Today was my son’s first day at daycare and it’s pouring rain outside my window.
As I drove with him to the little building down the street, I secretly hoped that I would get a call saying school was closed and all kids had to stay home for the day. Why would I wish this? I think it’s commonly referred to as separation anxiety.
As we ran from the car to the front door with my son in my arms and his diaper bag falling off my shoulder, we entered in a huff and were completely drenched. His diaper bag, his clothes, my hair, my shoes – there was rainwater dripping from my nose onto the tile floor of the entryway. I look up to see the administrators staring at us in confusion. This was not how we envisioned his first day at daycare to be. We didn’t have the typical, “My first day at school!” sign or the cute outfit. I had no clue how many diapers to pack or what to put in his lunchbox. They had emailed me a general list and said to pack a “paint shirt” – he doesn’t have a paint shirt. I threw in a stained old shirt and wrote “paint shirt” on the tag.
We handed him over to his teacher and that’s when the crying began.
He was hysterical. I was warned this may happen but seeing him cry in a strangers’ arms felt wrong. If I was feeling this anxious, I couldn’t imagine how scared he must be. That’s how the rest of his first week went.
It took a few weeks to realize that my anxieties were making it worse for him. That first day, I lingered in the hallway listening to him cry. I felt guilty all day and called the daycare three times to make sure he was okay. Each time I called they said he was still “adjusting”, a.k.a. Still hysterically crying. Mom-guilt was casting a shadow over my every thought.
Two things I have learned since that first day are the following:
1. I can be a better mom if I have time to recharge.
Raising an active toddler while working, maintaining my household, and holding onto a small sliver of a social life can deplete me of all energy. I am finding that I can be a better parent when I allow someone else to help care for my child.
2. He can be a better kid if he has time to learn new skills.
Social skills, germs, basic education, independence, and more, are all essential for him to grow into the little person he is meant to become.
I have also learned that teachers can help cultivate my son’s life skills way better than I can do on my own at home. I had no clue my 17 month old son could learn to put the numbers 1 and 2 up with his hands until the teacher told me to try it at home. I was shocked when I saw those little fingers shoot up in the air after I asked him to show me the number two.
Now, when it’s time to drop him off at school, I hand him to the teacher, kiss him goodbye and assure him I’ll be back later to get him.
I see how important it is for him to foster relationships with his teachers and his new environment. I no longer linger in the hallway after dropping him off and I even believe that he is actually going to have fun. We’ve come a long way since that first rainy day.