Wine For Dinner

Oh you guys, you guys.

Today was a hard day.

We finally found a preschool for Eli and today was his first day.  And I had so much anxiety building up to this day that I spent all of yesterday and this morning composing a blog post about how I probably should go back on anti anxiety medication.  And as the stress and the anxiety built I started to just hate myself, to hate that I just couldn’t be a normal freaking person who thinks little of these things and then goes out and does them.  Mr. E, for example, would be utterly unphased by the preschool drop off and the various logistics involved, but here I am, stressing about how to get there and what to say to the other parents and what time I should leave and also totally terrified that because I am so anxious, I am a horrible care giver for my son, who is also nervous and anxious and needs someone who isn’t stressed and worried to lead him into this.  I  just kept trying to tell myself “it’s not a big deal!” and I refused to let myself think too much about first day outfits or pictures or what to bring, and of course this strategy bit me in the ass when the other food allergy kid had his own snack in an insulated lunch box with his name on it, and my kid had nothing.  Zip zilch nada.

People do the impossible every day.  It seems ridiculous that I should need to fall asleep to a mantra of “I can do hard things” the night before something easy like taking Pants to preschool, but I guess that’s just who I am, and so I repeated my mantra and then we woke up in the morning and off we went, and it was fine. It was nice, even.  We walked to the preschool and I wasn’t late and I didn’t get lost and I filled out the forms and Eli let go of my hand and even though there were some kids lying on the floor crying, he just stood there, a little bewildered, and I unwrapped his finger from my hand, and laughed when he said “Mom, let’s get out of this place!” even though I wanted to say “Let’s. Let’s just go.” and then I turned and I walked out the door. And he didn’t cry, and I was so pleased and surprised and proud.

And then I went and got a pumpkin spice latte, and read my book and sent some text messages and talked to other moms who were also sending off babies to preschool that morning and it was nice.  It was really nice.  Lightning and I sat in the park and she grinned her gummy smile at me and before very long it was time to go back and get Eli, and so we walked back through beautiful neighborhoods we can’t afford to live in and I turned the corner, early, and a line of children was snaking back into the classroom, and then there was mine, walking in a row of kids, with that bright blond hair and so small and perfect, and with such an earnest sweet look to him, like he was trying SO HARD to do it right and I almost said, quickly, just: “Oh!” because of the shock of seeing that one, mine, in a line, across the hall.  Away from me.

They marched back into the classroom and sat on the mat around the teacher for final announcements and all the parents peered in the door, and when Eli saw me, his face crumpled, and he started to cry.  And soon as he started he tried to cover his mouth with his hands to make himself stop crying, and he couldn’t, and I had to turn and walk away, because I didn’t know what else to do.  I wanted, with all my might, with everything I had, to run in that classroom, to turn to the teacher and say “that’s enough of that, now” and to take my baby in my arms, and to run.

She let him out before the other kids because he was visibly sobbing, and he came right to me and then he was ok.  He got back in the stroller and I tried to get him to tell me about the day, but he would only answer “yes” in a small voice if I asked him if he had fun. It’s obvious that while other kids ran and screamed and swung and rode various contraptions around the playground, that he sat and played in the wood chips by himself, which is the same thing he does at the park.  And I asked him if he talked to the other kids and he said “No, I was too shy.”

Something about the fact that he cried at the end is particularly terrible, and it doesn’t help that I know exactly how he feels.  New things scare me.  I am often too shy to talk to people I don’t know.  I was that same kid, sitting by myself at the playground, and now I’m the anxious mom who just wants to keep him safe and close and to spend my days with him cuddling, in a cocoon of safe.

I guess I am just imagining him holding it together the whole morning, and then not being able to do it once he saw me, and I hate that. I know how hard it is to hold it together through hard things. I do it every day. I didn’t want that for him.  I don’t want that for him.

We’re going to try this through the end of October, to see how it goes. It’s only 5 hours a week, and he needs to be socialized, obviously.  He needs to be around other kids and I’m hopeful he’s going to find some other shy little kid to talk about batteries with.  I am going to try not to this one tiny experience into “what the rest of your life will be like and it’s going to be terrible and lonely” because even though I was that kid that wanted to read instead of talking other children, I also have a best friend and a husband and a whole group of people who love me so it’s as not as though he is doomed to life being friendless and alone. And he has to go to kindergarten in two years, and it’s not going to get easier, it’s really not.

I was not sure that I should even write about this, because maybe I am too in it right now, if that makes sense.  One of my favorite quotes is “Never eat the food as hot as it is cooked” and I do think I will look back on this with a good nights sleep and from some distance and things will seem less dramatic, but the long and the short of it is that I need to hear that your kid was shy, that little Roger did the same damn thing, that it won’t always be this hard, that I am doing the right thing, that I won’t be hunched over a laptop crying in two years when Lightning goes to preschool.  I need to know it’s going to be ok, and when it come to this kind of stuff, you guys are the ones I believe most.   Please tell me it’s all going to be ok.

Because damn.  He’s just the most wonderful boy.  Just the MOST WONDERFUL boy, you guys, and the moment when he started to cry and then the hand went up to his mouth to try to make himself stop and he just couldn’t? Oh god.  It was a moment of true and utter heartbreak, and man, I thought I knew heartbreak before, and no, no I did not.

WINE FOR DINNER! Am I right?  Lord.

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27 Responses

  1. It is ABSOLUTELY going to be okay. Just remember – he likely had a good time the entire 5 hours he didn’t see you but instantly forgot that when he realized you had been gone by seeing you again. It takes time – I hope you stick it out through October. HUGS!

  2. Aw. I remember this agony. Mine had a hard time too, both separating from me and settling in comfortably with peers. She was two when she started, and basically her teacher held her for the first week. It was horrible. But she adjusted, and went on to make wonderful friendships and have a fun & enriching experience overall. I’m sure your son will too… you guys just have to get through this transition. And you’re totally right — he’d been holding it together all day and when he saw you he felt safe enough to fall apart. It is so normal, but so hard to see. Hang in there, you’ll both be doing fine before you know it!

  3. Oh girl. He’ll be OK! The first day is the worst. Once he warms up and makes a buddy it’ll get better! Syd is so, so shy around other kids at first. Today at our class I had to leave her on the playground with my “buddy mom” (one mom watches two kids for thirty mins then we switch) and I thought … “I’m gonna die” as she ran outside saying “C’mon Mama!” and I turned on my heel and hid in the classroom. She was fine. But I died a little inside. Once he gets the hang of things he’ll be fine. WINE FOR DINNER!!

  4. You are a great mom.

  5. Definitely wine for dinner. Maybe even wine as an appetizer 🙂

    Huge hugs to you. He will do great and you will do great. New situations are always scary at first, but I know it will be a wonderful thing in the end.

  6. Yes, he will totally find some other shy kid to talk about batteries with, and it will happen before you know it. Thank goodness you know the feelings he’s experiencing so you can help him through it all.

  7. aw. hugs to both of you, and definitely wine for you.

    yes, it will be okay. my shy boy started first grade, and he’s okay. He has some friends. Not dozens, but at least two or three little dudes who he plays with at recess and talks about Star Wars with and they’ve come over here and he’s been to their houses.

    but he got an invitation to a birthday party today, and he was practically in tears over it (“I don’t even really know that kid!”) and we had a chat about making new friends and doing things for the first time.

    Pants’ll be okay. W started preschool at 2 years 9 months, and we gradually increased the number of days and the length of them, and it was fine. He eventually liked it a lot. He’s always going to be shy, but it was good for him. (And me; you will love doing stuff with just one baby!)

    I don’t know. I have tons of my own craziness around this, and mostly I’m just trying not to pass it on.

  8. “he’s going to find some other shy little kid to talk about batteries with.” HA! He’s PERFECT. And he’ll find a perfect little friend. Good LORD, I’m not looking forward to my baby stepping away from me, though. That has GOT to be hard. xoxoxoxo

  9. I’m crying all over again reading this because I’m a huge softie, but also because I so get all of this, with the worrying about the time and the route and all that jazz because I live that anxiety all the time, and also, because I love the hell out of your kid. I really do think he’ll be just fine as he adjusts. He’s such an amazing kid and you’re such a good mom…I think this will all work out. I’m sorry it’s been a rough day. I totally won’t judge you for inhaling wine at dinner tomorrow night. Wine and meat, obviously.

  10. Oh, dude, I can FEEL this. When my firstborn started preschool, I think I spent every single evening the first month saying to Paul, “We can just take him out. We’ll just take him out. We’ll lose our deposit, probably, but I’ll bet they won’t make us pay the whole year. We’ll just take him out.” And Paul said yes, yes, of course we can, we’ll just see how it goes a little longer, but of course we can take him out, of course we can.

    And finally we left him in. Some days were STILL hard, like the day I forgot to do the very last part of our lengthy goodbye routine, and the teacher called me at home because Rob couldn’t focus and couldn’t settle and couldn’t stop crying until I came back to do the last part. And there’d be long stages where drop-off went totally fine, and then suddenly there’d be a week where he’d cry the whole week.

    I finally left him in because I thought, at some point he’ll HAVE to go. If I take him out of preschool, he’ll still have to go to kindergarten. If I homeschool him, he’ll still have to go to college.

    It WILL be okay. And the reason it will be okay is that HOWEVER things go, you’ll find a way to make it work. If preschool works, he’ll stay in preschool. If it’s intolerable, you’ll wait awhile to make sure it’s actually intolerable and not just an intolerable adjustment, and then you’ll put him in a new preschool, or you’ll have him wait another year while you do intolerable playdates instead. Or whatevs, but it will work out.

  11. Okay so I’m new here and I’m also in *this*, but I SO RELATE. Your boy sounds like a sensitive kid, like my girl. And you sound like a sensitive mom, like me. And it’s hard for us all because we FEEL these thing so deeply.

    I’ve been reading “The Highly Sensitive Child” and it’s helped me tremendously. Especially reading about how these kids can hold it together so well in preschool/school but then fall apart when they get home/see mom. It’s heartbreaking for us but just know that he falls apart when he sees you because he knows he’s safe with you. His heart isn’t breaking, he’s probably just stressed from the new situation and all the new stimuli. And when you arrive, he doesn’t have to hold it all together any more.

    (Great. New here and preachy and possibly off base too. Sorry.)

  12. Well I haven’t gone through this with my son yet, but I have lots of neices and nephews. I mean A LOT. We’re talking about Catholic Nebraskans here…..I think you know what I mean. Anyway, one of my nephews was particularly shy. I would be thankful that your son is sweet and shy. This nephew I’m talking about was a little on the psychotic side and shy. My SIL finally got her wits about her and put him in a preschool so he could get some socialization. And THANK YOU JESUS, he came out of his shell & the structure has done wonders. He is so much better behaved and he seems to have a better sense of how to interact with other kids without beating them senseless (kidding, kind of). So what I’m saying is, it will get better and he will get something good out of it. I am very certain of that. You’re doing an awesome job!

  13. Whenever I read about the heart-wrenchingness of the first preschool dropoff, I dread that day…then think, duh, I already did it! I’m a (part-time) working mama and our daycare is also a preschool. It was horrible for ME to leave her the first day, but she was only 9 weeks old, so I don’t think she even knew I left. There are many days when I wish I didn’t have to work, but I guess there are advantages to it I didn’t even know about!

    It must be so hard to leave your child in an unfamiliar place for the first time when you know its going to be hard for them – I probably would have spent the whole time crying in my latte!

  14. I think one of the hardest things about having kids is that there are such CONSTANT adjustments in your routine. As soon as you get used to something, it changes on you, leaving both you and your kid onfused and cranky for awhile. It feels like you can never get your breath and be like, “Oh, THERE, now we’ve made it. Now we’re done.”
    Anyways, we’re doing the preschool thing this year too and while Addy has been almost… WEIRDLY fine about during the actual drop offs and pick ups, she has had total melt downs at home every night so far. I don’t know if it’s just that she’s more tired from all the excitement or if she’s bottling up her anxiety about school and it’s coming out in temper tantrums or what, but it has me worried. Sigh.
    So just hugs to you. It will be ok no matter what, cause you’re a good mom and you have good instincts. And hopefully good wine.

  15. aww I hope you both feel better soon.anxiety sucks.

  16. It gets better. It does. Even if this particular situation doesn’t wind up working for you guys, you’ll find something that does. But first days (and weeks, and months) are hard – for us and for them. And, as the teacher who has been on the other end of morning breakdowns and afternoon freakouts, I have to say that is more likely than not that he was doing a whole lot more than “holding it together”. Kids can be having a fabulous time, or a normal time, or a good-enough time, and then they see that their mom has come to pick them up and they all of the sudden remember “oh yeah: this is different. Mom wasn’t here. I missed her so much!” and it all comes crumbling down. Still: just seeing it must have been so hard, heartbreaking.

    You just keep going, for now, for both of you, and if it doesn’t start getting easier, if he doesn’t start telling you things he enjoyed doing during his day or who talked with him or helped him build a tower or why his picture has three clown/dogs on a roof, then you talk to the teacher and ask her/him how s/he thinks he’s doing during the part of the day that you’re not there. Share what your concerns are – teachers care about your kid too, and they want to help.

    And have wine for dinner, absolutely.

  17. i could just hug you! i think we function the same. Big drama, lots of deep breaths, some distance and then the realization that perhaps all the drama wasn’t necessary.

    take it from someone who has a 3rd grader and a kindergartner, it DOES get easier. For both you and the child. For the record, I have a son too who would love to talk batteries, or how about maps?

  18. This is me giving you a giant hug! My son (who is now 8 and still cautious) was just the same way. When he first went to preschool my daughter was 6 months old and I was such a ball of anxiety/stress/ptsd/etc. OH, he also LOVED batteries and still does!

    What is my point here? I’m not sure – except to be a testament to ‘living through it’! Solidarity and wine!

  19. Oh my god this made me cry like nothing else. But I know it will be okay… I am like that too, was like that, and I am okay. (Although I do still – at nearly 30 – sometimes call my mom and burst into tears when I hear her voice. But that’s okay too. It’s nice to have a couple of people – her and my husband – around whom you don’t have to be strong.)

    I hope every day gets easier for you both.

  20. I too have a boy that is beautiful and sensitive and just the tenderest hearted little guy you’ve ever met and next week he will start daycare for the first time in his life. Thank you for writing about your fears because even though my little one is starting daycare, not preschool, I know just how you feel. I actually have that lump in my throat and tears in my eyes right now.

  21. I totally teared up hard-core while reading this because I remember that feeling so well. My daughter had a hard time for awhile, and when you figure in all the moving we have to do as a military family and the big changes she had o make, it totally made sense but god I thought we were all going to die for awhile. And my son is so so resistant to new things and he gets his feelings hurt so easily. Now they’re in 4th and 2nd grade and this new school year started off so easy and stress-free I thought it must be a joke from the universe, but I still think of him crying in his bunk last year because his “best friend” liked someone else better, or my daughter when she was 6 looking so earnest hopeful about something and me dreading the inevitable incident that will come and crush that… and I want to break down and weep. I think it’s a mama thing, and when you’re a sensitive and shy and awkward mama (I am) then it’s magnified 100%.

    But yeah, it gets better. Because the one thing that I know is that I am the best person to help them navigate their way thru those issues, at least, because lived and still live with them and I care. And I can tell you care. So it will be fine, if not always fun. You’re preparing him, and that’s a huge gift.

  22. You just described me as a child…

    Sooooo hard- but so worth it too. I turned out fine- even productive at times!- but yes…it’s hard. Still is. I still have to push myself to get out of that little bubble of books and trusted friends/family…

    You’re doing great though- and it’ll get easier. We have a saying in my family that the first day is always the hardest- no matter where/what you’re doing. It’ll get better- I promise!

  23. Oh, man, my oldest two (twins) are so totally painfully shy that… well, sometimes it pisses me off, if I’m being honest. Probably because I’m so NOT shy, but also I can see that they don’t WANT to be shy, don’t want to be alone, and I hate it when shy wins for them. (If they preferred to be alone, that’d be different).

    They did really well in preschool, probably b/c my husband dropped them off usually, and he’s not emotionally charged AT ALL, but in Kindergarten Kate cried every morning for TWO months. I felt horrible and exhausted and like I just wanted to kidnap her and forgo all this “school” bullshit… But you know? She loves school, loves her teacher, loves it all. She’s in 2nd grade now, and we’ve had a smooth start to our year.

    Proof that it gets better. For both of my daughter and for me.

  24. I took Noah to JK for his first day last Friday. He was fine. He had a good day. He has been happy to go every day since. But when I ask him if he has met anyone, he says he doesn’t remember their names. And he says he is too shy sometimes to ask. So then I start thinking about what it must feel like in that moment. To want to ask what someone’s name is but be too afraid. And then he told me an older boy told him he was too young to go to JK. It broke my heart. He said he was fine and they were just joking, but I wanted to cry. I think it does get easier, and then maybe harder, and back and forth. I don’t have the magic answer, but I know Eli will be fine. The good ones always are, even if they have to show us before we believe it.

  25. I was a wreck on Rabbit’s first day of kindergarten and she did okay – eventually. But your description of Eli crying did me in. You did the right thing, but damn, it’s so hard.

  26. Oh gosh, I just came back to reread the comments section of this post because my little boy was crying at kindergarten drop off, still, in his third week, and I feel like *I* can barely keep it together. I want him home with me. I hate this. I hope things get better for Pants, and for my little one, too.

  27. Oh, boy. I so know that feeling. As a former daycare worker of pre-schoolers and mom to two, some suggestions that might help:

    (1) Have patience. The acclimation period for part-timers can be really long, because their exposure is so limited. I’m talking six weeks, easy.

    (2) Try leaving the house at around the same time every weekday. For some kids, it’s the get ready process that’s stressful. By the time they get to school, they are already cooking. If they go thru the “find your shoes” routine every day, it can be easier. Choose his clothes with his assistance the night before. That helps, too– let him make his own decisions (within reason).

    (3) Hire your preschool teacher as a babysitter. This helped enormously with my daughter, who switched daycares when she was 2 1/2. We started having her teacher babysit for her on Thursday nights, when we would just run out to dinner at a place right near our house. This let them get to know each other better, in a way that would not have happened with my shy daughter in the noisy classroom. It also gave me the chance to get info on what was going on in the classroom. And lord knows childcare providers are underpaid. Extra cash is so great and so deserved.

    (4) Have lots of playdates with schoolmates. See above.

    (5) Try to not show that you’re stressed. A cheery “have fun” and a quick good-bye are really the way to go. I know that’s probably a lot of pressure for you, but your attitude is contagious. If your son is old enough, you can have him take back some control by pushing you out of the classroom (talk to your teacher about this, a lot preschools use this method or something similar).

    (6) He’ll be fine. Know this. I promise he will be fine. Everyone goes thru this, and you are so smart to give him this chance now, rather than waiting for kindergarten. One experience will build on another.

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