Ever since we returned to preschool from the holidays, DD has been having issues. In short, she doesn’t want to be there anymore. Last term went without a hitch, not a tear was shed, and she looked forward to school every day. But ever since we got back, it’s been getting worse and worse.
There are a few factors that might be involved: the holidays were a long 3 weeks: an eternity to a 3 year old. I didn’t anticipate that she might need me to help her acclimatize again. So I dropped her off and left shortly afterwards even though she asked me to stay. The next day she got sick. The week after I was sick. Basically, she didn’t get a full week (four days for her) at school for some time. Each day it was more difficult for me to leave: I had to ask a teacher to help distract her. Then DH took her one day and she cried wanting to go home (which he did) Finally, DD was adamant that I not leave. She insisted, in her 3 year old “speaking in code” way, that the only way she would go to school is if I stayed with her the whole time. I figured okay, I’ll do this a couple times and she’ll be fine.
This brings us to last week. I spent Monday and Tuesday with her, and spent the whole time in a corner knitting. So we prepared for me to not stay the next day. I talked to her about it, she wasn’t happy. Then she wakes up with a fever of 102. Damn. All that preparation and we stayed home. As usual she recovered fast and so finally, on Thursday, yesterday, we went.
All day she was saying she didn’t want to go to school. The closer we got the more she said it. By the time we went into the classroom, she was bawling. I looked pleadingly to the teacher for help. She suggested that I just go and wait in the observation room to see what happens. I had suggested to DD that I might stay a bit, and so this felt like a bit of a betrayal, but at this point I was at a loss. Why I couldn’t just walk away with DD I don’t know…Anyways, I did what the teacher suggested. I quickly said goodbye, and handed her over, rushing into the 1-way mirrored, wired-for-one-way-sound observation room. I watched DD crying for me hysterically, saying she wanted mama and wanted to go home. She did that for about 4 or 5 minutes by my watch. Then she began to get interested in what the teacher was doing. This was her favorite teacher, someone she knows and trusts, and she was sitting in her lap the whole time. But she would stop crying only to start again. That went on for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, my squirming 15 month old (DH is out of town) is running around so I’m not able to stay in the room continuously. But while I watch, my heart is torn apart.
I have never done this before. I have never so completely disregarded my DD’s feelings. I have spent my whole parenting life focussed on a philosophy that honours kids’ feelings, and doesn’t believe in “trial by fire”. And yet here I was, watching her crying for me after I “abandoned” her. It all felt wrong, but then I kept thinking about what I’d read that kids need to know that they can come through strong emotions and be okay at the end. What I was conveniently forgetting is that the child isn’t expected to do that without their trusted parent beside them. What I was watching smacked too much of “she’ll get over it” and “she has to learn”. It just all felt wrong and I was completely at a loss as to what I needed to do. Mostly because I didn’t understand the problem: why this sudden trauma? So I didn’t know what it would take to “cure” it. One day of that was bearable, barely. How many more days of that would we be expected to endure? And with each day, what if it didn’t get better? What if, after days of this bawling, I finally decide to quit. What damage have I done by then?
After the initial 15 min of crying she allowed teacher to take her to her cubby, a little room that is off from the classroom where they were essentially alone. I heard DD chatting away and laughing with teacher. The rest of the day she was happy and fine.
Teacher thinks that DD is finally “noticing” that there are other children in the class, and wondering if and how she could join them, or whether she should, etc. Her first social challenge. Teacher thinks if she and DD work together they can get through this. I know teacher thinks I should just dump her off crying for a while to see how it goes. I told her that what we just did was extremely hard on me and I didn’t know if I could do that much more. Teacher asked how long I was willing to give it a go, and I said let’s do next week, especially since DD has yet to have four full days in a row at school. Teacher said to enjoy the weekend and not talk about it with DD until Monday.
All day and night I worried and played this over and over in my head. I didn’t know what to do. I just knew that it felt WRONG to leave her like that. That it was against everything I believed in as a parent. And I had to ask myself, what am I afraid of? Being a preschool dropout? The disapproval of the teachers, who I will probably never see again? The feeling that I copped out, and cheated my daughter out of a Life Experience?
Well, this morning I finally decided I just couldn’t do it. DD had been announcing “I am NOT going to school ever again!” at random intervals. Finally while we were playing calmly I said “DD, on Monday when we are supposed to go to school, I know you don’t want to go, but would you go if I went with you and stayed the whole time?”. Without even hesitating, and without the slightest trace of a pout she said “yes!…and you won’t leave to go run errands?”. No honey. I will stay the whole time.
And as soon as I said that I felt such relief. Such peace in my heart. THIS is the right thing. I don’t believe this is anything DD just HAS to work through now. If it is a social thing, I’ll do what I did before with playdates and just BACK OFF until she’s had a chance to mature a bit. She can try school again in September. This is so not necessary, this preschool. [i]We did this for fun!![/i]. And it is not worth the trauma of having her “cry it out” to get through it. I have to overcome my fears of what other people think of me, and do what I know is best for my daughter.
On Monday I’m going to go with DD, and we’ll do it just as we did when school started. I never told DD that I would be leaving her at school. I went with her, and then would go out “just for a minute”, then for longer, until eventually I could go for the whole time and she was fine. Not a tear. So that is what we are going to do.
If it is a “social” thing, a new stage in her development, then she needs ME there. Not a teacher. ME. That’s why I am a SAHM. So I can guide my children through these situations. And if that is what she needs I don’t know if she can find it there. Better to do this with her, with kids of my choosing, and group sizes of my choosing.
And if it is just that I rushed her into me leaving, then we should be able to work past it. And if that is NOT it, or if she needs more time to work through it, then we are going to quit preschool. Frankly, it would be a relief and part of me almost hopes we will, except that I would love to have that little girl back who loved school and couldn’t wait to go each day.
Teacher told me that her son had cried at drop off all through preschool, kindergarten, and grade 1. As if this was supposed to somehow make me feel better. I don’t know if he cried hard, the way DD did, but all I could think of was “well, you didn’t have a choice. You worked full time and you had no choice. I have a choice, and we don’t need to do this.” And we won’t. Never again am I going to do that to my child. If she is that upset, then we just don’t go. Period.