Monday, August 21, 2017

First Day of Full Day Preschool

Today is R’s first day of preschool.  Full day preschool.  Seven full hours, Don at work, alone to do whatever I want or need.

I do not feel like breaking open the champagne and pouring a mimosa, or planning a three cocktail lunch with my girlfriends.  But I sure didn’t cry in the car as I drove away!  I do feel a sense, not of loss, but of contentment.  

When we would tell people that R was starting full day preschool this year, there was the inevitable question that followed, always to me “Ooohhh….what are you going to do with all your free time?”  Some people who were stay at home parents got it, and would answer “Oh, don’t worry.  You won’t be sitting around staring at walls.  You will be doing the same stuff you do every day — taking care of everyone and everything.  This time you just get to do it without someone begging you for a snack every five minutes!”  To other people I would joke and answer “Haha, probably wander around my house crying for twenty minutes and then get back to work!” That is code for “I don’t know, probably everything I usually do in a day but without the fun dress up games and dance parties every twenty minutes.”

In reality I just did not think about it too much.  Life is busy, it gets as busy as you let it get, and I was sure I wouldn’t be left with hour long stretches of daytime TV dramas and bonbons.  

So I walked R into her preschool today, got her lunch and backpack and nap mat and water bottle and supplies sorted, gave her a hug, and then walked back out to my car.  I didn’t sit in my car and tear up (well, I was blowing my nose every five seconds, but that is due to the summer cold from hell, not an excess of emotion).  I had spent all of my preschool drop off emotions on her last Spring when she went to half day preschool for the first time.  This time I was just so thankful there was no screaming, crying, begging, hitting, or kicking.  I got to give my preschooler a kiss and a hug goodbye instead of prying a honey badger off of my body, handing her to a teacher and fleeing the room like a criminal.  

You may think I am exaggerating.  I am not.  It was bad.  Really bad.  Don was in Haiti for ten days on a surgical trip, and had been working a lot in the last few weeks.  I had been stressed helping him get ready for the trip in the aftermath of our December fundraiser and Christmas.  Everyone had all of the emotions.  

Honey badger at drop off because she didn't want to go to preschool.  Cue feelings of parental guilt — maybe I am sending her too early, maybe I should keep her home with me, does she really need to socialize this early, shouldn’t I just be better at planning things and teaching her myself?!  Honey badger at preschool pick up because she didn't want to leave and come home with me.  Cue second round of parental guilt, along with some deep seated personal insecurities thrown in for good measure — I should have worked with her more on better ways to express her emotions, she is having a tantrum because I should keep her home so she can nap during the day, everyone is watching my adorable little daughter hit me in the face with her fist, its ok other parents with emotionally stable children, everything is cool, nothing to see here!

I cried on the way home or running errands after I would drop her off.  I cried on the way to pick up L from her school after picking R up fro preschool.  I cried midway through the day just thinking about going back to preschool to drop her off or pick her up the next day.  I cried all the tears all the time.  I was emotionally eviscerated for a good two to three months.  

To be very clear, no teacher or parent ever said ANYTHING that made me feel bad.  Everyone else was very supportive.  The head of the preschool would take R from my arms when she would start to scream at drop off and say “Just go Mom, don’t you worry.  This happens all the time.  I will call you in ten minutes and let you know that she is calmed down and doing fine.”  And she would.  Sometimes other parents would offer to carry R’s backpack to the car as I carried her, kicking and screaming and trying to hit me in the face.  Everyone else was awesome.  It’s always the demons in your head that are the loudest.  

So today’s drop off was not big and emotional because I had seven full hours in the day to myself.  It was calm and unemotional.  Which was glorious.  I don't feel like celebrating.  I don't feel like crying.  I just want to get started on my giant to do list, watch 85% of a solar eclipse without burning my retinas, and pick up my girls at 3pm.

Now you can peruse all of the first day of school pictures.  Cry.  Or don't.  Whatever.

L, first day of preschool, 2013
L, first day of preschool, 2014

L and R, L's first day of Kindergarten, 2015

L and R, L's first day of 1st Grade, 2016
L and R, R's first day of half-day preschool, January 2017

L and R, L's first day of 2nd Grade, 2017

L and R, R's first day of full-day preschool, 2017

R, line leader for the day, huge mosquito bite by her eye, 2017

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