Wednesday 9 April 2014

Cutting the Umbilical Cord - First Day of Preschool

A mother needs to be needed.  When you have young children, as much as sometimes you want to just have a moment alone - even if it's just to use the washroom, your children need you all the time.  They need you to feed them.  They need you to wash them.  They need you to change their clothes and their diapers.  They need you to play with them.  They need you to watch them play.  They need you to wipe their nose, and other things.  They need you to keep them safe.  

For Stay-At-Home-Moms, this is a constant need.  However, for working mothers, like myself, at some point, you need someone else to take care of these needs.  Not that you want to.  You need to be needed.  I admire the patience and courage of SAHMs.  Having taken time with each of my children after they were born, I know how much work it is and how rewarding it is.  But I also know how isolating it can feel.  No matter how many mommy groups I've joined.  I need more intellectual stimulation than my children and mommy groups and Dora the Explorer can offer me.  I need to work.

And I'm a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child.  There are people who are better qualified (and who have more patience and skill) to teach my children.  And the quality time I get to spend with them, having a fulfilled and intellectually stimulating life outside of the home, is all the more precious to all of us.

My son, my first born, started preschool at a tender young age.  He wasn't potty trained yet, but he was walking and starting to talk.  And he was very needy.  I tried not to coddle him, but I suspect his father did a little to much.  We'd done a few play dates at the nursery, he'd had occasions to play with other children his age.  And he'd always done OK.  He was attached, but not so much that he couldn't play on his own.

And yet, on the first day of school, as I was leaving and he realized I wasn't going to stay, he cried.  Sobbed.  Kicked.  Screamed.

They advise you just to leave.  They tell you even before that first day.  The preschool lady laid it all out.  If you stay, it will just make the separation even worse.  You need to leave.  And I did.  Every day for the first week.  He cried and cried as I left.  That first day, I got out the door, leaned against the wall, covered my face, and had my own good cry.

Each day, my heart broke a little bit more.  It felt like he needed me and I couldn't be there for him.  He didn't of course.  After the first week he adjusted.  And he looked forward to spending each day with his friends.  No more crying days.

And the staff at the preschool filled in for me.  They did a great job.  They taught him reading and writing.  They did the work to get him potty trained.  He was already learning to self feed before he started, but he learned how to fill his own cup and to put his cups and plates away.  And they continued all of the life lessons I'd started.  He is polite and helpful.  He puts away his toys without being asked (most of the time).  I claim some responsibility for these learnings, but the preschool taught him these things too.

My daughter, my second born, started preschool a few months younger than her brother had.  She was always an independent sort.  Still is.  We'd gone for a few play dates at the school and she was excited to have some new friends to play with.  And the first day I dropped her off, she toddled into the room and started to play with her new friends.  Barely had time for a hug and a kiss.  And away she went.

She didn't need me.

She didn't cry.

I should have been proud.  I should have been happy that she was so happy at the nursery.  That she felt safe there.  

But I didn't.

I made it out to the car, my eyes blurry.  I put the keys in the ignition, but before turning the key, I put my hands at the top of the steering wheel, leaned into them, and cried harder then I think I ever have.  She didn't need me.  Someone else could easily step in and take my place.

Of course I know that isn't true.  She still needs me.  There are some things that others can't provide for her, or for her brother.  That only a mother can provide.  

And as with her brother, the school and I worked together, as a little "village" to teach her the things she needs to know.

And now, as I prepare for their little brother to start nursery school, I wonder what that day will be like.  This time around, my husband will be with me though.  And even though I've been through it before, I think I'll need him.  

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