We had a busy and fun summer but my kids were excited to be heading back to school. This is a big year for us: my 8-year old is entering grade 3, the first year where standardize testing takes place; my 6-year old is moving into grade 1, full-day school, lunch away from home and a step toward a more structured classroom environment; my 3-year old is starting school for the first time, venturing on her own and leaving me without any kids in the afternoon.
My two oldest were great. They headed into the school yard without even a glance back. My 3-year old, who attends school in the afternoon, was disappointed that she couldn’t go into school with her siblings; she wanted to start school now.
When my two older kids entered school I wasn’t too worried about how they’d adjust; they are both outgoing like their dad. My 3-year old is more like me, content to be on her own and somewhat overwhelmed by new people and new environments. I sort of expected that her first day of school would be one of those stereotypical crying and fussing about leaving me but then she went to summer camp. My shy, introverted little girl spent 5 days, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for 4 weeks at camp without me. She loved it.
When September arrived my concerns about my 3-year old adjusting to school subsided. Even her first day of school, with both me and her dad there to see her off, she was in the school without a second thought. Yes! This last trip through kindergarten will be much smoother than I thought.
Famous last words.
Day two. A completely different story. My 3-year old was fine when we arrived before the bell, she even played hopscotch with some of the other girls, but when the bell rang and the kids were lining up she didn’t want to line-up with them. As all the other kids walked in my 3-year old stood behind me, gripping on my leg. Eventually her teacher was able to lure her in with the promise of a new smelly markers in the writing center.
Day three. The morning was great but as we sat down to lunch my daughter confessed she didn’t want to go to school. In the playground she relaxed a little when she recognized some of her friends but as soon as the bell rang the leg grabbing started again. This time I was able to persuade her to go into the class, walking in with her friend.
Day four. This was the hardest day. My daughter was fine in the school yard though I couldn’t convince her to play with the kids at all. The bell rang and her little hands wrapped around my legs but this time she wouldn’t let go. Her teacher and the teaching assistant couldn’t get her in without prying her off of me. I left with her crying and pleading not to go. It was awful. Even writing about it now upsets me so.
I may have lamented in the past about my two older kids venturing off into the next stage of their lives without so much as a tear or glance back. But now that I’ve experienced that reluctance, I still felt sad, a gut wrenching sadness. I would rather feel the mom sadness you feel as your child moves on without your assistance over the sadness you feel because your child is unhappy.
At the end of school she was fine. Her teacher said she was fine the first few minutes she entered the classroom. I expected that much; that’s the only reason I could walk away from her with tears in her eyes earlier that day. I hope, for both her sake and mine, things get easier; I’m sure I won’t feel this way at the time, but right now I look forward to the day when my daughter rushes into the playground to join her friends and I’m a second thought.
I knew having kids would be hard but I guess ignorantly I thought it would get easier after three kids, easier as they get older. The opposite seems to be true.
Today is another school day. Only time will tell if it starts off with tears or smiles. I’ll probably be sad either way.