Today was a major milestone for both G and myself. It was his first day at preschool! My husband and myself had several long discussions before we made the decision to send him to school at such a young age. C did not start school till she was 3. It was not an easy choice – I spoke with other mothers, who assured me that their children had adapted well, and enjoyed attending school eventually, even if they cried badly in the first few weeks (or months!)
Still I couldn’t help feeling worried – my little boy, all of 18months, left to fend for himself. When I received the call from the school principal last week informing me to bring G in to school after Christmas, I was overwhelmed with emotions – G is still so tiny, and doesn’t even speak properly yet. How would he be able to cope all alone at school? Would he be traumatised?
I think I was in denial till the phone call arrived – I had not prepared anything. There was a mad rush to get everything labelled properly (I ordered the labels last minute, and they couldn’t arrive on time, so I had to write his name on his clothes)
The day arrives
This morning, we dressed G and told him that he will be going to school. Of course, he didn’t really understand what we meant. We had brought him there for a few times to get familiarised with the surroundings, but this would be the first time that we would be leaving him alone with the teachers for a few hours. He was still smiling when we left for school but hesitated at the entrance to the school compound.
We joined the kids for breakfast but G refused to sit by himself. I think he knew that we were going to leave. He started crying the moment I left his side, even if I remained in the room, looking at him from a distance. When the coast was clear, he tried to make a dash for the exit…
Then came assembly time with all the children in the school. I sat with him for the session, and he stopped crying to pay attention during story-telling time. At least there was some sign that he might start enjoying his time in school.
Time to let go
After assembly, each of the classes moved on to separate classrooms. It was also the time when the teachers signalled that the moment had come for us to leave G in the care of the teachers. It was hard to do, especially when you are faced with a crying toddler pointing and wanting to come with you, but not able to say anything except “mama”. But we had to trust the teachers to do their jobs. I promised G I would be back to pick him up after 2 hours. 2 long hours… (I’m not sure who was feeling the separation anxiety more – G or myself?)
When we got back, G was at lunch with his classmates. Still crying, but not as badly as before. I was glad to see that his teacher was comforting him when I peeped into the window.The teachers told me that he had stopped crying to observe his classmates at water play, and had dozed off. He just started crying again when lunch started.
We made it!
He calmed down once he saw us. Of course he was a little miffed at us for leaving him, but after a nap (he was tired and cranky) he was his happy self again.
I think it went pretty well, with less tears than I expected (I didn’t cry!) Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be better, and G will be a happy smiley boy who looks forward to school each morning.
As I’m writing this, I realised that I wasn’t fully prepared to send a little one to school so soon. One of the things I could have done to ease the transition was to adjust his nap times and meal times so that it coincides with the school schedule. That way he wouldn’t have to deal with separation anxiety, a change in environment and a change in schedule. I think G did a better job adjusting and adapting the change compared to myself!
What did you do to ease the transition for your child?