Parenting is full of bittersweet and emotionally complicated milestones, but few have ever matched the maelstrom of feelings that swirled within me when I sent my kids to school for the first time. Even though my kids had experienced day care, school was somehow... different. I mean, what if they missed me?! So I asked preschoolers to share the one thing they miss most about their moms when they're at school and, I gotta tell you, it was equal parts painful and humbling. Because, guys? The kids are alright. The best thing we can do for them is believe in their ability to deal.
Different kids are going to approach preschool in different ways. My mom is on record saying that she took tremendous pride in the fact that I never missed her when I was at school. And I love my mom, you guys. In fact, I challenge you to find a closer (healthy) mother/daughter pairing. But even so, I was too enthusiastically doing my own Baby Jamie thing at school to think about her too much, honestly. And I do think that's a testament to her parenting — I was secure enough in our attachment to be fine toddling away from her for a few hours a day. But other kids, even those equally secure in their mom's love, are less OK with change. And that's fine because, well, they're kids! They're genetically engineered to take comfort in routine, so deviating from the familiar can be difficult.
So what did I learn about preschoolers in asking my question? A few things. One: they're largely terrible at answering a question in a particularly logical way. Two: some of them know just how to get us. Three: others don't care even a little bit about hurting our feelings. And four (and most important): kids are weird and funny.
"I miss you most at nap time for snuggles."
[Writer's note: This is emotional terrorism, Mason. Stop.]
“Playing and reading books with you.”
“I miss you when I have to clean up.”
Mom: “When you have to clean up at school?”
Mom: “So you miss me when you’re doing something at school you wish I would do for you?”
[Writer's note: this is my rotten kid. I love her, though.]
"When you get me snacks. We have one snack at school, not all the snacks. But maybe you could pack me more snacks?"
[Writer's note: Just... no. I can take this to mean... I have no idea, actually? No as in he doesn't want to answer? No as in he doesn't miss his mom? Sebastian is a man of few words and great mystery, clearly.]
"I miss loving mommy and daddy. I just love you guys so much."
Writer's note: Cornelia's mom informed me that as soon as she asked this the little girl began sobbing, which made her mother feel absolutely terrible until she asked if she was OK, and do you know what Cordelia did? She immediately stopped crying and said "Yes. Why?"
Dude. Kids are weird.
“I can’t answer that question. It would be too long, I just love you so much all day long. Poor mom is going to melt because it’s raining.”
[Writer's note: I love how this answer starts off almost weirdly clear for a 3 year old... and then veers right off into toddler weirdness. Quinn's mom had no idea what it meant, either.]
“I miss that she loves me! Cooking, hugging, snuggling... only that.”
[Writer's note: Only that, people. Not literally anything else about mom. I don't know how he can be any clearer.]
"Nope! I didn't!"
[Writer's note: Matilda knows what she's about and she doesn't apologize for it.]
[Writer's note: He was, indeed, talking about Mickey the cartoon mouse. This is what he misses most about his mom... not his mom. "It's OK," his mom insists, "I've always known where I stand with Mickey. It's fine. We're a Disney family so it's in his blood."]
"I don't know."
Mom: "What do you like to do with me that you can't do at school?"
"You wipe my butt and I have to wipe my butt at school."
"When I was a little kid we used to go to Starbucks for cake pops but now I have to go to school and [mom] gets cake pops by [her]self."
[Writer's note: Damn! Lilah's on to the Secret Mom Plan to eat all the cake pops! Someone get that memory eraser thing from Men in Black! What if she tells the others?!]
"I still love you!"
[Writer's note: Jacob apparently completely misunderstood this question and was very upset his mom thought he didn't love her anymore. That's sweet but I say milk the guilt, Jacob's mom! They do that to us all the time!]
[Writer's note: Milo is the family dog. Fair.]
"I miss being with mama. I like to be with her because it's OK because she always comes to get me at school."
[Writer's note: It has been confirmed with Aubrey's mother that "she always comes to get me" is a mantra that had to be repeated over and over to make separation easier. Apparently it only took literally all of last year to get it through her little toddler head. This year is better though.]
"Big girls wear pants and shoes to school."
"[I miss] when we play with my Legos."
Is it time to go to school?"
[Writer's note: Yeah. They're all clearly just devastated without us, folks.]