I am sitting in my car outside Bean’s Kindergarten and I am crying. Ugly crying: my eyes are swollen shut and red; my body is convulsing in sobs and I am wailing. It’s not a pretty sight and far from the happy vision I had about my Bean’s first day of nursery school. I have just dropped him off and he cried, a lot, clinging onto me for dear life; clinging on so tight that the teacher had to wrench him away from me so that I could leave. My heart is now in a million little pieces, heavy with guilt and worry.
The next couple of hours drag and I cannot wait to head back to the school to see whether he is ok (in fact, the thought does cross my mind to find a spot outside the school where I can sit and watch him, undetected, lurking in the shadows). Once back home I am met with an empty shell – the echo of Bean’s happy chatter replaced with silence. I wander through the empty rooms, packing away his unused toys, wondering where the time has gone – it seems like I blinked and now he is 2 and ready for school. I worry: is he ok? Did I send him to school too soon? Maybe he was not bored at home after all? I feel out of control, not knowing what he is doing every second of the day, not knowing whether he needs me; whether he is smiling or crying.
The reality is that he is growing up (his very last molar is even growing) and young as he is, he is starting to find his own path in life. He is recognising like-minded kids to be friends with, he knows which activities he likes and dislikes and although he still very much needs me, he is trying to figure out how the world works on his own.
I realise that I am suffering from as much separation anxiety as he is and that I need to find a way back to myself (as a person, not just a mom), as much as he needs to find his feet in the world. Later, when I finally get to fetch Bean, I find him happily playing in the sandpit with the other kids. He is excited to see me, and he is ok. In fact, he is having fun.
He will go on to cry when I drop him off every day (not because he does not like the school, but because I am not there with him, which makes him feel vulnerable) and that is normal. His whole world (his daily routine and his caregiver) has changed, after all. To combat this, I tell him about all the exciting things he will do at school, I try not to linger when I drop him off and I always tell him exactly when I will be back to fetch him.
And as for me, I try to be brave and I try not to let my fears and separation anxiety spill over onto him. I am also starting to really enjoy the free time, to do things like go to the hairdresser or having coffee in a non-child-friendly coffee shop (I had forgotten these places even existed). This new-found freedom is actually quite exciting.