It's been a whole four weeks since we started pre-school. I say 'we' as i feel we all go through it as a family! After a lovely long summer with his dadda, September came around quicker than anything and it was time to start a new routine. After seven weeks i was very used to our new routine of no rushing in the morning and I loved heading to work knowing they were going to have the day together (dadda might have felt different about that on some days!).
But we knew pre-school was coming and i wasn't sure how i felt about it. He had been going to a different nursery since March time and only for three mornings a week and he loved it there. He had a little separation anxiety around April time after being there a month, but we worked through it and he did amazingly well. I couldn't believe my little boy was just running off to play with his friends and his favourite key workers. He felt so happy and settled there that i felt so settled and happy with dropping him off each morning. We debated keeping him there, but we didn't, for a few reasons.
The pre-school he is going to now is part of the school he'll ultimately be going to. I feel the transition from just mornings to a full on school day would've been massive for him if he wasn't familiar with the surroundings, the routines, the teachers. Can you imagine? Being four and a half and entering this new scary building on the fist day of primary school? Not knowing anyone and having to spend not just three hours, but six hours there! It's so much for them. I know loads of kids do it, and i am sure he may have been cool with it. But i am glad we made this switch at the nursery stage.
Day one came. We both made sure we dropped him off and he was so, beautifully excited to go to 'school' as he called it. We popped on his jumper (i draw the line at a jumper. No polo shirts, grey trousers or black shoes til proper school... he's three!!) and he wanted to hold his book bag all himself and all of the sudden i felt my baby boy had grown over summer. He was ready for this. Was i? Probably not.
We went through the school gates and I felt like a new member of the parenting club. I'd become a 'school drop off dad'. It felt so much bigger. His previous nursery was so quiet and calm when we dropped him off. We could be on time or late if we fancied it. It was a lot more relaxed and now we had to be at the doors for 8:45am... lining up with the other kids and parents. The doors opened and we made our way up the stairs. I felt so nervous. Did he? I don't know. We hung his book bag and coat on his peg, took his lunchbox in and sat down with him while he sussed it all out (he'd had a few visits in July before the summer break but for a three year old that may as well have been a year ago!).
Within a couple minutes we saw our neighbours child there. The boys said hi, sat at the table, got the playdoh out and played. That was our cue to leave. With a lump in my throat we gave him a kiss and a cuddle and said we'd be back after lunch to get him. Off we went feeling so proud that it went as wonderfully as i did. I got home and i was gagging to pick him up after half an hour. Nervous, worried, anxious. It got to half twelve, and off i went to fetch him. He had a blast. My boy. So bloody proud!
Day two was petty much the same story. I felt so happy knowing he was happy. Then day three... it all went a little awry. Quite possibly the biggest emotional meltdown we've seen. Out of nowhere. The bottom lip, the clinging, the grabbing of his dadda... it was quite simply terrifying.
I think what we battled with was that we had to leave him there. And he simply didn't want us to. How the hell do you handle this as a parent? The most natural reaction is to scoop them up and go home, hide under the duvet and eat ice cream. But i knew the reality. And i knew he needed this. Day four was pretty much the same. He had to be peeled off of me and i felt like my heart was breaking. His face The trembling voice. The quivering lip. You hear all about it, but when it happens... god there are no words. It's pretty much all i could focus on. I think it was all too much change all of the sudden. There was more noise and 'busy-ness' at the drop off. More kids. More parents. Bigger rooms. It was a lot for him to take in.
Into week two and it got a little better each day, but still not great and we still had the quivery lip. My baby boy was worried. He was sacred to leave us. And that hurts. You question it all. Why am i doing this then? Why am i leaving you with, basically, strangers and other children? What is this achieving? But we know deep down they need this stimulation and the learning.
What made this whole thing a little bit easier was pick up time. Were we being greeted with needy cuddles and pleadings of 'never bring me back here, daddy!' ? No. We were getting "Daddyyy!" and on the odd day shutting the door on us because he didn't want to come home...
Um... i think he was enjoying it.
Seeing this made us feel a million times better. Knowing he is actually having a great time and loving his day there. Of course the teacher was calling us on the bad mornings to let us know that literally under two minutes after we'd left that he was fine and playing. But having the lovely pick ups made it 100% easier and we got stronger as the days went on. It wasn't easy, but like anything on this journey, we sat with it and rode it. And we got to where we are now. Only four weeks later and he skips in. He now his favourite key worker too and hunts her down for a cuddle each morning. That makes him feel safe, and i adore that. He always makes sure he says "Daddy be back in a minute?" and with a reassuring "Yes baby, daddy will pick you up after a lunch", a kiss and a cuddle... we're on our way to work.
It's only been four weeks and we feel we've had huge changes in such a short time. He's telling us the days of the week, we're working on different letters and sounds each week and getting the most lovely artwork home when we check his book bag each day. He needed this and i have a feeling it's only going to be better and better as the terms go on. Not only that, but the whole 4am and 5am wakes? Long gone (but for how long?!) We have a lazy boy again. He's staying in bed for me to come in and get him, no rushing out of bed into our room at silly 'o clock. He's tired. And we like that.
Now let's just pretend this is it forever please and never mention primary school... deal?