Who I Was Today

I do a better job of caring for my actual child than the preschool craft version of her.

I do a better job of caring for my actual child than the preschool craft version of her.

I want to remember who we were today.

Today was a Wednesday at the beginning of June, 2015. C had a week off from PDO last week, and today she returned to school. It was her first day of the summer session and she transitioned from the two-year-old classroom to the three-year-old preschool classroom, aptly titled “Monkey Class” because what else do you call a room full of three-year-olds? She had new teachers and a ton of new classmates. Only a couple of the kids from her old class transitioned with her, and they were kids she doesn’t seem to be friends with.

She said “I don’t want to go to school” no fewer than 75 times before we actually got there.

She started crying the moment we pulled up. Tears rolled down her little cheeks and she clutched to White Bunny. She said she wanted to go home – Pweeeese can I go home? Pweeeeease? – and my heart hurt for her. I wanted to cry too. I wanted the nice PDO director to come out and talk to me as gently and reassuringly as she talks to C when she has a hard drop-off. Through the grace of something bigger than me, I kept myself together; I’m getting better at taking these separations in strides. Nevertheless I made fun of the situation on Facebook because sometimes boiling down a stressful, jam-packed moment to a status update or a tweet is the easiest way to cope with the comedy of errors that is parenting a dramatic toddler.

I felt sad, though, and the voice of doubt was screaming at me.

Right before lunch, I got a call.

“First, let me say that nothing is wrong. I just wanted you to know that C has had a couple accidents this morning. Don’t worry – she’s not crying and she insists that she doesn’t want you to pick her up, but I just wanted you to know. She went through her change of clothes and now she’s wearing one of the painting t-shirts.”

I drove home at lunch and picked up a change of clothes and shuttled them back to school. I wanted to cry the whole time, but I can’t pinpoint exactly why. It was that sense of despondency, that please-let-me-just-fall-into-a-pit-that-swallows-me-up-no-really-I’m-being-serious feeling I’m learning to identify as something that is not me. Through therapy, I’m learning to manage it.

It is not my fault that my daughter wet her pants. It was not my fault the first time, and it was not my fault the second time, either.

It is not my fault that she had anxiety about her first day in a new room.

I am a good mother. Making light of stressful situations on Facebook does not undo that.

I am a good person.

I pulled up in front of the school right as her class was leaving the playground to come inside for their naps. Near the end of the line was my little girl in a giant white t-shirt and an orange ribbon that through some sort of maternal sorcery I was able to affix to her ribbon-impervious head that morning. She was happy. She was OK. She didn’t see me, and when she later overheard me talking to B tonight about me dropping her stuff off, she understood that I came to her school but wasn’t upset that she didn’t see me.

The first thing she said when I got home today was this: “I had a good day at school.”

I want to remember who I was today because I’m still fragile but I am OK.

25 comments

  1. Parenthood is never for the faint of heart. I’m glad you’re both okay.

  2. Gulp. And bravo. This is not easy.

  3. Sounds like both of you are very resilient people. I’ll bet C has learned those skills from you.
    Such a heartfelt post.

  4. We once knew a little boy who cried EVERY morning in first grade until Christmas break. He is a grown man now but if you want to see his mom roll her eyes just mention the year he was in first grade. It happens. They get over it and we feel guilty. Lucky us! But I guess that guilt is what makes us choose not to eat our young and helps perpetuate the human species. Without that guilt we would have died out in some cave somewhere when the last human child whined and cried one too many times….

  5. Ahhh, man. I remember those feelings, so many that you described. My kids are 22 and 19 now and I still give myself those talks. Strange how our identities and self-worth becomes so tied to our kids’ performance or their comfort or what-have-you–things we often can’t control and only sometimes influence. Good post. I saw you at Press Publish so I can imagine you saying the words here and I just want to hug you. Your blog is important, and you are indeed a good person.

  6. Sounds like you ended up having a pretty good day, too.

  7. It’s OK to be fragile, Em, and each challenge you survive makes you that much stronger.

  8. anita ibeakanma · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Anita.com.

  9. “a feeling I’m learning to identify as something that is not me.” I relate to that. For me, managing it takes observing the feelings instead of letting myself be swallowed by them. My son (now 6) cried for months during his 2 years of preschool and year of kindergarten. It’ll probably be the same when 1st grade starts. Most days, it was just a part of our routine. Other days, his anxiety triggered mine in a way that affected my entire being: physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. Remembering my true self and being compassionate toward myself on those days is still tricky but I’m learning. I’m learning to not over analyze anything when I’m feeling like that because tomorrow it will probably all look different. Being able to say ‘this is not really me’ and knowing that I’m still in here and ok is empowering. I needed this reminder today, Emily! <3

    1. High fives for the “My kid cries when I drop him off at school” club! :) How often have we talked about this Karen? I am hoping 1st grade will be his year. I was so surprised when my son DIDN’T cry this past year, after doing so every other since he was 2. Maybe this will be the year the light switches for him. Because it WILL switch one day. But I have to share this story with you. M’s teacher retired at the end of this year. I adored her. As a gift, the principal collected a book of notes from students and parents over the years. In my note, I mentioned that her classroom was the first one M never once cried upon entering (not that it was specifically because of her…but she knows his history and I thought it was cute to mention.) The next day after I wrote that letter, …HE CRIED during drop off!!!! *face palm* Thankfully, it was an isolated occurance.

      1. Hahaha! We made some strides when my son started karate class with only 2 meltdowns. I think we’re getting somewhere!

  10. Love you and I KNOW. Still want to be there for YOU! Mom

  11. So honest and so true. Separating from your children gets a little easier, but it’s never blissful. I can tell from what you write that you are a great mother, and I’m glad you’ve found a way to reassure yourself of that.

  12. I can totally relate to this post ! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  13. You are more than ok, although it is fine if “ok” is what you feel. Because it shows you there is something else you can be. I think you probably remember that M struggled with school drop-off anxiety for a long time…like, practically every school day for 4 years. It’s hard. It takes a toll. It piles on top of all the other things you feel inadequate at or stress over. But they are ok, and you are ok. And bonus…you are writing some damn good stuff while you’re ok. :)

  14. You ARE a good person and you ARE a good mother. It can be tough sometimes when separating from our children and they don’t want us to. It’s like your heart gets caught in a tractor beam and you can’t break away.

  15. She turned out okay at the end of the day, and so did you. It’s good to write this kind of piece as a reminder for days that it seems impossible to do that.

  16. I thought when I had a child the hardest moments would be in the middle of the night after a week of not sleeping, on the floor of the grocery store in the midst of a tantrum, cleaning vomit stains off of antique furniture, that kind of stuff, you know? But the hardest moments have always been in saying goodbye. Leaving her at a new preschool because I know in the long run it’ll teach her more. Leaving her with a babysitter when she’s sick but there’s just absolutely no way I can miss that meeting at work. Listening to her weep as I just turn around and walk away, because that’s what we’re “supposed to do.” You are not alone (and thank you for sharing this so I know I’m not alone)!

  17. Yes. I know what you mean. Lately I’ve been reminding myself of what Sirius said to Harry Potter, when Harry felt so angry about his hardships that it freaked him out: “You’re not a bad person. You’re a good person who bad things have happened to.”

  18. Ah, the endless goodbyes. I know I should be all uplifting and sh*t, but I put my two babies on a jet-plane Sunday, and sent them back to their now-home halfway across the country and it hurts. They don’t cry like they did when I dropped them at daycare, at school, at the babysitter – at so many places I wish I didn’t have to. They’re fine and I’m the one crying, because goodbye is never easy, my dear.

  19. You are clearly a unicorn, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!

  20. Parenting is SO HARD sometimes. Making the hard decisions and sticking to them can feel overwhelming, but you are a good person. Keep telling yourself that. I nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award (http://riddlefromthemiddle.com/2015/06/28/with-deep-gratitude/) — no obligation!

  21. you must persist , despite many obstacles in front of you

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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