There was this girl who cried every day for the first few weeks of school. It was hard, she didn’t know anyone, and her mommy wasn’t there to help her.
It was me. At college. So perhaps I should have been a bit more mentally prepared when we tried to transition Sally from daycare to preschool last spring and she burned the place down. Okay not really, but it felt that severe as, time and again, she screamed, cried and clung to me until her nails dug into my flesh. On the last “visit” back then, I cried, too (which, FYI, is SO not the way to calm your kid down). I had no idea how to make it better for her. The good news is that if you look us up in the preschool database, a cute red flag pops up that says “AVOID INTERACTION: Mother unstable. Child possessed. Dad poor sucker.”
It was so bad I couldn’t even find any humor in it to blog about. We were seriously dysfunctional! I had made a monster baby who would never go to school! This was worse than the kid at the park who is clearly being raised by local squirrels!
So we quit preschool. We became quitters. We decided to wait until fall and hope that mysteriously, miraculously, she would change. Also, I started to plan how we would pay the mortgage after I had to quit my job to homeschool Freak Child. And how we would protect ourselves from the outside world once we morphed into albino hermits who sweat blood whenever we meet new people.
Sometimes I blow things out of proportion a little bit.
Then we determined we needed spend the summer teaching Sally that she could do new things by herself, and that being around children besides her best friend is actually NOT considered torture in most countries. So we dipped our toe into the world of babysitting (with a good friend . . . baby steps). And she took swim lessons in a small class where I was viewable through glass but she couldn’t get to me. A lot like prison, which is where children who don’t go to school often end up. I had to keep reminding myself of that whenever she looked like she was going to pass out from stress. This was good for her, and me. She has to go to school at some point. I don’t remember a thing about California history or sex ed.—I can’t possibly home school.
Guess what? Project Self Esteem and Socialization worked. Well, in all likelihood her brain developed as it would have naturally, but the swim lessons probably didn’t hurt. Over the summer she stopped wanting to leave the park if other kids showed up. The first time she initiated a conversation with another child I nearly peed my pants. Once, a random girl we met was so excited to play that she hugged Sally, (This happens quite a bit. Sally’s aloofness with kids makes her highly desirable.) and this time, her head did NOT spin around 360 degrees! (The Mr. is going to say this paragraph makes Sally seem way weirder than she really is. . . . He’s entitled to his opinion.)
So I felt pretty good heading into the first day of school this week. She’d visited a few times in August, with great results (pretty sure they still radio security when I enter the building, but whatever), and Sally was excited to go to “big kid school.” I was at ease. Well, except for the part where I packed a pound of ice packs into her lunchbox so it would stay cold enough that she wouldn’t get food poisoning from string cheese. . . . And lectured her about where everything was in her backpack. . . . And reminded her 12 times what time I’d pick her up. . . . And told her “You can do it!” every 90 seconds. TOTALLY at ease. Then on the drive, she suddenly said “my tummy hurts” and all I could think was “don’t puke. Don’t puke! Please dear god, DON’T PUKE!”
Prayers work. She didn’t puke.
She was great. She was a pro. And I was more proud of her than ever because I knew what it took her for her to get through that long first day. When I picked her up, she put on a brave face until the car door was closed. Then she moaned “I’m exhausted!” and burst into tears. So I took her home, made her dinner and dessert, let her watch a movie while she huddled on the couch with her blanket, and told her what a great job she did. I suspect she’ll handle college better than I did.