Monday morning took me by surprise. W was, shall we say, “reluctant” in getting out of bed yesterday morning. She took one bite of her breakfast. She was not enthused with the outfit I selected for her, despite the fact that a jean skirt and a fox-print shirt were involved. But she gamely got in the car with her backpack and B, and, given this was the third day of school for her, I took Baby R as well in order to give Don some quiet time.
I walked B up to the door, and then went back to the car to wait for the appointed time for preschooler entry. W was a little agitated, but I was chitchatting through the door with another mom so I didn’t think much of it.
At 7:55 we got out of the car, baby carrier in tow. W immediately complained about not having a sweatshirt, even though it was barely chilly. When we got to the vestibule, instead of running in to the line on her own, she wanted me to come in. “Crap,” I thought. “My mask is in the car.” So we ran back to the car to grab it, and by the time we got back to the vestibule, the kids had filed into the classroom. W wanted me to go, too “so I can introduce Baby R to my teacher!” This should have been a red flag, since she walked herself in the previous week.
When we got in the room there were more parents than I expected. W hung up her bag, put her folder in the basket, and added her name magnet to the board. Then I tried to settle her in with a toy and get out of there as quickly as possible; I was flustered to be dragging an unmasked little baby around a very crowded space.
I’m not really sure exactly how it happened, but the next thing I know, W was full-on clinging to my right leg like a barnacle and SOBBING to go home with me. I looked up and every other preschooler was staring at us, along with the teacher, who was just as surprised as I was that my normally brave, chatty little girl was reacting this way. Thankfully, the principal strolled in at the perfect moment and grabbed her hand. “Would you like to go see B in her classroom?” she asked, and W agreed. As soon as they were around the corner, I hightailed it out of there, a little shellshocked. I had NOT been prepared for that.
As a parent, I normally pride myself on setting expectations with my kids. Before we do EVERYTHING, we talk about how it will go. Flu shot? Poke, ow ow ow, high five, sticker. Coming home from school? Shoes off, hands washed, backpack away. Heading to swim class? Afterwards we will shower, dress, get a piece of candy, and look at the fish. There are no surprises.
I should have known to review the “procedure” with W on the way in…maybe it would have helped, maybe not. After all, it was only the third day. But I got lulled into thinking that she’s as mature as her big sister, which sometimes happens. She can fool you pretty easily with her giant vocabulary and mischievous grin. Deep down, though, she’s still only 3, and she just doesn’t have the capacity to tell you how she’s really feeling deep inside. I wish I had noticed how scared she was beforehand. I never want to be that mom that is so busy doing THINGS that she doesn’t notice her PEOPLE. And today, I was her.
Of course, the day recovered. I didn’t get to pick W up, which is probably better, because I would have been emotional then. Instead, I volunteered on the playground at recess for the first time, and B *loved* having me there. THAT certainly won’t last forever.
These tears are the stuff that doesn’t make the perfect-looking instastories. I mean, who pulls out a camera on their bawling child? But they ARE still the stories that are worth remembering.