Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kindergarten Drop-Off

I'm finally feeling a little better about kindergarten.
Kissing hand heart
The kissing hand doesn't work, Mom!

Today was the first day that Nolan didn't bawl his eyes out during drop-off. Last week was pretty rough. Nolan's first day of kindergarten was emotional, as expected. But the next day, the day after that, and the rest of the week? Even more gut-wrenching. Every morning, Nolan woke up wailing, "I don't want to go to school!" Every night, his last words at bedtime were, "I don't want to go to school!"

Nolan was the only kid in his class who cried at drop-off. His older brother was quite different at this age. Nico never wanted anyone to see him cry. Whenever he felt sad but knew other people were nearby, Nico would quickly pull himself together and wipe his face with his sleeve, saying, "I don't want anyone to see my tears." Nolan, on the other hand, seems to want everyone to see him cry - and the louder the better. Other parents looked at me sympathetically every morning as he carried on, clinging to me.

All last week, Nolan sobbed and said he wanted to stay home with me. When I said I had to go to yoga class, he said he wanted to learn yoga too. When I said I had to buy groceries, he said he wanted to help me. When I said I needed to work, he said he would keep me company. He sobbed until he hiccuped, gasping, "I - don't - want - to - go - to - school. I'm so scaaaaaaared!" I pointed to the tiny heart I drew on his hand for him to look at during the day when he felt sad. "It doesn't work, Mom!" he cried. "I still miss you so badly!" That was the precise moment when my heart shattered.

I started to second-guess our decision to enroll Nolan in kindergarten this year. He was close to the age cutoff and I had seriously considered waiting another year before enrolling him. Some of our friends have delayed their children's kindergarten start by a year, and i thought it might make sense for Nolan too. He's young, he's shy, he's small. Also, we live in an area where academics are highly emphasized and I'm surrounded by Tiger Moms. Are we setting him up to fail by launching him into the den too early?

Just when I started thinking about an exit strategy for de-enrolling him from kindergarten and putting him back in preschool, we hit a turning point. Yesterday morning, Nolan cried, as usual, and his teacher led him by the hand into the classroom. She said they would work on their self-portraits and told him, "Today, we're going to put clothes on them!" She whispered to me, "Don't worry. Once he's inside, he's fine!"

Nolan must have had a great day because after school, he told me, "I might not be sad tomorrow." This morning, he woke up and said, "I'm not going to be scared today." As we walked to his classroom, he reiterated his feelings: "Maybe on other days I might be sad but not today." At his classroom door,  he asked me to draw a tiny heart on his hand, which has now become part of our daily routine, so I colored one on his left hand with a pink highlighter. The bell rang so we ran out of time before he could draw one on my hand. I looked at him to see if he would fall apart. To my surprise, he didn't. He said, "Don't worry, Mommy. I'll draw a heart for you later. I'll give you lots of hugs and kisses and love after school." Then he hitched up his dinosaur backpack, got in line with his classmates and walked into his classroom, blowing kisses at me with both hands. He was dry-eyed. I was not. 


Sandy P said...

awww. I love the heart on hand idea.

Someone suggested on Facebook having Vic drop him off, and I have tried that. Honestly, it just moved the anxiety backward to the time when we said goodbye before they went out to the car. Developing a routine is what is most comforting for kids at that age.

My sister's second started K last week too, and unlike his older sister, he just bounds off with barely a kiss and a backward glance! She says it gives her "mama pangs".

Lisa Chiu said...

Sandy, thanks for your note! I think you're right that having my husband take charge of drop-off would only mean moving our separation anxiety up earlier. Parenthood is so hard!

Anonymous said...

He'll be great-but pink the pink tiger could lead to him being bullied by other kids now, or down the road. May also want to use a 'hi-lighter' that has organic, or at the least-ingredients you know vs. chemicals for his health. Good luck!