Thursday, September 06, 2007

(Life) Lessons

I figured out how to get a two-hour nap out of my oldest child. Send her to preschool.

I know what you really want to know. Did she cry? Well, yes, a little. I don't really know how much, or how long, because I was ushered out by the preschool director, who is also Julia's head teacher. But I think she did OK, because when I picked her up before lunch, she was happy to see Genevieve and me but did not immediately burst into tears as one might expect if she had been struggling to be brave for 2-1/2 hours. She said she read a lot of books, which is just what she does when she's too shy and scared to talk to anyone, but she also spoke about Play-Doh and seashells and the morning greeting song. And she got not only crackers at snack, but juice. Juice, people. We do not drink juice in our house. I don't think she's ever even tasted juice before today. So, you know, that was a high point.

She said the children and teachers were nice, so I'm assuming someone talked to her, played with her, paid attention to her rather than letting her sit by herself in the reading corner for the entire free play period.

She said, "I was a little sad when you left, Mama." And once, "I was pretty sad when you left." And several times, "But I'll be lonely AGAIN, the next time I go back to preschool!" And, "But I don't WANT to go back to preschool and be sad again, Mama!" I told her she would be less sad every time, and that she will get to know her new friends and teachers better each week, so that she won't be lonely when she goes. She looked at me skeptically, but didn't argue.

And what about me, did I cry? I actually didn't, believe it or not, although if I had stayed a moment longer, I probably would have. Those wise head teachers, they know.

And what did I do when I got home and put the baby to bed for her much-delayed morning nap? Well, I very consciously and purposely brewed myself a cup of coffee, sat down, and checked my e-mail and all my favorite blogs in leisure. I didn't do the dishes or clean the catbox or start the laundry. I will, other days. But I figured on this very first day of semi-, pseudo-, slightest shred of tiny taste of freedom, I deserved a little break.

So, Julia learned that she can be sad but still be OK, and that Mama always comes back. Genevieve learned that she misses "Boo-wa" when she's gone. I learned that I can walk away from my first baby as her chin trembles, trusting that an adult I don't yet know will make her feel better--something I will no doubt do, in one form or another, many, many times over the next 15 or 20 years.

And, did you know? I bought the cute, dainty shoes, and I wore them to preschool, and that was a lesson too: that it's OK to do something nice for yourself, spiff yourself up a little bit, even if money's tight and you spend your days taking care of wee ones who drool and step on you.

Happy back-to-school, everyone. It might be a little scary, but be brave.


Christopher said...

All true, very true. But when I finally dragged her up to bed tonight, a crucial few minutes late, she asked, quietly because she was so tired, "Why did I feel both so happy and so sad when Mama and Genevieve and you left me today? Why can I feel happy and sad at the same time? Will I feel happy and sad together every time?"

We spent a few minutes talking about how you can easily be happy and sad (I wish I'd used the word "bittersweet" - she'd have loved it), and how even Mama and I were happy and sad at the same time. She listened with her big eyes gleaming and then filed it away before choosing a book to read.

squab said...

OK, first of all, SUPER CUTE first day of school outfit. Holy moly. And second of all, congratu-freaking-lations on making it through the day. That had to be so hard. As someone who will be facing the same thing in a year or two, I'm wondering - do you think it would have been any easier if you HAD ever left J with someone else before? Looking back, would you try to incorporate more of that if possible, or do you think it's purely a temperament thing, and nothing you could have done would have made a difference?

I look forward to hearing stories from nursery school. I'm sure there will be some corkers.