My daughter started school this week. For the first time in her life I sent her in to the company of strangers without me. It was terrifying but necessary. I have been blessed to have my Mom watch her since I returned to work after her birth and for 2 years and 11 months I didn’t worry one bit during the hours that I had to be away from her to make a living. I knew she was fine. I trust my Mom implicitly. I never worried. I was jealous. lol I wished I could be the one taking her to the park and teaching her songs and soaking up her kisses but I was never worried. Sending my baby to someone I didn’t know was terrifying. Did I mention that already?
I had every intention of leaving her with my Mom until she started kindergarten. Maybe we would do a half day program or something when she was four but definitely not before then. But Nia (that’s my daughter) wanted to go to school. For 4 months she begged me to go to school. “I want to make friends mama. I’m big now mama. I want to learn things Mommy.” She was relentless. She would bat her beautiful, big brown eyes at me and plead with me. “Pwease can I go to school Mama? Pwease. Pwease. Pwease?” “When you get bigger,” I would answer patiently. (I hope.) “But I AM bigga,” she would reply stretching her frame to illustrate her point. “I’m bigga NOW Mama.” I prayed about it. I watched her on the playground. She wanted to play but she didn’t know how to get in the game. I would help her. I would prompt her. “Go introduce yourself. Tell them your name and ask what their name is. ASK if you can play.” Kids were cool for the most part. She would get in the game and the joy, the absolute joy on her face was heart stopping. It was time.
So we picked a school. It is the right combination of loving daycare and school prep. It’s located in a wonderful woman’s home. Nia’s god brother is in her class and her god mother has known the owner of the school for over 20 years. We visited. Nia was excited. I was still terrified. I tried to hide it from Nia. I prayed continually. I asked 500 questions. I over-prepared. We got books from the library about school. We talked it up. We sang songs. We practiced independence. A week before she was scheduled to start Nia announced that she had, “changed my mind. I doan want to go to school.” Say what little girl? Huh? You are GOING to school. LOL I chalked it up to nerves. We talked about being nervous and how it’s okay to be scared when we do something new but it shouldn’t stop us from doing it. We painted pictures of the new adventures and friends that school would bring and how much she would love it. Nia was not convinced. “No school. I wanna stay with Mema.”
The first day we drove with Nia’s God parents and God brother so they could walk in together. She was excited to spend the day with him. He’s one of her favorite little people in the world. We walked in and she immediately changed her tune. “No Mama! Don’t leave me here! Pwease mama nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” she wailed. I held back tears. I calmed her down a little, said goodbye and left to the sounds of her crying and being held by her teacher. I had taken the day off so I went home and counted the hours until I could go and get her. When we walked in to the classroom she was sitting on the rug listening to a story. She looked over at me and my Mom (yes we BOTH went to get her-lol) but she didn’t react. She didn’t run to us. She didn’t smile. She just sat there and looked at us. Her teacher brought her over to us and she submitted to our hugs and kisses. LOL My baby looked shell shocked.
The next day was worse. The teacher had to peel her off of me at drop off kicking, screaming, crying and begging me not to go. I cried my entire way to work. Wednesday and Thursday was more of the same. But in the afternoons when my Mom went to get her she never wanted to leave. She wanted to, “stay a little longer,” or “finish making this” So, she was engaged and liking it when she there. This went a LONG way to soothe my Mommy soul. Last night she and I had a conversation at bedtime. I told her that she is going to school. That is not going to change. She is going to go to school and I am going to go to work. It’s just the way that it is. BUT, I told her. You DO have a choice. You can choose to be sad and miserable every morning and cry or you can choose to make the best of it and have fun. When you feel sad just think about something fun that you get to do at school. She didn’t reply. I didn’t know if it made any sense. I didn’t know if it was over her little head. My kid is smart but she IS a toddler. I forget that often, because she is so smart. So I dropped it.
This morning as we approached the school she started getting herself worked up. I reminded her of her choice. I didn’t empathize as I had been all week. I was matter of fact about it. I rested her choice on her shoulders and let her know I was unaffected whichever way she chose. I watched my baby choose joy. I watched her physically shake off the sad and resolve NOT to cry. I watched her hug and kiss me and walk in to her classroom with dry eyes. I wanted to pump my fist. I am so proud of her. I hope today was her best day yet.
I also realized that as much as I might believe I was hiding my anxiety she probably felt it. She knew Mommy was scared and it fed her fears. I learn from being her Mommy every single day. Sometimes I have to travel down the wrong road for a while before I find my way but she is always watching me. She is always learning from me. I hope I’m teaching her that it’s okay to make a U-turn. It’s okay to be afraid and shoulder on. It’s okay to choose joy, even when you are nervous. And I hope I’m teaching her that she is loved no matter what she chooses.
This Mommy thing…the training is on the job huh? lol
Thanks for reading.