I feel like every other post is about kindergarten drop-off, but if you have a kid with separation anxiety, you probably understand why. It’s how you start every single day! This post was actually supposed to be about something else, but then I began the intro with drop-off and everything derailed from there. Just like my day! Ha!
Anyway. Please indulge me as I talk about my continuing saga.
The first few weeks of kindergarten drop-off were a bit rocky, although kindergarten in general seems to be going pretty well. Harlow is excited for school every morning and loves walking into the classroom. She carries a purse every day to school which includes a lip balm, a pretend phone that I made her out of tape and construction paper and a wedding picture of Mike and me. She sticks that purse in her cubby for safe keeping. Then she cozies up to friends, saunters up to the smart board to find out what the plan is for the day, and checks out the job board for her designated position.
This week Harlow is in charge of the light switch. Last week, she was in charge of the blocks station, which didn’t go that well (apparently, kids don’t like to listen when other kids tell them to put away their blocks) but she seems over it now.
The class lets the parents stick around from the time the classroom opens at 8:30am to when class starts at 8:45am. It’s a good opportunity to have some quality time with your kid as well as mingle with the other parents. As a side note, now that Mazzy’s class is strictly drop-off at the door, I realize how valuable that 15 minutes is in terms of making friends, setting up playdates and just feeling like you are part of the school’s community.
On the negative side, when you have drop-off issues, that 15 minutes can be a little tough to reconcile. Just as your kid is getting used to having you around, the teacher puts on music which signals that there are only two more minutes before their parents have to leave the room. That’s when Harlow looks at me with panic in her eyes, even if she previously had been playing and talking with the other kids as if I wasn’t there.
“You’re fine,” I tell her. “Just go sit with your friends! Look how much fun you are having in class!”
For the first few weeks, Harlow would latch onto me and refuse to let go. If I somehow got out of her clutches and exited the classroom, she would run after me into the hallway. I couldn’t just leave her in the hallway, so I would have to return her to class and start over.
Finally, her teachers and I talked it out, and they knew that when it was time for me to leave, someone had to take Harlow’s hand or gently hold her back. Everyone needed to be firm together that Mom had to leave. Harlow would still get upset but she understood.
Let me tell you, it is heart wrenching to turn your back on a child and walk out, when she is pleading with you to stay. Harlow has done full on tears, silent begging, outstretched empty arms, etc. etc. She knows how to lay it on THICK. The worst day was when she discovered that she had left our wedding picture in another purse. (She had switched to a new purse that morning and I think we can all relate to the feeling of something important being left behind in the transfer.) I tried to convince her that she could live without the picture for a day but she countered with, “No, I can’t! I look at it all the time!” I had to email the teacher another picture for her to print out. By the time I got out of there, I felt like I needed to have a good cry too.
Then last week, we turned a corner.
I began to realize that Harlow’s goodbyes were starting to seem less like actual distress and more like manipulation. Like, she knew, if I felt bad about leaving her there than she could use that to her advantage later.
We have this My Little Pony doll which is still in the box that someone sent us a few weeks ago. For whatever reason, it wasn’t the right time to open it when it arrived and every time Harlow brings it up, it’s right before bed so I tell her “not now” again. Last week, when the teacher turned on the music and I saw Harlow’s familiar panic-stricken face, I told her that if she wanted to open up the My Little Pony doll, she had to go for one full week with no crying at drop-off.
She liked this idea and said, “okay,” but then five minutes later, when the teacher told the parents it was time to leave, I saw her face crumple, the tears start swelling and she once again ran out after me into the hall. Either she was actually upset or she had forgotten our deal.
I leaned down and spoke softly. “Harlow, remember— if you cry, then you won’t get the My Little Pony doll.”
Just like that, Harlow turned off the waterworks like a faucet.
“Oh, right. Okay, Mom.” Then she gave me a peck on the lips, turned on her heel and bounded into the classroom for the first time all on her own.
This was the first time I got to leave without a teacher physically holding her back from fleeing. It felt AWESOME. And also vindicating, because it confirmed that her panic was really for my benefit alone. She was FINE.
The next day, when the music started playing, she looked at me with water welling up in her eyes once again. I reminded her of our deal and her face relaxed. Then she did something unexpected. She remembered our old goodbye ritual from preschool.
“Remember love pats, Mom?”
“I most certainly do.”
She gave me two love pats on each cheek. She followed that up with a kiss on each cheek, a third kiss on my forehead, two more kisses on each shoulder and “crowns,” which is her using both fingers to draw an imaginary crown on my head. Then she said, “Bye, Mama!” and ran off, voluntarily taking her seat at the front of the classroom, her back to me, facing forward for morning meeting.
BEST DROP-OFF EVER.
I’m not sure what will happen tomorrow or next week or a month from now, but for today, let’s pretend that this is my happy ending.