Today’s ‘Parenting Styles’ post could not resonate with me more. Our youngest son, M, will also have his first drop-off experience this fall… and I’m so anxious. Like you wouldn’t think a mama going through it for the third time would be.
The thing is, the baby of our family is used to being just that- the baby.
He’s used to being doted on and constantly surrounded by siblings and parents. This fall not only will his beloved sis (and best bud) be leaving him in the dust as she heads off to elementary school to join their big brother, he’ll also be dropped off somewhere completely new… and completely alone.
My heart hurts a little just thinking about it.
But I know it will also be good for so many reasons. It’ll be his first chance to socialize with kids his own age and it’ll be the first thing that’s all his.
Like a lot of families, we go around the dinner table each night stating our highs, lows, and something we’re thankful for. 2 1/2-year-old M has just started to join us in this tradition and it’s so ridiculously cute listening to him come up with the best thing about his day. Part of me can’t wait to hear about “Baby’s New School” during dinnertime come fall.
Here’s our contributor, Jessica, with her take on her 4-year-old venturing off on his own next week…
It’s bedtime – past bedtime – and my four year old whispers with tears in his eyes.
“Mama. Can we talk?”
I climb into his bed, snuggling that warm, familiar little body, running my hand across his back and breathing him in.
“What’s up, buddy?”
He’s silent for a second, shaking his head.
“I’m just not ready for preschool,” he whispers. “What am I going to do when you get in the car and drive away without me?”
He’s four, soon to be five, and because we delayed kindergarten, this will be his very first experience being away from us. Literally, his first experience away from me and his dad without the security and familiarity of at least one sibling, outside of hanging solo with his uncle or grandparents for a few hours.
He’ll be on his own, and he’s “super double scared” about it.
At the same age, his older brother and sister had been in preschool for ages. Postponing things for him means he can articulate his anxiety so clearly it’s heartbreaking.
I know he’s scared, and for a few weeks, his anxiety was bleeding out. Everywhere. During his karate class, he was keeping a close eye on me, making sure I wasn’t going anywhere. When I dropped everyone off with my mom so I could have a few hours of kid-free time to work, he ran after me, asking for “one more hug” five, six, seven times.
His concern about the first day of preschool – just a few days away now – is hard on me, too. Intellectually, I know he’s ready for this. He’s bored with just me at home, he’s ready for a little more independence, socialization, all the good things that come from some structured time away from his mama.
But emotionally, I feel torn apart. I want to scoop him up and tell him he never has to go, that I would never drive away and leave him behind, crying and scared.
Instead, I model good behavior, racking my brain to say all the right things. When he says he isn’t brave enough for preschool, I tell him that being brave is when you’re scared to do something, but you do it anyway.
I tell him that I’ve been scared to try something new too. Many times.
I tell him that I’m so proud of him, that I know he’s ready, even if he thinks he isn’t.
I tell him I can’t wait to pick him up after school and hear all about his first day.
I tell him that it’s okay to cry, that his teacher knows just how to make him feel better, and that all the other kids will be feeling the same way he does.
I’ve been dreading his first day and doing my very best to mask it. We’ve toured the school, and I’ve been to the new parent orientation. We bought him new shoes for his first day, and we’re heading out to buy him a new backpack and lunchbox too.
We talk about it during the day, and he’s moved to being pragmatic, shrugging his shoulders.
“Well, I may cry, but it’s okay. And you’ll come back, right mama?”
But some nights, by just the glow of his nightlight, his fears get the best of him and he sobs, clinging to me, telling me he doesn’t want me to leave him.
Today, I overheard him tell his papa that yeah, he’s really starting preschool. I eavesdropped shamelessly, wanting to hear his characterization of this exciting, frightening new event.
“Am I hearing this correctly?” his papa asked, feigning disbelief. “Are you such a big boy now that it’s time for you to start school?”
“I’m going on Tuesday,” my son replied. “My mom will come back after lunch.”
No tears, no panic – just the facts. I can’t tell you how much I really, really needed to hear that. It’s a sign that my words are sinking in, that intellectually he understands, even if emotionally he’s still scared.
Change is hard, but soon preschool won’t be new. Soon, his first day, week, month – they’ll be behind us. And he’ll be this worldly little preschooler, and I’ll remember that it’s the hard stuff that helps us grow.
Him, and me too.
More Preschooler Posts from MPMK
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