6th February 2006
Nervousness, excitement, happiness, fear, interpretation, joy. Is it possible to feel all these emotions at one time? Absolutely – for certain. This is how I feel right now – it is Harry’s first day at preschool.
This morning the household became a hive of activity very early. No lying in bed reading stories today. This was the big day! Harry’s willingness to shower and get dressed was indicative of the excitement he felt. He even obliged by washing his hair! We knew things were on track for a happy beginning. After donning his new school clothes and beloved hat he happily posed for countless photos. “Is it time yet?” he kept asking, “When can we go?”
His instructions to me on the way there did little to console my need to hold on just a little bit longer. “You can go straight away Mummy,” he stated confidently as we discussed the preschool routine. I could feel the emotion welling in my throat. This is it. This is the day – the beginning of independent life away from home. Oh no, I’m not ready – let’s just go back home and do this another time.
I managed to hold myself together until leaving the preschool. Afterwards my head kept churning with endless possibilities. What if he got hurt and needed someone? What if he doesn’t know what to do and feels overwhelmed? What if he hates it?
It is now 10am. I wonder what Harry is doing? I think maybe playing outside. I hope he has made a new friend.
7th February 2006
Steve took Harry to preschool today. Harry asked him to stay for the morning circle! Half his luck.
Harry had another great day and enjoyed playing. He came home with stories of adventure in the playground and a “dangerous story” of the girl who fell off the money bars. But it was ok mummy – there wasn’t any blood.
8th February 2006
Harry’s third day at preschool. He seems to have settled in happily and looks forward to going to preschool each day. This morning in the car park another little boy from Harry’s class screamed with excited as he glimpsed Harry walking past.
I am discovering the joy of having a little bit of time and space in my life again. Yesterday I completed the day’s housework in an hour while Baxter slept. This would normally take me all day! It felt so easy! I get to do some computer work and then have my little baby to myself for the rest of the morning. I value the head space and quiet simpleness of the mornings without Harry. No need to rush and do something else. No need to juggle and spread myself thinly. Just quiet, simple space.
All the way home, Harry chats to me about what the day has entailed. It is lovely to share this with him. His excitement, fear and wonder. His frustration at not getting to sit where he wants at story time. His fear of the wasp nest in the sandpit and pride at finding it first for all the other children to see. His sense of achievement and confidence in caring for himself. How much he has grown in a few short days.
While life at preschool seems to be settling well, he has saved his wild child for home! All the challenges of the day leave him feeling fragile and needing to express. This has made for some trying afternoons to say the least! .
10th February 2006
At bedtime tonight Harry started to talk with me about preschool. He said that he hated it and begged me not to send him back. He got very upset and said that he missed me when he was there and that he was scared. My heart broke as I listened to his pain. I feel so sad for him and terrible that he is suffering so much. He really doesn’t want to go back. I am not sure what to do. Have we done the wrong thing? Maybe he is not ready for school yet. What do we do now?
Week Two13th February 2006 We decided not to send Harry to preschool today. I rang the school and left a message asking for his teacher to ring me. I am not sure if we are doing the right thing or not but Harry is adamant that he does not want to go. I feel we really need to talk to his teacher properly before we go any further. I am concerned about her response. I am worried if we force him to go he will repress his fear and anxiety and not trust us to listen and respect his needs.
At the same time we feel this is an opportunity to show Harry that we are willing to support him through the difficulties of life. After all life is full of hard bits and we can work together as a family to get through them.
14th February 2006
Harry is really nervous. He keeps asking me if I am going to stay at preschool today. I must admit I feel really nervous too. It is good however to be able to be clear with him after speaking to his teacher.
It was lovely spending the day at preschool and seeing how it all went. Harry was very timid and spent most of the outside play time by my side. I kept looking for an ideal time to leave but there just wasn’t one. He spent the whole time anxious that I was going to go. He didn’t really engage in the outside play and only relaxed later inside.
Once he was settled I took the opportunity to leave. Most of the morning’s activities were complete and Harry was happy for me to go.
We were all absolutely exhausted and went home to sleep for a couple of hours.
20th February 2006
Harry asked for Steve to take him to preschool today. I was somewhat relieved as I thought it may be easier to say goodbye to Daddy. He wanted to negotiate with us how long we would stay with him today and didn’t seem particularly keen to go.
He seems to be having this internal tug of war. He wants to go and really enjoys himself once he gets there, but is finding the separation really difficult. He comes home happy and full of stories of new friends.
Steve rang me about 9.30. Harry was hysterical when he left. He was crying and screaming for Steve not to go. He had spent the whole morning nervously negotiating Steve’s departure. Steve was heart broken. It was the hardest thing he has ever had to do. Harry was hanging over the gate in his teacher’s arms screaming for Steve not to leave him. It is so desperately painful for him. A call from Harry’s teacher a short time later relieved some of our anxiety as Harry had settled quickly and was enjoying himself. This, whilst comforting, did not alleviate our sense of concern.
21st February 2006 I feel so sick. My first thought of the day is preschool. I feel absolutely nauseous. I can’t begin to imagine how Harry must feel. He comes into my bed and asks if it is a preschool day today. The negotiation begins immediately. “I’m not going to preschool today!” “I will only go if you stay with me all day.” I am gentle but firm, reassuring him that I believe he can do it and that I want him to go to preschool. I can see the concern in his eyes and everything within me wants to say “Ok, you can just stay home with me today. We’ll do this another time.”
But we can’t. We have begun a process that we believe needs to happen. This is a difficult time in Harry’s life and we need to support him through it. I am plagued with regrets about the way we parented Harry early in his life and wonder had we done things differently this may not be happening. Intuitively though I feel this is Harry’s time to separate and like many transitions in life, it hurts.
On the way to preschool, Harry’s fear overwhelms him. He starts crying and screaming and took his seat belt off. I stopped on the side of ride to give my full attention to his tantrum. He raged and screamed, pushing his little body up onto the parcel rack in protest. I listened and affirmed. I received but did not negotiate. I supported his release until finally he was willing to sit in his seat again and continue to preschool.
Once again he clung on tight screaming not to leave him. I feel so terrible. I am racked with guilt.
He was settled and laughing before I drove out the gate. How does that happen so quickly? I am concerned he will come home feeling angry and acting out. But he doesn’t. He is peaceful and happy, chatting about the wonderful day he has had.
22nd February 2006
Preschool again – can we do another day? I feel exhausted and totally depleted. What will today bring. Will Harry be upset? Will he go happily?
Again we were gentle but firm about his attendance. He seemed to accept it more willingly. I told Harry this morning that I wouldn’t be staying for morning circle. I think this just prolongs the inevitable and makes it all the more painful for him. He protested a little but seemed ok.
As we approached the gate I could feel his little body begin to tense. He said very little, just held onto my hand. He started to negotiate my departure as the door was opened for the children to enter. I reassured him that all would be fine and led him through his morning routine. Now for the time of departure.
Tears welled in his eyes. This is so hard for him. I kissed him and gave him a hug good bye. He began to cry and his teacher came to his side.
He had settled before I got out the gate. I, on the other hand feel totally gutted. What a week. This is such a transition for all.
To come Monday will be new day. I am not sure how Harry will be and what support he will need. What I have realised though, is the value in trusting our children. Trusting their journey and ability to find their way. What an affirming message we can give them – an unwavering faith in their ability to move through the hard stuff. While my temptation as a mother has been to fix this situation for Harry, I have also learnt to watch on patiently. To allow my children to make their own journey and hold a space for them to do that. To let go of fixing and sit in the heat of the moment with loving grace and fearless faith. What a challenge! I have learnt that to do this well I need to nurture my own inner resources and make this a priority over washing and cleaning. I need time and space to do this and opportunity for my own emotional release. I need to surrender and trust – a continual lesson from the moment of conception. I need patience to allow the unfolding of each person’s path and courage to trust our abilities to move through it.