Yesterday was Grace’s first day school. Well, pre-school. Where has the time gone, really? I’m sure all mums say that, but I honestly just can’t believe it. Anyway, let’s just say the day (yesterday) was not easy. In retrospect it makes sense. She’s been with me almost every day of her (three year) life. We’ve never once hired a babysitter, and the only other people she stays with (apart from me and Eric) are family. So… looking back yes of course she was going to feel uncomfortable in a strange new environment with unfamiliar faces. I was prepared, but actually I wasn’t at all. Because her first day was more than a little traumatic. I think what seemed to make it worse was that every other kid in that classroom was fine, they barely seemed to even notice their parents leave, and got into pre-school mode fast and furious, pouring pretend cups of tea and taking on the role of firefighter in the dress up corner. But agh, I just knew almost immediately it was not going to be as easy for us.
Grace watched as one by one all the other parents left. I tried to distract her by playing with her, encouraging her to make friends, hoping she’d be taken-in by all that was going on. But needless to say I could see that little bottom lip start to quiver as soon as I took just a step away from her. I knew she knew what was coming – but trying so hard to fight it. Finally, one of the pre-school helpers took her hand and pulled her away from me and said “okay now, say bye to mama”, then looked at me: “mama say bye to Grace”… (we must have been taking too long for them!) well that might have worked for some kids, but of course it was the straw that broke the camels back for Grace. Almost immediately the fight with the bottom lip was over and she was in full melt down mode, red in the face, tears streaming. HEART BROKEN.
I tried to calm her down and finally after a good twenty minutes she was okay enough to sit with the other kids for story time. Of course I was struggling with my own anxiety over the whole situation but knew I had to sneek away as soon as I had the chance in case another opportunity weren’t to arise. I waited outside the door. I could still see a little corner of her from behind the puppet stand where she sat and I watched as she finally, inevitably turned around to check that I was still there. I saw her eyes search and immediately as soon as she realized that what she had been dreading had happened I could hear the panic in her voice, “mama? mama? mamaaaa”, she was crying , no screaming, as the teacher’s assistant scooped her up and put her in her arms. “mama come back, I want my mama” I could hear between sobs. Oh my gosh, I was not prepared for this. The lump in my throat was getting bigger and bigger and I could feel the dampness beneath my eyes. I felt honestly like I’d failed her… I knew she needed me and I couldn’t be there for her. She wanted to be brave but she just couldn’t. I felt helpless. I stood outside the door for a good ten minutes, both of us sobbing from either side of the door. I finally managed to pull myself away, her crying wasn’t going to stop any time soon and what could I do? Go back in? – then we’d be back to square one.
I walked back to my car, called Eric, called my mum, called Papa (my father-in-law), agh what a mess I was! I finally called the school – after half an hour of being away – to talk to her teacher, only to find out she was in fact still crying. But her teacher assured me the distress was normal for some kids, that some kids even throw up (what?!) and – if I could – to wait it out. After some time I got back out of my car and peeked in through the preschool window. Yes – I stayed the full two hours and forty five minutes in the parking lot! Well, wouldn’t you believe when I peeked back in this time she was having the time of her life, playing with the kids and the building blocks. Her teacher was right. THE RELIEF. It wasn’t long until her day was over and it was time to pick her up… of course I was still actually at the school. She came bounding out all smiles, happy as a clam. Relief, relief, relief.
Oh the trials and tribulations of being a parent! They don’t tell you this stuff do they? So that was Grace’s first day. Of course I took some pictures when she was happy (above) which I’ll treasure forever. But this (below) was probably a more accurate depiction of how we both felt for the majority of her first day! Let’s hope it gets easier.