Wednesday, when I dropped you off at school, you were laughing when I left. You went the whole day without crying. Thursday was the same. It was a rough road, but finally, we seem to have turned a corner!
We tried many things over the last 8 weeks. I’m not sure if it was one thing in particular that did the trick, or the combination of everything, or maybe just time.
Very early on, I had you put your blanket and “lovey” in your cubby for nap time, to give you some ownership of what was happening. I stayed a long time the first few times, but you still cried and clung to me when it was time for me to go. A friend advised me to just leave, like ripping off a band-aid. One morning, I had an early meeting and couldn’t stay more than a few minutes. It may have been my own insecurity, but it felt like you cried even harder.
When I was out of town in mid-March, Daddy had an idea to help you feel excited about going to school while getting ready in the morning. He used a call-and-response kind of chant: Where do you get to go today? School! Where do you get to go today? School!! It took you a little while, but in the last few weeks, you’ve been smiling and giving the correct response each time, sometimes even doing a cute little dance that looks a lot like a football player’s warm-up shuffle. Daddy had you knock on the door to let the teacher know you’d arrived, too, giving you further ownership of the process.
When I returned, I added Daddy’s tactics to my own. But a month in, you were still crying and tearing my heart out each time I had to leave. Another friend suggested creating a routine of one special thing we could do together after you arrived at school, then having you “push” me out the door.
Now each day, we start the call-and-response talking up school at home, keep it up in the car, and you knock on the door to ask the teacher to let us in. You put your blanket and “lovey” in your cubby while I put your diapers and wet bag in the bathroom. We go to the book nook and you choose a story to read together. Then it’s time to push me out the door. I ask you to show me your muscles and exclaim how strong you are. When you push, I clown around and make a big show of spinning and falling over. You think it’s hilarious! I wave good-bye as you cackle with glee; your teacher lifts you up and carries you to the big window so we can wave at each other as I walk back to the car.
Your teacher told me you’ve been enjoying yourself during the day lately, taking interest in activities and pride in knowing what comes next in the schedule. Going to school was a big challenge for you, but we can both revel in your new-found confidence.
And I can make my exit with a happy, intact heart.