Here's To A Boring Year

Too much excitement just might kill me!

I have separation anxiety

I have been eagerly waiting for July, when Monkey turns 3 and becomes eligible to go to the fabulous hippy-alternative school we’ve chosen for him.

I love the kid, but he has now entirely given up napping, and I get sweet stuff all done, ever. I can’t even work late in the evenings, because Monkey still wakes up multiple times every night and I am running on 3 years of sleep debt. I am in the process of starting a charity, and I long to work on it because I genuinely believe it will be a very valuable thing. But I never have a chance.

So school 2 days a week was sounding fabulous. Until this week, when I got the acceptance letter.

Now I’m freaking out! Will my darling Monkey be OK without me, for 2 full days a week? Will he cry when I drop him off? How long for? Will he get used to it, or won’t he? Yes, I realize how cliche and ridiculous that sounds.

Of course I know that most children adapt to things like this just fine. It is essentially just glorified daycare, and plenty of kids go a lot younger than 3. I realise that there’s a good chance of a few tears at the start, and that its totally normal. And although he is very attached to me, he will happily stay by himself at either grandparents’ house (although it has never been for a whole day), and barely bats an eye when I leave.

But I can’t hack it.

The first time I left him was when he was 2 months old. Hubs and I went out for lunch, and left Monkey with my parents. I cried. A lot. Monkey was a bit pissed that they tried to change his nappy before feeding him, but was otherwise not deeply traumatized.

After that, it was months before I left him again. And when I did, it was in the arms of a stranger.

When we were getting news from Monkey’s oncologist during his diagnosis, she insisted that we had to go and speak to her without Monkey, ostensibly so we could focus on the information we were being given. I wanted to wait for my Mum to arrive so she could look after him while we did, but for some reason that didn’t happen. Instead, they made me leave him with the play coordinator (a lovely lady, but a complete stranger to us at the time), and Monkey, sick, in pain, and in a strange environment, screamed and screamed and screamed. I could hear him the whole time, and it is one of the biggest regrets I have from his time in treatment. He probably would have screamed for my Mum too, but at least he would have been in the arms of someone who loved him.

So now I’m afraid to do it again.

I’ve been talking with Monkey a lot about school, and he seems excited. He knows that I won’t be there, and that I’ll come back and pick him up. He knows there will be lots of other kids to play with, and painting and craft, play-doh and stories and blocks. But talking and doing are two different things.

Monkey can take a while to warm up in new environments and with new people. I am trying to get in contact with his teacher, in hopes that she will let me stay with him a little in the beginning – that seems a common thing, right? If not, I would at least like it if we could meet the teacher and show him the class before he’s due to start.

But if I’m not allowed to stay and ease him into it, I have to decide between my 2 days of freedom or a more gradual transition for my boy. The school also has a half day program for the 3 year olds, one day a week, half of which I would lose in the commute. I’m talking maybe 90 minutes at home between drop-off and leaving for the pick up (maybe I could find a nearby cafe and take my laptop…). But we could send him to that. If he didn’t settle and we decided to pull him out, we’d waste significantly less money that way. And if he loves it, then we could put him in 2 days next year (or maybe even next term – I need to check with the school on this!).

And in the end, I think it will come down to my anxiety over separating from him. He would almost certainly adapt. But I would not forgive myself.

So that precious freedom may be postponed a little longer. And I think I’m OK with that. But I would love some tips on surviving this milestone, which now that it is looming seems suddenly huge!

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4 comments on “I have separation anxiety

  1. Mina
    May 24, 2014

    In Germany, there is a growing trend of having the first two weeks at the (new) kindergarten dedicated to the familiarisation of the child with the new environment and persons. How it works: it is a gradual thing. The start finds the parent and the child in the same room with the rest of the children and minders. When the child gets to know the others and the place, the parent retreats into a corner, interacting only when prompted. Then, by the end of the first week, or even sooner with some children, the parent explains how s/he must spend a while in the room nearby, and leaves the room, but comes back in an hour. When the child gets comfortable with this new stage, the parent leaves for a a couple of hours, or until lunch, being available to come back within the shortest time possible. By the end of the two weeks, most children are alright being left by themselves in the new place, and the parent gradually learns how to function as an individual unit again.
    Of course, this is valid for most children. It is not a guarantee that there won’t be tearful good byes. But also, most children are fine five minutes after that cry. Watching them grow up is the most incredibly hard and amazing thing.

    • boringyear
      May 25, 2014

      That sounds fantastic! I would definitely be more comfortable with that. And I imagine it must make things a lot less stressful for the teachers too.

      • Mina
        May 26, 2014

        Yes, it does. One very important thing, the parent must always say good bye, and point out that the promise to come back is kept each time on pick up. This reinforces the idea that the separation is temporary, that promises are kept, and so it fosters trust. When the parent just slips away, the child gets anxious and scared.
        That said, sometimes the chuck and bolt technique is the best. Keeping the good byes at a minimum spares everyone some tears and heartache. One just has to roll with the punches. Sometimes quite literally… 🙂
        You know you will be fine, don’t you? Monkey will LOVE spending time with other children and learning stuff. They all do.

  2. pajamamommas
    June 3, 2014

    Wow, no wonder you’re scared about leaving Monkey when the last time you did it it was in the midst of this horribly traumatic time. But I imagine that for him the experience of starting school (which he will have discussed ahead of time with you, and hopefully had a chance to practice through visiting the place and people ahead of time) will be very different from what happened to him when he was sick. There may be some tears at drop-off (from both of you!), but I suspect he will be like most kids and will relatively quickly be distracted by all of the fun toys/kids to play with. Hang in there! I think that, as you mention, this kind of transition is often harder on the parent than on the kid!

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2014 by in baby talk, brain fry and tagged , .
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