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Challenge: Back to School

Preschool: The Day No One Told Me I Would Dread

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From the moment I laid eyes on him, I fell so hard in love that I lost complete control of myself and forgot most things before him. We took him home and each day the love grew stronger. His precious little feet. His fingers tight around mine. His tiny pop belly. Even his cry. He was all ours and we were all his. Oh, were we his…

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This is it. It’s just you, me and your daddy now. And we will straight up throw ourselves in front of a truck for you to keep you safe. We surrender.

To me, the craziest thing about parenting has been the unknowns. You can read all the books in the world and still find yourself suddenly out of your own body – captivated by a moment that you never realized would come. Baffled by life’s ability to sweep you off your feet, flip you up into the air and leave you spinning in a moment. Sometimes that moment gives you chills that make you question why you are so lucky. Other times it makes your heart stop because your precious child is in danger and you feel out of control. Or the moment when it gets so hard that you feel like you could cry or give up, only to look down into teary eyes and realize this isn’t about you.

And then there are those moments that are much more difficult to articulate. The bumps that suddenly elevate your child to the next stage, and further away from your hold.

Everyone told me that I would cry when we dropped him at school for the first time.

I did cry. I even cried a few days before when I was walking through the store shopping for his first little backpack. I narrowed it down to two – Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Captain America. The first was so cute and reminded me of my little baby. The second screamed “I’m a big boy”. I took a photo of both of them and sent them to my husband. I couldn’t decide. Almost immediately he texted back.

“Captain America, obvi”, he replied. And right then and there I bawled my eyes out.

Why? Because of the simple fact that Captain America meant my baby was growing up. Captain America meant that he was growing into a boy and everything before then would be history.

I brought both backpacks up to the register. I couldn’t take it. And then right when she picked up the scanner, I stopped her.

“You can put that one back. We’ll stick with Captain America,” I explained while anxiously trying to unkink the knot in my stomach.

When the morning of preschool came, my husband and I rolled out of bed and ran into his room, opening the shutters and declaring the moment:

“Guess what today is buddy?? The first day of school! Yay!!!” we hollered while dancing the kind of dance we would never attempt in public.

It was a declaration that frankly only we really understood but he played along with our excitement and danced with us the way a toddler plays along with goofy adults. From there we swung into our baby girl’s room and she joined in our excitement with some bouncing from her crib.

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Together as a family we ate breakfast, rushed around getting everyone ready and prepped Jack for a photo. First he stood with his back to us, showcasing the Captain America bag that was just about as big as him. And then he turned and shot us the coolest smirk ever. He was ready.

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And I cried. Again.

We managed to get out the door 20 minutes earlier than we had to, just to be safe. We were the first ones in the car line at school.

When everyone else arrived, Jack started to put the pieces together. I walked him towards the school and slowly but surely he started to break down. He screamed. He cried. He kicked. He even held his breath at one point and I thought for sure he was going to pass out.

All of the other parents starred, wearing smiles that expressed they’d been in my shoes not long ago. You see, at this school there is a staggered start. The kids start on their 3rd birthday. I didn’t understand it until this exact moment. Just one kid kicking and screaming is nothing compared to 20.

His amazing teacher pried him from my arms and he shot me a look that I will never forget. Why mama? Why are you leaving me???? No, mama! Pleaaase!!!

I felt sick. So sick to my stomach that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I just wanted to scoop him back and take him home where he could play with his baby sister, nag me to watch Daniel Tiger or Thomas, cuddle, and explore the fridge. But I left.

And I cried again.

For two weeks, we experienced a similar routine. It even started when we got into the car and slowly got worse as we pulled into the parking lot. The other parents continued to smile as they watched me drag him from one side of the parking lot to the other. I was still “the new mom”, but because of this dramatic daily occurrence, I was forced into unspoken friendship with these parents as they empathized with me.

Here comes Jack! They thought.

I kept on going, thinking to myself, this is insane! Is he going to do this forever?

And each time I got back into the car, as much as it hurt to see him cry, deep down there was something about the entire debacle that I couldn’t help but like. He loved me. My boy loved me so much, that it was worth it to him to put up the fight of a lifetime daily, just so he could stay with his mama. Stay with me.

And then IT happened.

One sunny day, we pulled up to the school, he hopped out of the car and we walked towards the door. The other parents looked at me, intrigued that he wasn’t flipping out. And as the school door opened, I felt his step pick up and his tiny hand begin to release from mine. I looked up and saw one of his teachers, Miss Cindy, standing there waiting for him. He looked up at me, almost asking for my approval to move forward. I smiled and he pulled away. Then I watched my son run into the arms of a complete stranger. A woman I didn’t know but someone he was beginning to trust. Someone he would grow to love. He didn’t look back.

And I cried so hard.

Once again, I felt myself swept out of my body and pulled into a whirlwind of intense emotions – completely out of control. The pit in my stomach brought me back to earth. And I drove away.

This, was by far the hardest day of preschool, that no one warned me about.

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