I’m one of those mothers who looks forward to each new milestone, excited for my kids to reach them and move on to the next one. Even before my daughter was born, I was eagerly anticipating the day she would be starting school. I have such great memories from my school days and really enjoyed my time as a student. I liked all aspects of school: friendships, learning, sports, extracurricular activities, etc. and I couldn’t wait for my own kids to have those same kinds of experiences. And, in all honesty, as a work-at-home mom, I couldn’t wait to get my three-year-old out of my hair for a few hours each week!
I had been asked several times if I was going to keep my daughter home with me instead of sending her to preschool. Implied by this question was the idea that since I was home with her all day, every day, I could save a few bucks and teach her everything she’d learn in preschool. But after spending almost every day together for three years, I thought it was really important for her to have something of her own. Something she does without me. Plus, she needed to learn things that she was not willing to learn from me. Things like how to properly hold a pencil. How to socialize with her peers. How to respect the authority of her teachers. The mere fact that I was the one suggesting she do something or try something, caused her to rebel and refuse. My last hope was that seasoned professionals would have the tools to get through to her that there really IS a good reason to hold your pencil a certain way!
So her first day of preschool quickly approached this past fall and my excitement continued to grow. It would not be too far from the truth to say I was actually a bit giddy! I just hoped she was, too! But amidst the excitement I had moments of panic. Would she behave herself? Or would she be the bully she can be around her playgroup friends? Would she listen to the teachers? Or would she do the complete opposite of what they asked? Would the teachers be able to handle my spirited, strong-willed, routine-dependent child?
Then other moms started sharing their experiences of their kids’ first days of school, and the common theme among them was an underlying sadness. They’d utter phrases like, “Oh, my little baby is growing up too fast,” or “Time can slow down!” or “I want my cuddly little baby back.” Not to mention the amount of tears shed on both sides.
After hearing others talk, I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. I’ve never thought my daughter was growing up too fast. Nor have I ever wished she was a little baby again. I wondered if maybe, once faced with having to actually walk away while she stayed at school with her new teachers and classmates, maybe then I’d experience the sadness that I kept hearing about.
The day finally arrived. That morning we took the obligatory first-day-of-school pictures, packed up her backpack, and set off for our first school drop-off. I spent the entire drive wondering if the sadness I had yet to feel would creep in the closer we got, or maybe once I was faced with walking out the door without my daughter. After walking her in, helping her find her cubby and hang up her backpack we encouraged her to start playing. She was a little hesitant. Then she spotted the scissors and paper and forgot all about us! My husband and I made a break for it while she was distracted, and hightailed it out the door.
Before I knew it, I was back home by myself with dry eyes…and it was AMAZING! That first day I just sat on the couch, leisurely drinking a HOT cup of coffee until I had to head back and pick her up. I couldn’t wait to hear how her first day was and all the things she did.
Sending her to preschool at the age of three has been one of the best things we could have done for her. She has grown leaps and bounds and gets excited every day to discover what the letter of the week will be, what craft they will make, or if there will be a mystery reader. She loves her teachers and is getting better at playing with her peers. She is super excited to be able to go three days each week next year and is already looking forward to kindergarten! I think that’s a sure sign that she is enjoying school…at least for now!