Perry started preschool this September and it has been a rollercoaster of emotions! I finally have a chance to write about it and I can’t believe it’s been over two months. I’m happy to report that she likes it and has agreed to go back!
For about two weeks leading up to the big day, we hyped up how amazing preschool would be and talked about all the books she would read and friends she would meet. We showed her the new lunch box she would use, her cool monkey backpack and we sat down to label everything with her name (I think that was way more exciting for me than her).
For the first two days we dropped her off, she was a little sad. We ran through how the day would go, gave her a big hug and kiss and whispered in her ear that “mama and dada always come back.” We must have said it fifty times. I think it was reassuring to her to know that we weren’t dropping her off to be in school forever and it was only temporary. Everything seemed to be okay, until the third day came.
She was hysterical and did not want to let us go. It was heartbreaking and I had to hold my tears back until she could no longer see us. We think that once she started seeing other kids crying, it encouraged her to start crying as well. I think she also started to understand that she would be in school all day without us now every day.
That was probably the worst drop off. After that, things started getting easier. J and I picked her up one afternoon and we could hear her repeating to herself, “always come back, always come back.” I honestly think that hearing those words helped her understand that we would never leave her. Since then, she has confidently walked through the doors with her little monkey backpack that’s almost as big as she is.
One thing that I think really helped was going to drop-in sessions that the preschool offered the week before school started. I think those days really helped her feel comfortable once school officially started. Also, I read some great articles on not slipping away when your child isn’t looking so they don’t feel completely abandoned. The last thing we wanted was for her to suddenly realize we were gone and feel like we could leave her anytime.
I remember how homesick I would get whenever my parents dropped me off anywhere. I would cry hysterically for hours, shake, have trouble breathing and get physically ill whenever they left me overnight anywhere. I’m so thankful that Perry is a lot more resilient than I ever was as a kid.
How I felt
The hardest part for me is not knowing what she’s doing every minute of the day. When she was home with our nanny, I could check in on her when I was working from home and see for myself that she was okay. Now, we rely on daily reports and quick updates from the teacher during pick-up. The first day we dropped her off, I would just stare at my phone, waiting for a text or some kind of update.
I considered keeping her home for another year just so I could keep her all to myself (not kidding!). I almost chickened out a few times but I know I can’t let my own anxieties keep my daughter from thriving. She’s already so independent and wants to do everything herself, which I think has amplified since she starting preschool.
Sometimes I want to help her so much, like when she’s strapping herself into her high chair or putting both legs in one pant leg. I go through a mini mental struggle and convince myself to take a step back. It may take an extra 10 minutes and I may be running late, but I know she needs to learn for herself.
How Julian felt
While I worried for weeks whether she would be okay and how that first day would go, Julian had full confidence in her and knew that she would be fine. He often talks about how strong Perry is and how well she handles new experiences.
We both worried how she would react to being there all day, five days a week. She is only used to a few people watching her (us, her grandparents and her nanny) so this would be a completely new experience for her.
When we pick her up, we wait outside the classroom for her to put on her shoes and get her things. The moment when she sees us and runs into our arms is so special. We are both so excited to see her and feeling her little arms around my neck is one of the best feelings in the world. I’m just so proud of her and happy that she’s enjoying herself at school.
We received so much advice from friends, family (and the internet). I think one of the best things I heard was to talk about preschool often and how fun it would be. Also, to make drop-off super quick-a hug, kiss, and a wave good-bye to shorten the painful period of separation. Lastly, prepare everything the night before, like lunch, clothes, backpack and a change of clothes. Mornings are already hectic without adding 10 more things to remember.
The most unexpected lesson I learned through this transition period is changing how I view Perry in my mind. I unjustifiably thought that she would be sad and struggle like I did when I went to school. But she’s not exactly like me. Now I realize how independent and adaptable she is and how easily she can roll with the punches. She can handle anything that comes at her and that gives me the reassurance I need to know that she’ll be okay.
Surprisingly, Perry now actually wants to go to school. She was home sick the past few days with a virus and every morning when we told her she had to stay home that day, she would tell me, “but I want to go to school.” To us, that is the best indicator that this is the right place for her.
The proudest moment for me was when we were speaking to her teacher during parent night. She told us about an instance where one little boy was crying and missing his parents. Perry came over to him, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “mamas and dadas always come back.” 🙂