Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This Particular Torture

Tucking Mia into bed last night, I knew that this morning was going to be a rough one.

"Mom, I'm NOT going to go to school tomorrow, OK?" she demanded. "If I say I'm not, you just say 'Oh, alright', OK? And I'll just stay home, OK?" Her eyes were stubborn, but veiled with worry.

Not wanting to immediately squash her trust, I hedged around a direct answer. "Why not, sweetie? Why don't you want to go to school?"

"I just don't....I don't...like it anymore." she said. "So don't take me, OK?"

"Honey," I placated, "I'm sorry you don't want to go, but we have to. Besides, all your friends will be there waiting for you. You might get to do Play-doh, and..."

"NO!"

I tried to end the conversation as smoothly as possible, without it disintegrating into an outright argument. She accepted the end of the discussion and went to sleep, peacefully. I, on the other hand, did not. I worried and wondered and thought long into the night about what might be causing her to suddenly not like school anymore. Nothing came to mind, but that didn't turn off my worry switch, either.

This morning was a repeat of the night before, but more adamantly.

Don't pack my lunch, mama, I WON'T go to school.

I'll put my shoes on, but I'm just staying home today, OK?

If you try to leave me there, I'll just run after you. I WON'T let you go.

I'm NOT getting in the car!

You can take Lauren inside, Mom, but not me. I'm just NOT going to school.

Until finally, after forcibly removing her from her carseat in the school parking lot, she buried her face in my neck as I walked her into the classroom. No longer protesting, just blindly hoping that by clinging to me, she'd be able to keep me. Attached to my chest like a baby gorilla, she held on tight while I put away her backpack and lunchbox. She held on tight when I pulled out a chair for her to sit at the table. She held on tighter when I tried to sit her down, and I caught a glimpse of her face, fighting back tears. Seeing her eyes that were trying so hard not to cry just about broke me. Her situation-avoiding silence turned to pleading whines. With tears coming then to my own eyes, I almost stood up and walked her back to the car, back to the house where we could spend the morning together. But knowing that wasn't the right thing to do today, I began disentangling myself from her grip, promising to be back very soon. She used all her strength to keep herself in my arms, until I had to drag myself down and out of her tiny grasp to leave the room. Then, the whining and fussing turned to sobs.

"I want my maaaaamaaaa!" she screamed. Her teacher picked her up and Mia clung just as tightly to her, still sobbing and crying for me as I walked down the hall. I plastered myself against a wall, waiting to see if she'd stop crying, but not knowing what I'd do if she didn't -- I couldn't waste all the hard work of leaving her by going to comfort her again. I felt my face get hot as I tried in vain to stop myself from crying with her.

My big girl...I'd thought she was past this. She's gone so long without any hiccup that I'd assumed she would be fine from here on out. But, I'd forgotten the lesson we'd begun to learn together in babyhood: don't get too comfortable (or too worried, for that matter), because this season will change. This phase will pass. Another will emerge, shredding the routine or confidence you thought would last forever.

Why would I believe that raising a child would be any different than any other aspect of life? Everything in life is a toss-up. Nothing is always certain. To assume upon completing a specific task or phase in parenting my children that it was taken care of forever, is just foolish . But knowing that doesn't change the torture of listening to my daughter cry out for me after being left at school. Knowing she'll settle into the day and have fun doesn't change the fact that I felt I'd abandoned her and broken her trust. Knowing I can't let her demands override the fact that school is a must doesn't erase the memory of her fingers scrabbling for a grip on my retreating body.

And it opens my decisions up to questioning: Is preschool really a must? Why? Why isn't her trust in me more important than her getting to play with other kids at this young age? School will happen for so many years...why does it have to begin so soon? When she's still clinging to her mother?

I'll just do my best to remember: This is a phase that will pass. Stopping myself from wondering, but what will it leave in it's wake?, will be the more difficult part.

18 comments:

  1. my 2 younger sons (3 and 5) HATED I mean HATED every single day of preschool last year. They cried and pleaded every single day and every day was misery every single morning. They never got over it like other kids seem to do and one day skip happily into school...no. They never did that. I am not sure if they even benefited from preschool last year or not.

    This year the 5 year old is now 6 and in K. He doesn't like school at all but he goes now without crying and knows he has to go. There isn't much of a debate any more. But, school is hard for him.

    The then 3 year old is now 4 and is now in a more relaxed half day nursery school. Last year's school was more of a formal preschool and longer hours. He hates this school too. He doesn't cry anymore either but he tells me every day he hates it still. He would rather not go.

    My personal op is that no-- preschool isn't necessary. For me its a hassle almost. If you have a big family with kids close in age and of the same gender I think they can just stay home and play with each other and teach them some things like writing and letters in their own time.

    Everyone has their own reasons though for sending kids to prek so its always a personal decision. Its a very hard decision too! I go back and forth on it all the time.

    Some people are very adamant that preschool is necessary though. I understand why they think that and understand where they are coming from and see their reasons as perfectly fine but for myself I am on the fence and not fully convinced that it is necessary.

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  2. Hmm, a few thoughts:
    1) Uck - been there, done that, and I know it's heartwrenching. But
    2) she's old enough to remember details now - if you cave once she'll try harder for you to cave again, and
    3) maybe it's not such a big deal for preschool, but the principle is a big deal, in the sense that how will you handle it when she wants to stay home from kindergarten? 2nd grade?
    4) She's also ripe for a fresh round of separation anxiety. We're dealing with that with our almost-4, and it's tough. But here's the advice I have:
    5) go get the book 'The Kissing Hand' - it'll help. Promise.

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  3. Oh...this was HEARTBREAKING to read! I'm so glad Lily's not there yet...and I thought packing away her baby clothes was sad!

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  4. Wow, that is so tough. I am not sure that if I'd been in that situation I'd have been able to do what you did.

    Although I'm sure that you did the right thing in the way of teaching the you-can't-plead-your-way-out-of-school lesson, given that it's so hard on both of you and she is very young, I'd save it until it's actually necessary.

    (Down with preschool!) :)

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  5. That was heartbreaking! I have never thought that Preschool was needed, is it ok to ask why it would be?

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  6. I wish I had more time to comment. But, what do YOU want to do? I have some opinions and will just offer the option of you emailing me if you'd like. ((HUGS))

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  7. Oh, I am so sorry.
    I did that every day for 3 months for my pre-school son. (We finally figured the pre-school was a bad fit and pulled him.)

    This year in K he was totally fine. For the first three months anyway.
    Then he reverted. FOR NO REASON AT ALL.
    So I hear ya.
    Totally.

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  8. The Kissing Hand, excellent. So are the other books, one about bullies (uhmm, maybe that's just for me!), siblings, and moving. We have read them all and they have brought out some good questions.

    Tyler fought when we moved him to one where I was not his teacher and it was bigger. Isaac cried every day for 3 months and then each time after we had a long break, and I was in the same building!!!

    I don't know if it is necessary, I agree it would depend on the situation and the child's temperament. If you are simply doing it for the social skills, maybe there is another route you can take that she is more comfortable with. On the other hand, do you feel this will help the adjustment to "real" school?

    (I was a pre school teacher, so of course I am for it, on most levels, but there are those cases where the child is simply not ready yet, and then do just fine in Kindergarten)

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  9. Ella went through a time like this - it is so hard! Hang in there!

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  10. Heartbreaking.
    I am not ready for those school days. I am not ready to leave my little ones. The few days of daycare during the deployment were enough for me... They did fine. I, however, wondered all day if they were ok. Then when I picked them up, I felt empty and lost. They'd spent hours away from me, hours I'd never get back, hours that I have no clue what they did.

    Sending prayers that this phase gets easier, and leaves gentle hugs in its wake.
    :)

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  11. Oh, so hard! It does seem like you did right in not caving... and yet I'm with you on wondering how necessary preschool is. My husband insists that when we have kids we'll be enrolling them in Montessori school by age 3 - but I really don't feel comfortable with that. If the reason I won't be working is to stay home and be with the kids, essentially teaching them daily, why would we spend a lot of money for them to "socialize" with kids whose families we know nothing about? Like you said, they'll be in school for years - isn't it more important to spend time with their mother before this?

    But these are all musings from an as-yet-childless woman, so they're not worth much :)

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  12. Our 3.5 year old just started the SAME phase last week and I was shocked. She is the one that has told me thus far, "Mama, just so you know. I want you to leave when we get to school. Some of my friends miss their moms, but I don't so it's okay for you to leave." So I was quite shocked with this new stage.

    I keep reminding myself about how positive preschool as been thus far. What she has gained from it socially & emotionally. We've read the Kissing Hand and I draw a heart on her hand each morning...and give the heart a kiss. This way she can give her hand (me) a kiss whenever she needs one. And to make myself feel better, I say a few extra guardian angel prayers to her angel, and I say some extra Hail Marys, asking the Blessed Mother to wrap her mantle around our daughter.

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  13. Oh this broke my heart as well. I'm pretty sure that was a daily battle with my mother when I was that age and yes, she let me skip preschool sometimes and well I think I turned out alright ha ha....sorry probably not much help but you are a wonderful mother and you know what's best for your child. Keep on keepin on.

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  14. I had one child who cried at drop-off for a month of Mother's Day Out. I hated it, but I knew I needed the time, and she eventually loved going. But, preschool is not essential for any child. My three (currently) youngest children have not gone to any preschool or mother's day out. But, next fall, if we can afford it, my (currently) 4 yo and 2 yo will go twice a week. But that is for me, as much as them, and if they hate it then they won't go and we'll all be fine. You have to make a decision for each child.

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  15. This is something every parent deals with no matter what age you send them. It really is NOT that big of a deal.

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  16. Anon - It may not be that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, you're right. But to me, in this season, it IS a big deal. After all, I've never done this before. So the fact that every other parent deals with these things too, well, that doesn't really help me through the situation. That's why I wrote about it: because it feels good to get it off my chest, even though nothing is solved through doing so. And since every decision I make for my children is important to me (like most other parents, I'm sure), this one is no different. But thank you for your encouragement that this too, shall pass.

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  17. I feel kind of silly even writing you about this, being "all grown up now," but I still remember one day when I was in preschool I absolutely did not want to go. There was no specific reason for not wanting to go - no one was picking on me, I loved my teachers, I loved school. I cried for at least an hour while my mom stayed with me, trying to convince me to stay, that it would be ok. Finally, my mom gave in and let me go home. As were our house rules then, I had to come home, change into PJs, and spend the day in bed - cause the only acceptable reason for staying home was if you were sick. And I remember, even now, that I was ok with that. I just spent the day with my mom. After that one day of staying home, I was fine and ready to go back. Maybe it just got to be too much? I don't know. One of the families that I babysat for as a teenager allowed their children 2 days/school year to just stay home if they were getting overwhelmed. I know that a lot of parents would not agree with that (but they did have ground rules, it couldn't be used to avoid a test, or because the kids forgot to do their homework), but I think it was a good idea. We expect a lot from our kids. I'm not saying that any of this was the reason for your little girl's wanting to stay home, and obviously parents know their own children and what is right for them much more than some random person on the internet. I just wanted to share my own story.

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?