I’m a stay at home mom to two awesome little people. My little guy is a sweet 6 month old and my daughter is a funny and smart newly four year old. A few months back, while looking at options for preschool next year, I found out that our school district is going to all day preschool across the board. Cue panic attack. Begin cold sweat. Induce full blown mama freak out. I could not, for the life of me, imagine sending my baby to school for the very first time all day long, 5 days per week. I decided to get her into some sort of structured learning program to ease her- and me- into the idea of being away from home.
Right about that time, a friend posted about a new one day Montessori school downtown. I love the Montessori philosophy, and I also loved the idea of one 9-2:30 day per week to get us started. We checked out the open house, fell in love with the teachers, and registered.
My girl was excited to start school! She requested that both the hubs and myself drop her off, and we were happy to oblige. She marched right in, yoga mat, lunch box, and blanket in tow!
We did a quick and happy goodbye, and she was off- tear free! I went to my car and cried for an hour over how big she was getting and how she didn’t need me. I also secretly patted myself on the back for raising such an independent little girl (which is probably the moment mommy karma decided I needed a big ol’ slap in the face).
When I picked her up, she reported that she had a great day. The next couple of times, she was apprehensive about drop off but it wasn’t until two weeks later when I spoke to her teachers privately that they told me she was crying for me inconsolably off and on throughout the school day. My heart broke! I have never been one to let my children cry. I firmly believed that us moms are the only experts on our own children, and that we each have the ability to decide what is best for our specific child. But this had me wondering if my choices had created a kid who couldn’t function without me. I wondered if my staying home, bed-sharing and extended breastfeeding had, in fact, stunted her emotional and social development. I wondered if I had been completely wrong.
My mind was all over the map the next couple of days trying to get a plan together. My husband and I discussed pulling her out of school and trying again later, but ultimately decided against it. We agreed to stick it out a few more weeks and then re-evaluate.
To help my daughter, we checked out a children’s book on separation anxiety from the library. I also had a pocket sized photo book printed that included pictures of her and all of her favorite people for her to look through if she missed us. We turned to our trusty friend Daniel Tiger to remind her that “gro-own ups come baaaack”. We even planned a fun princess picnic for after school so that she would have something to look forward to.
The next Wednesday morning, my husband called and said drop off was terrible. She clung to her car seat. She tried to run out of the building. She screamed for my husband not to leave. It. Was. The. Worst. My mama heart couldn’t handle it, and I loaded up the baby in the car to go get her. I called about halfway there to check on her. They told me she had calmed down right after he left and was painting happily. I turned the car around and went home.
I arrived at the school a bit early for pick up and one of her teachers met me at the door. I could have kissed her on the mouth when she told me my daughter had had a fabulous, tear free day. Thank you, Lord! That day was a serious turning point…and I had been this close to pulling the plug on the whole thing.
Since that day, she runs into school at drop off. She tells me all about her “3 BFFs”, the lessons she’s learning, and is asking if she can go 5 days a week. (What the what?!) I am so thankful for her teachers for sticking it out with her, and I’m so stinking proud of my little lady for being brave and doing hard things. This mom gig is hard. Just about the time you think you have a handle on it, something is bound to happen that knocks the wind right out of you. I still don’t know where she will go to school next year. I don’t know if we will have another run in with separation anxiety when she moves on to a new class, but…if we do, I know we can get through it, and be all the better for it.
Have your kids experienced separation anxiety? What tips do you have for getting through it?