Yesterday I had my very last experience of sending a child to school for the first time.
My baby girl, my sweet, innocent, overly-attached Miss Emma started her first day of pre-school. We spent weeks talking up the experience as something she’d have so much fun doing. She’d get to spend almost 3 hours a day doing all of her favorite things … coloring, playing with Legos, shaping dough, reading, the works! I even explained, countless times, that mommy and daddy wouldn’t be staying with her but we would be there to pick her up after she’s done playing with her new friends. But as we learned yesterday, talking about doing something and experiencing it are two completely different things.
There’s no easy way to describe the scene other than completely and utterly awful. And traumatic (mostly for me).
It started out great. We took her out for a celebratory Happy Meal, took some pictures with her new backpack and the outfit she picked out (mostly) by herself. It was a fantastic start.
Then came the car ride where dad and I reminded her where we were going. I could see the fear starting to take over her face which of course made my heart start beating out of my chest. Were we making a mistake? Is she really ready for this. Am I really ready for this?
I don’t think my husband really understood my fears. Leaving the kids in my care for 8+ hours a day while he works has always been the norm. Leaving Emma at pre-school for 3 hours was no different. But for me, this was my whole world changing. Emma has never spent time outside of my personal care with the exception of a few hours with her grandparents here and there over the years. And she was never without her big sister or brother right by her side.
And now there she was, walking into a little classroom with absolutely wonderful, kind and caring teachers, five little boys she’s never met before and me ready to just walk away and leave her.
It didn’t start off too bad, she hung up her backpack …
picked a spot to sit with a book …
and then saw her parents start to walk away.
That when the tears started flowing. No amount of talking about this moment prepared either of us for what was about to happen. I could see her start to get up from her spot (knowing she was about to make a run for it with me) so I went to her backpack and grabbed her special “sucky blanky”. It’s basically a single strip of tattered baby blanket that use to be an actual blanket that she’s had since she was born. When she’s feeling insecure, she sucks her thumb and rubs the blanky over her nose.
But the blanky wasn’t enough. She latched onto me with a death grip and started bawling. Nothing I said made any difference, all she wanted was to be with me. That’s when her teacher gently peeled her out of my arms and my husband coaxed me out the door. I had to force myself to walk down the hallway without looking back, listening to her sobbing.
Oh my heart!
We stood at the end of the hallway, out of sight and waited a few minutes until I couldn’t hear her crying anymore. I was fully prepared to go snatch her back out of the classroom and run back home if she didn’t calm down. It was hard enough to keep myself from bawling but even harder to hear her so upset.
Fortunately for both of us, the hardest part was letting go. After that it was smooth sailing for her. She spent her afternoon playing just as we described to her and came home with nothing but smiles and squishy, extra squeezy hugs.
She’ll probably forget that experience in days while I’ll hold onto it forever. It was the very last time I’ll ever have to send a child off to school for the first time.