Thursday, March 16, 2006

Deep Breaths

Sean is a bona fide, card-carrying member of the Preschool Fan Club. He loves it -- every day he asks if it's Tuesday or Thursday; if it is, he says, "Oh boy! Today I can go to PRESCHOOL!"

This week? Not so much.

Tuesday he refused to go into his classroom. He told me that he didn't feel good, that he wanted to go home. After his teachers took turns trying to console him, to no avail, I decided to take him home. He crawled right into his bed and slept for about an hour. When he woke up, the illness or cloudy mood or whatever the problem was had dissipated.

Today was worse. He started telling me that he didn't want to go to school as soon as we got into the car. He cried, he sniffled, he whined. When we got to school I cajoled him out of the car with promises of the St. Patrick's Day party to be held today. This got me as far as the front door, whose threshold he crossed only with the semi-brute force of my shepherding him through.

After several minutes of tears in the hallway, his teachers recommended that they bring him inside without me. As I waited outside, my heart broke into several million tiny shards -- he completely melted down, sobbing and calling for me. He was inconsolable for a long time, and I almost swooped in to bring him home. His teachers, and even the preschool director, however, very gently suggested that this may not be the best solution. Since he eventually did calm down, but refused to engage in any activities, they thought that he would be okay, that learning to calm himself without me is actually something he needs to learn. So I left.

But how could I have left? I feel like I abandoned my boy, my sweet, sunny-dispositioned boy who just wanted to be comforted by his mom. Isn't that what I'm supposed to do? The teachers told me that if he became really upset again, they would call me. So I guess I know that he is not still sobbing in the corner, but I feel that I've failed.

Neither of my kids has ever gone through much separation anxiety; they were always happy to go to my sisters' house when I worked (only a few morning departures resulted in tears, and certainly nothing like what happened today). I asked Sean, and then the teachers, if anything happened at school to make him so reluctant to go. Sean first said no, then yes, then refused to elaborate. His main teacher couldn't think of anything; she told me that Sean plays with everyone and that she hasn't noticed any incidents with other children. There isn't any upheaval at home, either. So what gives?

I pick him up in about 45 minutes; I hope that he'll forgive me.

[Edited to add: Happy as a clam now. At pickup, he was playing outside with the other kids, running around and yelling. When I asked him how he was feeling he said "I really missed you, Mommy. But I'm not feeling sad anymore." I hope this is the end of a brief chapter in our preschool story.]