Eitan started school this week.
It’s not a long program; three days per week, for three hours each day, and they’re only doing two hours for the first month to help the kids adjust. It’s a program for two-year-olds, after all, and most of the kids are attending an organized school program for the first time. Still, we wanted to make sure Eitan was ready. We’d spoken with a few other preschool parents and our new principal and heard a mix of stories about their kids making the transition to school. Some kids cry for a minute and then go into the class and are fine. Some walk into the classroom and barely remember to say goodbye to their parents. And some kids blow out their vocal chords from screaming too hard.
Needless to say, we were doing our best to avoid option C.
We prepped Eitan as best we could. We bought a few children’s books about preschool and had been reading them with Eitan every night before bed since July. We threw in questions about school randomly throughout the day, asking him where he would be going and who he was going to see. We quizzed him about who would be bringing him to school and who would pick him up (“Mommy!”), whether Mommy would stay with him at school (“No…”) and what he and Mommy would do when she picks him up (“Hugandkiss!”). Eitan, Trudy and I went for a walk the evening before and we reminded him again that Mommy and Daddy would take him to school the next morning (I took the day off from work) but that we weren’t going to stay with him. We asked if that was okay and he responded with a confident “Yes!”
The morning couldn’t have gone any better.1 Eitan ate breakfast, got dressed and we talked with him the whole way there. We reminded him of the schedule, which teachers he would be seeing and what we would do when we picked him up (“Hugandkiss!”). We entered the building, parked the stroller, and waited outside his classroom until his teachers were ready. The doors opened, I stayed in the hallway and gave Eitan his hug and kiss and Trudy brought him in (we figured this would help set the routine since she would be bringing him to school each day). I went back toward the front of the building and sat down to wait. Trudy came out barely five minutes later and said that Eitan went in, hung up his backpack, gave her a hug and a kiss, said, “Bye, Mommy!” and went off to start painting.
We looked at each other for a minute and asked, “What do we do now?”
The question hung in the air. We’ve spent time apart from Eitan, of course, either to run errands or (gasp!) go on a date together. But every time we’ve gone out, Eitan has been watched by family and we’ve known he would be taken care of. And even though we had met Eitan’s teachers and spoken with the principal and we knew the school’s reputation, there was still that nagging sliver of doubt.
What if he cries? What if he falls? What if he gets hurt? What if he doesn’t like the snack? What if he doesn’t want to share? What if he loses his hat? What if another kid hits him? What if he hits someone else? Oh God, what if he bites someone?
I tend to consider Trudy and myself to be fairly rational, realistic people but the idea of Eitan being in someone else’s care, even for a couple of hours, was freaking us out. Apparently, all the effort we had put into preparing Eitan for school was not quite as effective in helping us to stay calm. We knew that Eitan would be fine; we knew his teachers were certified and experienced and that they would figure out ways to keep the kids engaged and entertained. But still, those nagging doubts just kept on nagging.2
In the end, everything went great. Eitan had fun, only cried once (and even then, it was brief) and he apparently even asked to use the potty, which was a huge deal. He came out of the classroom when he was dismissed, gave Trudy and me our “hugandkiss” and told us about going to the playground, painting and playing with his new friends. Trudy and I were obviously more concerned about the transition than he was, which, I suppose, is how it should be. I guess it would just be nice for us if we could quiet some of those doubts just enough for us to enjoy that time off a little more. It will take a little time, but I’m sure we’ll get there.
Feel free to leave your experiences with sending your kids off to school in the comments section!
1. This is a tiny lie; we had to wake Eitan up to get him ready for school. He’s up no later than 7:15 every day, but of course, on the morning of his first day of preschool, he’s still out cold at 7:45. He woke up in a fine mood, though, so it worked out.↩
2. I’ve been told this is standard operating procedure for the mindset of a parent and that it never really goes away. I’m not sure that makes me feel better.↩