It's official I need to grab a spoon and open wide for this alphabet soup because I am eating my own words!
For many years of my life I worked in the field of early childhood. It was easy for me and for a very long time I loved it. I understood children and knew what worked and what didn't. But becoming a mother is a whole new skin to wear. Many days I feel like I should know what works, I should know how to score the goals but for some reason someone went and changed all the rules on me. I never presumed to think parenthood was easy yet I know now I lacked the understanding of the difficulty in the seemingly easy tasks demanded by motherhood. So many times have I witnessed that drop off dance where the parent does everything in their power to calm an upset child when leaving them in someone else's care. The parent prolongs the agony by staying and attempting to "ease" the child only dragging out the inevitable tantrum that will ensue when the parent actually does leave. Usually once the parent had left five minutes, a little redirection and the child was fine with not so much as a sniffle throughout the day. Oh how I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw this happen, it could pay for B's college tuition.
This is tough to admit now but I know on more than one occasion I discussed this subject with friends, fellow teachers and co-workers and while I don't remember the exact words (the ones on my spoon right now) I know it was something along the lines of how the parents actually made this situation worse by prolonging it, giving the child hope that they may not leave and ultimately making them more upset. This may have been true in some situations but I neglected to see things fully, I neglected to see the needs of the parent and that they too were valid. Now I certainly never said anything about this to a parent but I know what I thought back then and I now know there was so much I was missing.
Leaving B in others care is something, quite frankly I suck at. In the beginning she was so little I had no desire to leave her and then as she got older and began to understand what was going on some bad experiences scared me to the point where I just avoided it at all cost. I think it was the time I had taken her to the gym childcare and was then called back 7 minutes into my workout. That one did me in. When I came into the room she was bawling and sobbing so violently and was sitting alone in the middle of the floor, she had cried so hard she threw up all over and the caregiver had set her down to clean-up. What a heart-wrenching, punch in the gut sight that was. I ran to her scooped her up and began to calm her but in my head I was ripping away at myself with the guilty lashes. How could I have been so selfish to leave her? What kind of mother was I?
Now it's been many months since this happened but leaving B with anyone is a struggle for her and for me. When I take her to be in someone elses care, if she starts to get upset I can't just run out and think in my "preschool teacher" voice "well this is best, she will calm down quicker and be happy when I am gone", I just can't. It rips at the soul and tears down the confidence needed to be a good mother...I need her to be okay and if she isn't then I'm not and if I'm not than she's not. This is something I just don't think I could have understood before. Today I was that Mom, I stayed too long and ultimately she still got upset...I can still see the image of her heartbroken face calling out for me burned in my mind. I know that I have to do this for her and for me...we cannot ALWAYS be together, we have to learn to sometimes be apart, It's something I know. But like many things we know It's not easy. And it doesn't help that she is a total drama girl (I wonder where she possibly could have gotten that from?). So for now this mommy is going to stay too long at the party and do the drop off dance because my head can really only get so far without my heart.