Thursday, August 19, 2010

It Was a Tough Day For All of Us (Well, Except June)

What's that book Dooce wrote? It Sucked And Then I Cried.
That sounds about right.  I haven't read it, but judging by the title, I can only assume it's about her personal journey through preschool dropoff. 

I'm sorry if this all sounds pity party-ish, but I felt entitled to a pity party today.  Which, as a matter of fact, included my first frappuccino in a few years, and a trip through the Burger King drive through.  Yeah, coping through caffeine and food.  Excellent work, Kate.  But enough about me, you're here to find out about the kid.

Everything started out great.  Georgia woke up excited and declared, "I'm going to preschool today!"
{Here she has been captured mid-word while shouting "Preschool!"}

First Day of School
{Why worry? I'm carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on my back.}

She held it together until we were in the classroom and it was time for parents to leave.  Waterworks began, and she was looking for an authority figure.  "Where's the teacher?  Where's the teacher?"  Joe and I promptly fetched "Ms. Megan" and kindly informed her that despite the 20 other children she was tasked with managing, we needed her to come over and hold our daughter's hand.  Oh yes, much to our chagrin, we are off to a great start in the High Maintenance Parents Of The Year award.  Not that preschool teachers aren't accustomed to first day separation anxiety, but between yesterday's allergy summit that we called, and today's tears, we've made a wonderful first impression, I'm sure.   

We weren't able to calm her down and after a few minutes had to exit.  I started tearing up as we walked down the hall, but for all the wrong reasons.  Mothers are supposed to cry on the first day of school because it's so bittersweet to watch their little ones growing up, right?  I was crying because I felt so mean.

And don't even start telling me that obviously she'll be fine in a few days or weeks, and that obviously she has to go through this, and obviously it's all for her own good, because I know all of that.  But sometimes the heart doesn't care what the brain has to offer.  It felt like standing in the dorm room of your best friend who just got dumped by her boyfriend and was sobbing, and then glancing at your watch in the middle of it and saying, "Well, you'll be fine, so I'll see you later.  Gotta go!"  Just mean.

But we got out of there and worked from home and celebrated the small victory that we were not called to return to the school to pick her up prior to dismissal.

The part I was not expecting was that pick-up would be worse than drop-off.  The teachers led the classes outside single file, amidst parents hovering too close like business travelers at an overcrowded baggage claim carousel.  We were not in the front and were straining on tippy toe to spot Georgia.  We were hoping for a heartfelt reunion of her running into our arms chanting, "Mommy! Daddy!"  I mean, is that so much to ask?  Alas, Georgia was clutching her teacher's hand and bawling.  I scooped her up, and "Ms. Ellie" assured me that this was just a beginning and end thing, and that Georgia had not, in fact, been crying the whole time.

So, it was just 3 hours at preschool.  But imagine that we had flown to New York City, dropped Georgia off at a random bus stop, and returned to find her 3 hours later.  Because that is what she looked like.  She had the vacant stare of total abandonment on her face, and between sobs her first words were, "My forehead hurts."  I think she seriously stressed herself into a headache, poor thing.  We had promised her that after school we'd head to Starbucks to get her "special water", but when offered she said she'd rather sit and snuggle in the shade for a bit.  She was clearly exhausted, and Joe carried her the entire way.  She finally perked up while eating lunch at home, happy to be back to her normal routine. 


Look at those angry eyes. ("Special water" = water, with a straw, in a Starbucks cup. It doesn't take much to excite her.)

All told, it was not great, but we are so proud of her for making it through this difficult day.  Oddly enough, we are also extremely proud of her for being able to tell us through her tears on the walk home, "I didn't like school today."  If you believe even a fraction of what modern parenting books say about acknowledging children's feelings and helping them express them, then this honest statement out of her was just huge.  (And we've heard it several times since.)  We've been trying to balance our encouraging words of, "it's going to get better!" with real empathy, because let's face it, being new at anything does sometimes really kind of suck.

By dinner time, Georgia was starting to open up and give us glimpses of what her school day must've entailed.  She had us sing the ABC's several times, so I gather that was part of it.  We also "played school" (a common role play game around here lately), during which she was the teacher and told us, "I can't see your eyes!"  So, despite her declaration of not liking it, she seems to be soaking it in.

My prior optimism was perhaps delusional, but oh well.  I now predict Tuesday will be worse, and then we will begin an upswing hopefully culminating in her loving preschool by week 3.  Okay, maybe week 4?  What's the over/under on that, do you think?


Me? A Mom? said...

oh my god, that would have torn me up. You're so strong. Lila, of course is on the opposite end of the spectrum and would run away with the circus if we let her. I suspect Rosalie will be more like Georgia. I'll be taking pointers from you.

Special water? Genius. That's better than me calling the ice cream truck the music truck.

Kelly said...

That does sound like a tough day. I actually teared up a bit reading it... it's hard enough leaving E with a babysitter for a few hours; I can't imagine when we cross that preschool hurdle. Big, big hugs to one of the GREATEST mamas I know!

Susan said...

Oh, poor Georgia (and I don't mean that in a "I can't believe you're doing this to her" kind of way). I am sure she will love it eventually...hoping for all of you that happens sooner rather than later.

Crystal said...

Thank you for the accurate reporting!

Poor little Georgia, (and Kate and Joe)!

I kid. But after our first day, Harry ran up to me with bright red cheeks and sweating. It wasn't even that hot in the room, I think he was just so stressed out. So if you put Harry and Georgia together, their reactions for their two personalities are probably about equal here, though of couse, totally different, but both saying I'M STRESSED OUT!

I cried in the hallway and felt so exhausted at the end of the first day of preschool. sheesh. I think Ms. Georgia is going to love it by week 3. Totally. Maybe earlier.

Maggie said...

Oh I just read this. My heart! Georgia held up pretty well, if you ask me. I know she's going to love it after a few days, but these first three or four will be difficult. I predict she will be handling it within a week. Seriously, I bet she adapts more quickly that your prediction.

Sarah said...

Wishing you guys a FABULOUS day tomorrow!

Danni said...

Poor thing. Maybe she will always hate school :p I doubt it though.