly solo. Until day number two, when he let me know (yet again) on the car ride there that he was a.o.k without me and that I could go and come back when he was all done. I told him (yet again) that all the mommies and daddies would stay for the second day. I was prepared to stay all day.
However, as soon as we found his cubby and signed in, he was off playing happily in the school yard and his lead teacher was instantly by my side asking to talk about our plan for the day. I was expecting her to say something along the lines of let’s have you hang back and just see how he does with you not always in sight. What I wasn’t prepared for was for her to say, ok, so let’s have you leave and come back about 15 minutes before the end of school. What?! It’s day 2?! Yesterday he forgot to drink water and didn’t know where the drinking fountain was. He’s not ready. I’m not ready!
We talked about my reservations and I admitted that while I knew deep down that my strong, independent secure little dude was 100% ready to fly solo (considering he told me so himself) I was not ready to let go, to trust, to leave. We settled on me leaving for an hour and coming back before the transition to snack time. I agreed and reluctantly forced myself to walk out the school gate. Admittedly I didn’t go far. Ok, fine, I made it to the park next to the school where I could still watch the schoolyard like a creepy stalker through the fence.
I called my mom. Cried a little. Then forced myself to try to get some work done. And then I came back 15 minutes before they told me to. Avery briefly looked up when he saw I was back, smiled and continued playing happily with his new friends and teachers.
After story and snack, I was hanging out with some parents watching Avery play when he looked at me and said, “mommy why don’t you make a train track.” Assuming that was his way of asking me to play with him, I asked if he wanted to play trains with me. To which the little stinker replied, “no, I want YOU to GO and play trains.” You see…he didn’t want to play WITH me…he was ever so sweetly trying to encourage me to go and find something else to do so that he could play with his friends WITHOUT me. I was instantly struck by both the sweetness of him trying to find something to make me happy on my own and his insistence YET AGAIN that he DID NOT NEED ME.
Overhearing this lovely exchange, his teacher came over yet again and said, “why don’t we try again.” She suggested I head out for the remaining hour and a half of school and come back right before closing circle time. Feeling like that crazy mom that refuses to leave her child, hovering like a noisy helicopter, I grabbed my bag and walked out the gate. This time I didn’t even make it across the street. I sat on the bench next to the front gate. I was out of sight and technically off school property. But I knew deep down that I was 100% completely “that mom.”
I had not only been kicked out by the teachers, but also my toddler.
The truth is I’m not incredibly overprotective. I let Avery play and explore on his own. I let him jump off the top step on the swing set and learn how to fall on his face and try again. I let him ride up the street on his bike and trust that he knows to stop before the intersection. I let him have freedom. BUT, I have spent almost every single second of every minute of every hour of every day with him for the first three years of his life.
We don’t have a nanny, we don’t have a regular babysitter, we don’t have family around to leave him with on occasion. He is with me all day, every day. And while at times it’s exhausting, it is also amazing. I know him better than anyone. I know when he needs something. I know when he is thirsty or hungry or tired or starting to come down with a cold. I know when he needs to go potty, needs to take a rest or needs a hug. I know what he needs. And these new teachers…well they don’t. I also know that he is smart and independent and a great communicator. I know that he can speak up for himself and ask for what he needs. I know that…but it still requires an incredible amount of trust and faith to let go and know that he will be alright. To trust that he is ready.
What if he falls. What if he hurts himself? What if he cries and asks for mommy and I’m not there. What if he’s thirsty but can’t find the water and doesn’t know to ask? What if?!?!
Even writing it, I know these questions are somewhat silly. If he falls, he will be ok. If he gets hurt, they will make it all better. If he cries for me and I’m not there, he knows that “mommy ALWAYS comes back.” If he’s thirsty, he will ask for water.
My fears and insecurities are exactly that MINE. You see, I know that once he goes to school, I am one step closer to NOT being the most influential person in his life. I am one step closer to being pushed aside in favor of the thoughts and opinions of his peers and favorite teachers. I won’t always get to be the one he looks to when he wants to know the truth. Like when his dad tells
him the answer to a question and he re-asks me trusting that only MOMMY knows the real answer to everything. I love being his protector, his safety, his question-answerer. And I’m not ready to give up my reign as THE #1 influence in his little blue eyes.
Tomorrow morning I will bring my excited toddler back to his new school with a knot in the pit of my stomach. Because I know that I will be asked to leave again. I’ll be asked to try to let go. I’ll be asked to turn and walk away. And despite my fears and insecurities, I will do it. Or try to. Ok fine, I’ve already decided I’m just going to bring my laptop and sit right outside the school gate again. Baby steps. I will eventually go for real. And I will eventually enjoy having that time to myself. I have to. Well kind of – it’s a coop so once the kids are all transitioned, twice a month I can come into the classroom as the working parent. That’s my silver lining. My safety net.
If I can just walk away for two weeks, then I get to come back. Until then, well, wish me luck.