You know that I could only write this post if it were something that had happened to me, right? Yes, there I was this morning hoping that my 4 year old would have a pleasant attitude and pleasant good-bye for me today when we arrived at his morning preschool.
It’s amazing. We can go for days, sometimes even weeks with pleasant “good-byes.” I get a big hug and a kiss and he says, “Bye, mom! See you after lunch!” I walk away so proud and giddy, thinking, “Ah, he’s such a wonderful child, so easy to manage.”
Well, just when I was getting comfortable with parenting and all that I have learned and gained as a parent coach, he decides to declare that he “hates school” and that he “isn’t going.” Now, I have heard this before. I have even heard these same lines at home before drop-off only to be followed by the pleasant farewell. So, I recognize inconsistencies. I’m nobody’s fool.
While I’m nobody’s fool, I am somebody’s mama and that little somebody can sure do a number on me when he wraps his arms around my waist and his legs wrap around my calf and it feels like I have a boa constrictor inching up my body. This morning he clung to me and repeated, “I want to go home! I don’t want to go to school today!”
Okay, I had to think about this. He’s had a good night’s sleep (at least 11 hours) and a hearty breakfast (waffle and an egg), and he played for at least an hour this morning with his sister with kindness before we had to depart. Where was the upset coming from? I know that he enjoyed school yesterday; he told me about playing that they were aliens and he didn’t eat all of his yogurt because he was having so much fun on their picnic. Is there anything here I can see as troublesome or a red flag to cause this sudden desire to go home?
Nope. It’s just one of those days in the life with a young child who is learning about and using his will. I know he is loved and safe in his class and his teacher lovingly guided him to the table of paper and block crayons after my smiling and confident kiss and hug.
It is so tempting to linger and to wait it out and to get them settled, believe me, I know. But focusing on a consistent farewell routine will allow everyone to move on without a tremendous amount of drama. If your child is crying or screaming, it can be even more troubling.
Young children feel safe and secure when we are safe and secure. My son’s teachers tell me that as soon as I leave he becomes the 4 year old they know again and plays well and is happy. Knowing this, it is more difficult and much more traumatic if I allow my own emotions to get involved when he wraps his body around mine begging to take him home. If I linger and placate and assure him that I love him and wait for him to be settled and happy, I reinforce his own anxiety. Sweet and clean farewells help you, your child, and your child’s teacher.
I know that my son’s teachers will be loving and kind with him – I wouldn’t have him attend the school if they were otherwise. I know that he settles better once I am gone. Trust your preschool teachers (and if you don’t, you need a new preschool!) and trust that your young child will be just fine. Separations are part of growing up and your reunion will be all the sweeter.