Yesterday was Danny's first day of school. He got ready for school and seemed pretty excited. He kept talking about playing with the kitchen set, which is what he did during the open house. I was happy; I thought he must be really used to the idea of school and that maybe this year would be the year where he didn't have a hard first week.
This is his third year in preschool; though he turned 5 a month ago, we decided to hold him back one year because of his speech delays. Also, the previous two years of school, he has been in a special ed. class specifically designed for kids with sensory problems. The class was small, with a couple aides; they actually sound proofed the room and the teacher filled it with a treasure trove of sensory toys: a mini-trampoline, a teepee for when they need a break, a sensory table filled with different items, like leaves in the fall, rice, etc. Well, this year we all decided Danny was ready to join a mainstream class, which means instead of 10 kids, there are 20. And he has a different teacher. No more wonderful Miss Sally who had gotten to know Danny so well over the last two years, and who really did love him; they had a special bond and I will miss her so much.
So, all went well until we had almost gotten to the school and Danny mentioned that he expected me to go to school with him. So, that was why he wasn't scared: he thought I was accompanying him to school. I pull up in the parent drop-off line and he starts breathing really heavily and fighting back tears. I give him a hug and tell him I love him. Then, a well-meaning, but misguided aide comes to the car and starts helping Danny out. Well, as I informed the aide, Danny does not like to be touched by strangers, especially when he is upset (I mean, really, people, who does?) If she had just left him alone, I think he would have been fine. I tell her I will pull over and bring him in myself, but she tells me no, it is better this way. Then, seeing the commotion, a couple more aides walk up (and as luck would have it, none of them were aides that Danny knew) and they start to practically drag him into school.
At this point, not only is Danny totally crying, but he is also getting really upset about being yanked around. I keep repeating he doesn't want to be touched and finally I just pull over and take Danny away from the aides. I know they think I am just some overprotective mother who can't cut the apron strings, but they honestly had no idea what they were doing to him. Even if they had somehow managed to strong arm him into the school (which is very unlikely) I don't think anyone would have been able to calm him down for hours. And really, I cannot think of a more frightening way to begin the school year than to be physically DRAGGED into school by a bunch of strangers. What were they thinking?????? How can that be in any way better than just letting me take him in?
I ignored the aides and took Danny's hand, and he willingly accompanied me into school. He looked immensely relieved and calmed down instantly. He was still unhappy about having to enter the school, but at least he was doing it. I got him to his class and helped him put his stuff away and then I left. Yes, he did cry and I think the teacher may have been annoyed with me (she didn't say anything, I am probably just being sensitive) but it was so much better than the alternative, I think.
Then, I sobbed the entire way home. I felt so bad that Danny was scared to go to school. I distinctly remember that feeling the summer my mother made me go to day camp. It was horrible and I hated every minute of it. I didn't ever want my kids to feel abadoned and scared. I know he will be fine, and I know school is really good for him. His speech has improved immensely since he started preschool. Still, it is just heart wrenching to have to leave him like that.
When I picked him up after school, the first words out of Danny's mouth were, "Mom, I did NOT have a good day today." I questioned him and after a bit he started to cheer up. He was excited that he got to go to recess with a friend from church and then he shared that he liked his teacher. I heard from an aide that he had quit crying within 30 minutes of getting to school, so I know he was fine.
I just don't know if I am cut out for this mothering thing. I think it takes a much tougher person than I. I used to think I was somewhat tough: I grew up on the south side of Chicago and was a total tomboy. Someday I will share the story of me defending my twin brother against a kid 2 years older than us. It is quite a famous story in the Porch family. But, mothering is a whole different story. I feel like my heart is broken over and over and over again until it doesn't seem possible that there is any strength left.
I know this sounds like I am exaggerating, and perhaps I am, but still. There is something to it. Those of you who are mothers must know what I mean. Doesn't it just break your heart every time your kid is picked on or left out or just really struggles with something that comes easily for every other kid? Wasn't it so hard to watch them trudge off on their first days of school? Didn't it kill you the first time you left the baby with a babysitter?
I don't know. Maybe I am just a wimp. In fact, I am pretty sure I am. I just had no idea it would be this hard for these reasons. I knew it would be boring sometimes and aggravating others. But I didn't understand how bittersweet and scary it would be to bring a child into the world and set him or her loose on it. Does anyone out there know what I am saying?
Well, this morning things went much more smoothly, and though Danny wasn't overjoyed to enter school alone, there was just a tiny sniffle. No crying or struggling. He plodded to the door and didn't look back, but I could tell he was a bit sad. And though it went better this morning, I still cried on the way home.