A few months ago, I signed my boys up for part time "preschool." It's only a few days a week, but I feel like we will all benefit from it. All summer long I've been anxiously awaiting their first day of school, but as that day approaches and we start preparing, I find myself fighting back tears. I had no idea about the emotional stages of taking kids to school for the first time, or that I would be one to experience them. I was so excited to have them meet new kids and learn new things (and I was so excited to get a break) that I didn't think about the fact that it would require me letting go of their little hands so someone else can take the reigns. Yeah, I'm struggling with it.
I am confident in the women who will be taking care of and teaching my boys. I talked to multiple sites and providers, and I weighed every option carefully during my search for the perfect preschool. There are plenty of questions you can ask daycares to make you feel at peace and completely comfortable with leaving your children in their care, and I've asked them all. Still, watching my kids grow up before I'm ready is still a hard pill to swallow. Accepting that my babies aren't babies anymore is a bittersweet feeling. I'm excited for what's in their future, but sad that it's approaching so rapidly.
As much as I wish they'd be little, chubby, sweet babies forever, I understand howe and why sending them to preschool will be beneficial for all of us. We've purchased their supplies and filled out their forms and completed their physicals, and they are ready and excited for their first day. I'm just not sure that I am. Well, not completely. So, yeah, it's pretty obvious that I am currently going through the emotional stages that accompany taking my kids to school for the first time, and let's just say that I'm not handling it as well as they are.
Optimism: "Yay! I'm Going To Have So Much Free Time!"
Initially, I was thrilled to be sending my boys to part time "preschool," as they call it. I work from home, so trying to meet deadlines while simultaneously keeping my children alive proves to be quite challenging on even the best of days. Getting a few days a week to work in peace sounds better than hitting the lottery (although, you know, the lottery would be great, too).
Doubt: "Wait, They Need School Supplies, Too?"
Wait, you mean that my not-even three-year-old son and my barely 19-month-old son need school supplies? I mean, they're not learning cursive, they're learning how to share blocks and pull up their pants and not eat dirt, so why do they need a notebook?
Realism: "So, Getting Kids Ready For School In The Morning Is Sort Of Terrible"
Since my kids don't start their school for another couple of weeks, I decided to start doing some trial runs to get us all into a routine. Let me just tell you, getting two kids ready for school in the morning isn't as warm-hearted and adorable as they make it out to be in commercials. There was a lot of missing socks, some yelling, one rogue child, bagels in the toilet, cereal in the dog bowl, and probably some cussing. Also, I sort of wanted to start drinking afterwards.
Confusion: "Is My Child's Backpack Supposed To Be Bigger Than Him?"
My youngest isn't even two yet, but he needed a backpack big enough to fit a folder and his lunchbox. While looking for a backpack I may or may not have started to tear up every time he tried one on because they were all bigger than him. Like, you could have fit him, his folder, his lunchbox, and his brother in there. How is this even allowed? He's not going to Harvard, he's going to preschool!
Excitement: "He's Going To Make So Many Friends!"
Learning to be social is an important part of every child's life, so I am super excited for the opportunity for my kids to make new friends and be around different people. I like to think about them babbling inside jokes to one another while mastering their secret handshakes under the monkey bars, or just, you know, sharing blocks and drooling next to each other.
Fear: "What If He Doesn't Make Any Friends?"
The amount of anxiety I have about my kid possibly being the "odd man out," if I'm being honest, keeps me up at night. Are there bullies in preschool? This is a legitimate source of stress in my life right now!
More Fear: "What If Something Happens To Him?"
What if he falls off of the slide? Or eats a rock? Or climbs the fence and runs away? What if he accidentally goes home with the wrong mom because she's got cookies or a puppy or drives some really cool truck? He loves trucks, and he would definitely ditch me for a mom who showed up at preschool with a lifted truck.
Even More Fear: "What If He Thinks I Don't Love Him Anymore?"
What if my boys see me leaving them and think that I'm not coming back? What if their little eyes well up with tears when they assume that I've left them alone in a brightly colored kid zoo with nothing more than a backpack and a lunchbox filled with cheese and crackers? What if they think that I don't love them anymore?!
Doubt: "Maybe We Should Just Home School"
Yeah, maybe this whole scenario is overrated. I could totally home school my kids. I mean, how hard could educating a child about world history or algebra or economics or anatomy be? On second thought, I took me three tries to pass college algebra...
Anxiety: "Oh God, We're Almost To His Classroom"
Walking down the hall for our "practice" drop off gave me cold sweats. I could feel my heart beating in my throat. My palms were sweaty and my legs were shaky as I held their little hands and walked them to their classrooms. It felt like we were walking for hours, and the whole time I wanted to turn around and take them for ice cream.
More Anxiety: "I'm Not Ready. I'm Not Ready. I'm Not Ready."
Am I ready for this? Are they ready for this? This just doesn't seem fair. It's too soon, and they're too young, and I'm too fragile to let them learn to fly on their own. Oh God, why???
Slight Devastation: "No, You're crying!"
At this point, shedding a few tears is the only thing left to do.
Acceptance: "My Baby Is Growing Up"
As I'm wiping away my tears in the parking lot, I do a little emotional cutting. I get out my phone and scroll through three years of pictures of my boys. I remember how chubby and happy and cuddly they were when they were babies, before they started to smell and yell at their shoes. I realize that time does indeed fly, and swear to myself that I will never blink again.
More Confusion: "What Is This Freedom You Speak Of?"
So, what do I do now? This freedom thing feels awkward and weird, and I feel like I'm in a foreign country where I don't speak the language. Do I go to the park? Or to the gym (yeah, I'm not going to the gym), or maybe to a movie? Oh, right! My kids are in preschool so I can work!
Longing: "Damn, I Really Miss That Little Guy"
Getting some alone time feels wonderful. Being able to complete my work without someone trying to spin me in my office chair, or asking for juice, or telling me that they've pooped on themselves is oddly serene. But when I think about my kids getting older and about them learning new things and growing more and more independent by the day, I feel happy and sad and proud at the same time. Raising kids is so chaotic, sometimes. It's messy and sticky and frustrating and exhausting, but it's also so amazing.
It's bittersweet to see them grow up, but it's something that we all have to do. Taking kids to school for the first time proved to be an emotionally draining experience, and it was just a practice day. I can only hope that I've learned enough to be able to keep my sh*t together for when the real day comes, because if I can't, I'm going to need to be medicated to get through the rest of their lives.