The kids went back to school this last week and my 4-year-old, Bianca, just started Kindergarten. On her first day of school, she was a little nervous getting ready in the morning but she was a champ when we dropped her off. No clinging, went straight to her desk, did her work, and came home saying she loved it. Hallelujah. As my husband and I walked out of her classroom that morning, we watched other parents and kids crying and felt like we’d dodged a bullet. Unfortunately we dodged the bullet just to get annihilated by the A-bomb.
It all went downhill the next day. You may be familiar with the next day. This is the day after the shock and novelty wear off and suddenly the realization that they are going to keep doing this sets in. No, my dear child. That wasn’t just for fun. We will be leaving you here every day, 5 days a week for the foreseeable future. The next day, she cried.
The second day of school, I drove into the parking lot, walked Bianca to the playground just like the day before and she dropped off her backpack and went to play. I ignorantly stood by the playground waiting for the bell to ring while I talked to some moms. I was about to leave when a mom asked me if I could get Bianca to come talk to her own daughter who was having a tough time adjusting. Of course. No problem! What could be easier? So I called Bianca over. And as she walked toward me, I saw the tears.
I wanted to take it back. Never mind! Go back and play and pretend I never called you over! Please?
Me: “What’s wrong girl?”
Bianca: Silence. Booger bubbles. Tears.
Me: “What’s going on? You have to talk to me otherwise I don’t know how to help.”
Bianca: “I waaaaaaaant youuuuuuuu….”
My brain: Fuuuuuuck.
I guiltily looked over at the mom who had asked for help and shrugged apologetically knowing that she pretty much hated me for throwing false hope her way. My reckless confidence had just killed her plan to drive away from school without a crap-ton of guilt following her home.
Now, in this situation, 99% of parents surveyed would have tried to soothe their child or at least waited until the bell rang and let their hearts slowly crack as they watched their sobbing child being escorted into the school building. Not me. At the first sign of weakness, I go Full Metal Jacket on my kids. I’m the Gunnery Sergeant yelling, “Because I am hard, you will not like me. But the more you hate me, the more you will learn. I am hard, but I am fair.”
So I told Bianca I couldn’t stay if she didn’t stop crying. Which she didn’t. And I walked away.
Don’t get me wrong. I felt absolutely vile for doing it. I spent the entire day with a heavy sense of depression while trying to shake that testy bitch, “Mom Guilt.” She and I don’t hang out much because she’s really good at making you sit with the thoughts. I hate the thoughts. “Did I do the right thing?” “Oh my god, what do the other parents think of me now?” “Will I have to go through this every day?” I try not to spiral down that path often, but sometimes I get caught off guard.
I try to avoid thinking these stupid thoughts because deep down I know Bianca will be fine. I know she will stop crying as soon as class starts and I’ll see a big smile on her face when I pick her up from school. Going to a new school is uncomfortable and maybe a little scary. But so is life. This is how she will learn to cope (or not cope) with tough shit. This is where she realizes that when Mom says “Suck it up” all the time, she isn’t joking.
Honestly though, I’ll probably continue to hang out with Mom Guilt until things settle down at school. And knowing my daughter, this will go on long enough to bore even Mom Guilt into finding other people to bother. Eventually Bianca will make friends and feel more comfortable with the new school. And then just when I think things have settled and we’ve achieved a new “normal,” the next drama will unfold.