You started pre-school on July 1st, a few days ago, and it's not going well.
The night before, I couldn't sleep. Kevin and I were both worried about how you would adapt. You've been at home for three years, mostly either with us or with your nanny Jarmila, who really has been like part of the family. You're happy with all three of us; when one of us is watching you, you laugh and sing and dance and demand we build cities with you or draw or go to the park. You talk constantly, and you make up weird, delightful stories.
You didn't take so well to some of the other babysitters we've tried recently, Adriana and Alma, even though they're both really sweet and are great with your brother. Partly I think it's just that you've had a lot of change lately -- since the end of last July, we've moved to Daniel and Anne's for two months, moved to a rental house in Oak Park, moved to another rental house. As Jarmila got busier finishing up her degree, we had to bring in the other babysitters. And for two months, your parents were so busy with the move and the end of school that we actually had to have seven days a week of childcare in order to make it through. We were still around, but most of the daytime, someone else was actively taking care of you. You didn't always love that.
We had gotten you a little tent, a PeaPod, because we knew that between the two family trips this summer and the move, we'd likely need a place for you to sleep for a few nights. As it turned out, you fell madly in love with it, and have refused to sleep in your bed ever since we opened it up. Which is fine -- your bed will wait for you. If you're happier sleeping in your little green tent, if you feel more secure in its confines, that's just fine. But especially the week before and after the move, when we were at our most harried, you took to just going and hiding in your tent in the middle of the day. Sometimes a couple of times a day. Which was a little worrisome.
And then the first day of school arrived. Your dad and I packed you both up and took you in. Anand went to his caregiver, no problem, as expected. Your dad played with you on the playground there while I talked to teachers and learned what they needed from us. And then it was time for us to go. You weren't thrilled about going with a teacher, but there were two little boys playing nearby. They said they were making food for the ants. And you said you wanted to make food for the ants. And the teacher said okay, let's get you a shovel. And off you went, seemingly content.
We came to pick you up after a half day; they'd recommended not starting with a full day, since it could be a bit of a shock for little people. You were all having lunch, and at first, you didn't want to go. We weren't sure what to do, and made the mistake of asking if you'd rather stay with the others for the afternoon, or go home to see Jarmila. That was apparently too hard a decision, because you started crying. So we scooped you up and took you home. You calmed down almost immediately, so it seemed reasonably okay.
But the next morning was awful.
I was going to New York, and had to leave at 9:30 to head to the airport for my flight. It was my parents' fortieth wedding anniversary, and my sisters and I had planned to take them to a nice lunch in the city as part of their gift from us. So I couldn't linger at pre-school that morning. You didn't want to go. You cried at the house, and I had to carry you out to the car. Which was tricky, because I had to carry your brother too. You calmed down a little driving over, but then started crying again after I dropped Anand off in his room. I tried to play with you a little on the playground, with a few other kids, and that went okay. We dug in the dirt -- I would dig a triangle, or a line, and the other kids would erase it with more dirt, and you thought that was very funny. You laughed. I thought maybe this would be okay after all. But time was passing, and I had to get going to the airport. When I stood up, you started just wailing. One of the teachers came over and picked you up and carried you away. When I walked out of the playground, you were howling, holding your arms out to me and calling. That shredded me.
It gets worse.
I called your dad from New York, to find out how the rest of the day had gone. He'd had to drop off some supplies for Anand, and afterwards he'd stayed and worked at the cafe next door. It has a big sunroom with windows that overlook the playground, so that working there, he could watch you, but you weren't likely to see him. It's one of the things we liked best about this particular preschool (along with the fact that Catherine and Robert, Daniel and Anne's kids, go there). He said that he saw you on the playground. You spent the entire time sitting on a bench, quietly. And when he came to pick you up, you were sitting on that same bench, and you had had a little accident and your pants were wet. You've been doing so well on toilet training, but I guess you didn't want to go tell the teachers that you needed the restroom. You hate being wet, or dirty. How miserable you must have been, sitting all alone, wet and uncomfortable, waiting. Did you even believe that we would come back?
Whenever I leave, I say, "I have to go to work, but I'll come back. I'll always come back." After the first time I said that, you latched on to it, and sometimes, you finish it for me, before I can. I say, "I have to go to work." And you say, "But you always come back." And I say, "That's right."
When your dad told me about you sitting on that bench, I wanted to pull you right out of the school. You're so little. You're too little to be so sad.
But we'd planned to give it at least a week, to give you time to adjust. After a week, you've adjusted to the new house -- you don't go hide in your tent anymore during the day. You laugh and run and tell stories, just like you used to. My sister, Mirna, thinks we should give you at least two weeks in the school, to see how it goes. She's probably right, even though it feels like we're torturing you.
All the other kids seem happy there. They laugh and run and play. We could take you home, do a combination of us watching you with a babysitter three days a week. We could afford that, though we'd fall further behind on our work. But most of the point of starting you in pre-school is that it seemed like it was time. You're great with adults, especially cheerful, outgoing adults. But you're not good at playing with other kids. You get overwhelmed easily if there's more than one or two of them. In not too long, you'll have to be in school with lots of kids, five days a week. So maybe it's worth trying to help you adapt to it now, in a smaller group.
I always kind of laughed at parents of 'sensitive' kids. I thought those parents were overly protective, and if they just relaxed and let the kid go, they'd do fine. But you really are sensitive in some ways. You can't take a harsh word or a raised voice -- if, at the end of a long day, I start to snap even a little, you immediately crumple. Maybe it's that we've been so gentle with you, or maybe it's just who you are. My dad says that he was a sensitive kid too, so maybe it's genetic.
We'll give it another week, maybe even two. Although if you keep crying the way you did on Friday, it is going to break my heart. I was riding the train back from New York yesterday, and there were these teenagers sitting across from me. And they were so young, and beautiful, and perfect. Since we had you, all children look that way to me. Even my college students do. And I know that the world is full of hard things, and I even believe that sometimes, the hard things are good for us, and make us stronger. But still. This isn't easy.
I was talking to your dad about this, and he said, "You know, this is just the beginning. Someday, she's going to be dating some boy you don't like." This is part of the parental job, I know. Letting you do things, even things that might cause you pain. It's part of helping you grow, and I can suck it up and do it. I can. But I don't have to like it.
So much love and so many apologies,