Singing the Pre-K Blues

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The Storm clouds begin to gather

Uh oh, I thought, seeing my son’s teacher pop up on my caller ID.

We are three days into Pre-K, and I thought things were going well. He woke up at 5:45 on Monday morning and came into our room to report on all the lights he’d turned on and the whereabouts of all the pets. He was ready to start the day. Tuesday had some speed bumps, but we made it fine. Wednesday, he was hesitant, but happy at drop-off. I thought he was headed for a good day.

The difficulty started with messages from his very patient, saintly teacher saying Phineas is feeling a little sad today, and he wanted to send you a picture. Can you send one back? I sent a selfie of my mother and I waving to him, and later a picture from Daddy at work. That has cheered him up, she said.

But then the phone rang, and an apologetic teacher explained he is sad, and hearing my voice might help him calm his body down for rest time.  Swallowing my heart at the sound of my baby’s sobs, I comforted him through the phone as best as I could: “It’s okay to be sad, but I’ll see you soon. I’m proud of you. I love you.” You know, the important things. But we hung up not knowing if it was going to help. 

Separation Anxiety kicks in

My son is not exactly a stranger to daycare. He has spent more of his short life in all-day care than with family during the day. Drop off was rarely very dramatic, and often he barely would remember to say goodbye before going to play with friends. In fact, his ability to play independently and go with teachers or caregivers without hesitation has always been a bit of a relief, because separation anxiety or shyness just was not a thing we had to deal with.

But then maybe that was because he was used to it. That was before Coronavirus. Before quarantine. Before he was pulled out of 9-hours of daycare to be exposed to the joys of full 24-7 access to Mommy and TV and his home. 

My child has gone quarantine-soft.

At his young age, what he is currently experiencing tends to be his image of reality. For months his world consisted of full access to milk, juice, and snacks, all the PJ Masks and Peppa Pig he could watch, and a mother and a grandmother at his beck and call. Without very much (heeded) warning, the poor child was ripped out of his comfort zone and has been cast back out into the cold, hard world of NOT having Mommy on retainer.

No matter how much we tried to build up excitement for school and celebrate his leveling up, he was not able to comprehend how different it would be from The Before Times, and he has struggled a bit to adapt.

I don’t blame him for struggling. It’s honestly been a little hard for me, too.

Of all the things that have happened because of COVID, one of the few benefits to families has been an increase in quality time. I don’t miss commutes, and I don’t miss dropping my child off for 8-9 hours a day. (Not gonna lie, I don’t miss the daycare bill, either). I have loved the spontaneous hugs and dance parties and quality time I’ve been able to soak up over these last 4 months, and I know he has, too. 

As we were preparing to start on his educational adventure, for which I’d been planning since I was pregnant over 4 years ago, I had focused on the new friends, the super cool playground, the exercise, the fun educational activities. It never occurred to me that he would struggle or miss me. Or that I would find the (finally!) quiet house a bit too quiet.

This year will definitely have its challenges. We all know that. We all know that grace is required for the teachers, for the staff, and for the parents. I suppose it should have been obvious that grace will be required for the little people starting off on a grand adventure through this new world, especially when some of their paths temporarily branch away from ours and into the Unknown. 

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