My daughter started her very first day of preschool this past Tuesday. This was a "HOOGE" (as she says it) day for us since we have never been separated a day in her life. We thought we were all well-prepared. We took her with us to the first interview at the school a month ago. The day we received her acceptance notice is the day that we immediately started The Big Countdown. We were trucking along with the positive comments, "You get to go to school in 18 days!!" or "How exciting! You're going to make so many friends to invite to your birthday party!" "Only 10 more days!" Every day we talked about it, every day we updated the countdown. And everyday she would say to me "Mommy is really going to miss me when I go to school, but that otay, Mommy! I be back! That otay!" She is so cute and so sweet. I love her!
The first day of school finally came. She was so excited when she got up that morning exclaiming "I get to go to school!". She ate breakfast, brushed her hair, put on her favorite "Taylor Swift" dress, decided against the fuzzy pink boots in favor of the black patent Mary Jane's (because that's what Taylor Swift would wear, don't you know), said goodbye to all of her puppies and grabbed her little backpack. Since it was my husband's day off, he and I both took her to school. All the way there, we talked about how fun and exciting it was going to be to meet new people, learn new things, and play with some new toys. She was ready!
We pulled up in the parking lot, found an up-front space to park and got out. She was so cute in her yellow jacket and her tiny pink back pack, all shy but totally thrilled to FINALLY be going to school. More children arrived, she bravely smiled and introduced herself to each one and their parents. Then the Directress came to collect the children and lead them to their classroom. That's pretty much where it kind of went down hill. That's the moment that reality sunk in and she realized that she was about to be separated from her parents and this was not, in fact, fun or exciting. "No thank you," she said, "I want to go have coffee with you, mommy!" Oh, how my heart started to break into a thousand teeny tiny pieces for one teeny tiny heart broken little girl. How the heck was I supposed to survive this? How the heck was she going to survive this? I could feel the tears start welling up in my eyes and I knew I was about to lose it. I told myself that it wasn't going to do her any good to start crying myself, so I just held her and told her to be my big brave girl (a phrase she knows and is very proud of) and that we would be back in an hour. My husband took his turn to console her and then The Directress took her, still desperately trying to cling to him, and said firmly and meaningfully, "OK, bye Daddy, bye Mommy! We'll be fine, see you in an hour!". At this point all we could do was turn around and walk away.
This is where the Ugly Face comes in. I lost it. My face crumpled, my mouth turned down and went all crooked, the tears exploded out of my eyes and the mascara ran like a flooded river after a hurricane. It was not pretty. I was so embarrassed that I was crying so hard that I couldn't make eye contact with the other parents who were saying "comforting" things like "First day, huh?" or "Don't worry, it gets easier!" etc. My voice warbled out a half-hearted, hiccupy thanks and I got into the car. There was about a hundred and twelve thoughts of how The Roo must be thinking that we've just abandoned her, or that we're such a horrible parents for putting her through such a traumatic experience. But there was the voice of reason too, telling me that we were doing the right thing and we're giving her the very best head start on her education and that it will get easier.
We drove to a nearby French bakery where we had just enough time for croissants and cappuccinos. The hour passed like a second and before we knew it, we were on our way back to pick her up.
We relaxed quite a bit when we saw her calmly meandering through the other children and observing their activities. At one point we saw her reach up and take the directress' hand for comfort. When the directress turned to look down at her with such genuine affection, we knew that we had found a place where she would be happy, comfortable and have lots of support from everyone. This was a place that would nurture her curiosity and encourage her capabilities. The first week schedule is set so that the new students make a gradual adjustment to the separation. Everyday the time increased until Friday when they are there for just an hour short of their normal release. So, when I picked her up yesterday, it was her fourth day and she had spent almost two and a half hours playing with her new friends. When it was time to go, she was the last of the new students to leave. It turns out that the other kids didn't want her to go, they had her in the middle of a preschool huddle, giving her hugs and kisses and telling her that they love her and will miss her. That was a pretty special moment for me. Every parent wants their child to be loved and accepted and I am so lucky to have such a sweet little girl with such a beautiful, genuine soul. I know that this first year of Montessori school is just the very beginning of a whole new set of firsts and let-go's, and I am really looking forward to the joys and new experiences that we're going to share.
All of the sudden I find myself with just over three hours to myself every day and I have to figure out the best way to organize my time. I have so many things on the agenda for 2012, I think it's going to take a few weeks to settle in to my new routine. Well, to even figure out what that new routine is going to be! So, here's to hoping that you'll get a few more blog posts a week, hopefully some tutorials and a few biographies on some of my very favorite people. Stay tuned, there's lots of good stuff coming our way!