Once the initial euphoria of the new baby settled down, my life fell back into routine. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the little joys of raising my newborn, but on days exhaustion took over. 2.5 years of disturbed or sleepless nights, a difficult to feed and very active child left me breathless. I did have many many moments of pure bliss, but then raising a toddler does take a toll on you. So I was really looking forward to that day when he would start pre-school. Rather I was really looking forward to that day when I would get 3 hours of guilt free “Me” time.
I did believe that a preschool is a place for the child to look at as an extension of his own home. Its sole purpose it to act as that cushion which is the stepping stone between the familiarities of his home to the strict regime of the school. So I meticulously chose one that was academic pressure-free for I believe that every child will eventually learn “ABCD and red-blue-green colors”. The pre-school is not necessarily the place where the child needs to be pushed towards perfecting these. The child should instead be encouraged to play, get messy, learn via storytelling, role play etc.
On the first day of school, there was so much excitement in my house. We had him all excited about his own school bag, matching lunch boxes and water bottles with him name tag on all of these. We clicked selfies with grandparents, he seemed ALL set. We walked in happily with a bunch of other kids through the school gates. He slowly let go of my hand when the teacher took him inside the classroom. I saw a bit of uncertainty in his eyes, but then I quickly gave him a hug and left. I knew that cajoling and hanging around could be counterproductive. Ah, I could have my cuppa in peace now. First day- good, second day – all good, third day – all still good, I was on cloud nine, battle won, especially when I saw so many other moms struggling with separation anxiety. I must have done something right, I felt proud. Fourth day – NOT good.
Something that must have happened at the pre-school, “I don’t want to go to school mamma, he declared on the way back”. Ouch, I panicked. I knew he was headstrong and that has its own flip-side. You know what I mean – A NO is a NO till the time he himself decides for a YES.
I was asked to sit and wait inside the pre-school premises. It was horrible, he would cling to me all the time. Every time the teacher made an attempt to talk to him, he would howl. On days he would howl for 45 mins and later sit in my lap and continue sobbing. I felt miserable. Considering he had settled in the first few days, I felt frustrated.
It must be the teacher’s mistake, is usually the first thought. He went in so well on 3 consecutive days. I had worked so hard on this, on preparing him for the separation. I was so proud I had been successful, but only for this one mistake that was made by someone else, my child had to suffer so much. I couldn’t bear seeing him be so miserable. Was I right in thinking it was the teacher’s fault – probably not. Kids go through separation anxiety, but during moments of resentment, you do tend to take out all the frustration on the obvious offender.
It was annoying when they told me “It looks like you are too upset with us, it is obvious on your face”. It had been 40 days since I had been sitting with my toddler inside the premises. Wouldn’t I feel irritated? I wish they had said, we will take care instead.
To top it, some mothers said “It happens to some kids, thank God mine was done quickly”. I KNOW that! I wish they had sympathized with me. I wish they had shared with me real stories of someone who had gone through this ordeal. Sidelining me and not inviting my child for playdates was very mean, to say the least. Some said, “I make it a point to read him a lot, that’s why he went in so smoothly.” What do they know, how much I believe in reading and that I have done a lot of that. How else did he walk in so smoothly on the first day? Some even passed value judgement, you carry your child in your lap all the time, you come to drop your kid yourself, have a second child, single child is usually very clingy! What the HELL.
But nevertheless all this left me with a very important life lesson. That I may feel that my child is excellent at xyz, but he will not excel in everything at first go. He may not excel all. That realization and acceptance made it easier for me to take the blow. I should not be ashamed of that. I must give him my full love, attention and affection for whose arms will he find comfort in, if not mine.
This article was first published here