This past August brought an array of firsts for my profoundly, shy and irreversibly, backwards four-year-old daughter, Lauryn. She had never spent the day outside of our home with people she did not know. She had never ate a meal with a hundred different faces. She never relied on anyone other than a family member to take her to the little girl’s room, to wipe her nose, or dry her tears. She never had to go to school before until August.
I’ve been told that like adults, all children react to change differently. Some children open their arms wide and embrace it. Others throw themselves on the floor, kick, scream, cry and howl in protest to the turn of the scale. My daughter was the perfect example of the latter.
I tried to prepare her for the transition. I enrolled her into gymnastics hoping to strengthen her social skills, and to learn to adapt to taking orders from someone else other than her mother. I painted dazzling, grand pictures of how school would be for her. “Oh, Lauryn, you will have a fabulous time! You will get to be with a ton of kids your age. You will get to play with play-doh, cut with scissors, build with big blocks, and did I mention there would be boys there! Oh, My! I wish I could go, Lauryn! Skylyr will be so jealous because he can’t go.”. Her big blue eyes would drop to the floor, and her head would turn, blonde hair whipping around her face. No smiles, no thrills, and zero excitement.
Unfortunately, for us both, nothing worked. Lauryn looked forward to school like most people look forward to a root canal. We couldn’t even talk about school without evoking a meltdown. “Mommy, why do I have to go? Don’t you love me anymore? Will I have to stay there forever? Whose going to pick me up? Will you pick me up early?”. Dear, sweet, Jesus where did I go wrong? Why does my daughter insist I’m going to abandon her? When have I ever left her? Oh wait! I leave her for eight hours a day, to work, to pay the bills. I should never leave her. What was I thinking? I should have been a stay at home mom and maybe my daughter would not have abandonment issues! This is all my fault! ALL-MY-FAULT!
You know where this is going, when all else fails, girls go shopping! Against my better judgement, I let her pick out her school clothes, just add it to my long list of Mommy transgressions. She was attracted to glitter, sequins, tutu skirts and funky tights. I began to see a small glimmer of hope, sparkling among the glitz, floating thru all the frills. She seemed excited! She really, truly did! Only if it would have lasted longer than my buyer’s remorse. By the time we got home, her excitement had been put away with the new clothes hanging in her closet with the tags still dangling, never to be seen again.
Much to my dismay, we finally awoke to Lauryn’s first day of school. Thus far, it has been the worst day of my motherhood. It was made from the same cloth as nightmares and terrors. The second I told her she was going to school, she let out a bloodcurdling cry that made the hair on my arms standup. It took me a hour to get her calmed down, snap a picture with a fake smile, and get her into the car. She cried the entire ride there. I was an executioner and she was the prisoner being lead to her imminent death.
We pulled into the parking lot and I had to pry her from her booster seat. She wrapped her arms around my neck, her long, scrawny, legs around my waist, and buried her sweet face into my neck. My resolve got weaker by the minute. Every fiber in my being was screaming, “Put her back in the car and get out while you still can! Don’t do this to her! She’s still a baby!”. My head told me,”Keep moving. Hold it in! Don’t cry! She’ll be fine after you leave. She needs this! She REALLY needs this!”. I would have listened to my heart, and went home, if my husband had not accompanied us.
I would say he was there for moral support, but looking back now, I know he was there to keep us straight, to stick to the plan. We had intended to drop and run. Didn’t work. We couldn’t leave her in the state she was in. We then decided, for me to hang around a while, until she eased into her new surroundings, then I would hit the road. Didn’t happen either. The longer I stuck around, the longer the hysteria remained. “Mommy, please, PLEASE, don’t leave me here. I want to go home! I want to stay with Mamaw and Skylyr like I always have. Please, Mommy!”. My heart broke and busted. I can promise you there are still pieces of my heart, stuck in the grout of the elementary school tile, never to be rectified.
Oh, I was in distress! What would a good mother do in this situation? Does she do what her child wants, or does she do what her child needs? I channeled June Clever and went with what they need! I knew Lauryn needed to stay and I needed to leave. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.
I was seriously planning my escape, when a mother of another hysterical child, distracted her son, and wormed her way out the door. It took the little boy a whopping five seconds to figure out that his mother had ditched him. He looked at me, eyes wide and distraught, and his face as red as his hair. “Where’s my mommy? Did she leave me? She promised me she wouldn’t leave!”. Why did I have to be the closiest adult to this child? I can’t take this! He began to scream and cry frantically, “My mommy lied to me! She lied! She lied! I want my Mommy!”. I began to take mental notes. Do not attempt duck and run tactics with small children. They will never trust you, ever! This, however did not suppress the overwheming urge I had to scoop him up in my arms, and lie to him like a big, stinky, wet, dog like his momma had. “Baby, your Mommy didn’t lie to you. She’ll be right back. She just went to the bathroom.”. Oh, how easy it would have been on me, and how hard it would have been on him, when he realized I had lied as well. Would he ever believe anything that spews from an adult’s mouth?
I didn’t do anything for the little, red-headed boy other than feel so sorry for him. I couldn’t. My daughter’s nails were embedded in my wrists and her bottom was bonded to my lap. The harder the little boy cried the harder she cried. She knew I was leaving. I signaled the teacher and she came over. The aide extracted Lauryn from my lap. I watched as Lauryn tried to fight her way lose, arms flaying and legs kicking . Tears rolling down her face, begging and pleading with me not to leave her. All I could do was tell her that I loved her and I would be back to pick her up. I ran out the door, tears rolling down my face now. When I opened my car door in the parking lot, I could still hear her screams. I am an awful mother! I will never forget this day as long as I live. Ugh!
I wish I could say the next day was better, but it wasn’t. I wish I could say the next week, and the week after that was better, but it wasn’t. It was like the first day if school, everyday, for the first three months of school. I cried. I worried. I stressed. I threatened to pull her out if the next day wasn’t better, but eventually she had a good day. Eventually she had a good week. Then eventually she had a decent month. If it had not been for the Holy Trinity and an amazing teacher, Ms. Brenda and her aide, Ms. Charity, I would have surrendered and Lauryn would have happily quit.
Lauryn took to her teacher, Ms. Brenda, like butter sticks to your thighs. Ms. Brenda was patient and nurturing. She was understanding and stern at exactly all the right times. She was perfect for Lauryn and if it had not been for her, Lauren would not be graduating from preschool this May. I am so grateful for her and feel that I will always be in debited to her! Next year, Lauryn will start Kindergarten, and she will get a new teacher, and a new set of challenges, but neither of us will ever forget Ms. Brenda and Ms. Charity. We will forever be thankful!