Wow! We made it! Put a brand new kindergartner and first grader on the bus this morning with no tears, lots of kisses and excitement, and just a little bit of nausea (mine of course). After this wonderful morning, I proceeded to miss both kids terribly and wait the hours until their arrival home. Lindsey came home first, smiling and skipping off of the bus. She LOVED school. Wanted to go right back again. Success!!!! Then I spent more time waiting and missing the other kid terribly until he arrived home. After what seemed like forever, Brandon ran off the bus, all smiles and happy about his day. Loved his teacher, his classroom, and lunch in school. Another success!!! Could it really be that the days of crying, anxiety, and not wanting to go to school were really behind us????? Ummmm....No. I forgot that the first day of school is generally easy. It is in anticipation of the second day that the trouble around here begins!
We had a wonderful time swimming and playing with friends after school. The day was going great. Then it was time to go home and get ready for dinner and bed. And that is when the tears and fears began. My little worrier kindly asked me if he could go back to kindergarten. He did not like going to school until 3:00 and was scared of not knowing all of this first grade stuff. When I explained that he would be bored going back to kindergarten because it would be too easy, he said, "Fine. Then I'll just stay home with you all day." Ah. If it were only that easy.
So, what is a mom to do? The night continued to get progressively worse as the tears started. "I don't want to go to first grade." "It is too long." "Can't I take a week off." "I'm not going to school tomorrow." "I'm scared mommy." "I miss you."
Now, I've learned a thing or two over the past 4 years he has been in school. I did not tell him he had nothing to be afraid of. Instead we talked about how it is scary, and tiring, and hard in the beginning. Just like starting most new things are. But that it will get better, we just have to take it one day at a time.
Unfortunately, no one wants to hear that it will get better. Especially children. They want you to make it better right now! So we talked about what he could do to make going to first grade less scary. After we got passed "not going," he thought planning something special for the end of each day might be nice. That would give him something to look forward to and make the day go by faster. He also liked knowing that he still had time for some play and fun activity at the end of the school day.
OK. Problem solved. Time for bed. Ummm...NO! Tears start all over again along with the saddest look of "Mommy, please make this all better for me." We talk about all of the things he already knows how to do in school - ride the bus, read, go to art, gym, and music, add, make friends.... All of those things he doesn't have to be afraid of because he is already a pro at them. We talk about how his teacher is his "school mommy" and how he can always ask her for help or a hug when he needs one. He suggests that I call his teacher and tell her that he is scared so she can help him. I think that is a wonderful suggestion, so I do. He is happy to hear that his teacher adores him already and says that he is doing great. And also that she has lots of hugs waiting for him tomorrow (yes, can you say AWESOME teacher!). That makes him smile and calms him down enough to try and fall asleep.
But his face still says "Make this better mommy!" And I want to. I want to take away his fear and make it all better right now too! But I am learning that he has to go through it. Lots of other new first graders are going through it too. Same as new middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, and new teachers. If I don't let him go through it, he won't get through it and come out stronger, more confident and capable of handling his fears the next time. I have to aid him in finding a way to comfort himself and find the determination to work through his fears, and even just his exhaustion with a new full day schedule. But I can't do it for him. I want him to tell me how he feels and talk about ways to make things better. But ultimately, he has to experience it and find his own way. And I guess, I have to find my own way to deal with not being able to absorb his pain and take all unpleasant experiences away from him.
Sounds like I have this all figured out, right? Ummm...No. I neglected to mention one more strategy that helped my little worrier fall asleep tonight. If you're looking for me tomorrow, I'll be at the toy store buying a brand new 'pillow pet' for my first grader who promises to get on the bus tomorrow. Bribery. Yes - I admit it. Bribery. I'm a mom. I'll do whatever it takes!
May your heart be at ease,