I ran and hid. I was doing absolutely no good by staying with him during this meltdown. It pained so many of my maternal instincts, but I knew I wasn’t helping. He was terrified to go to his classroom. I was confident he needed to. The standoff had gone on for seven minutes now and I was getting nowhere. So, with the help of the sweet woman on hall duty, I ran. I scampered down the hall and got just far enough away to be lost in the crowd of school-aged children, and I hid. Thank God for that little nook in the side of the hall.
I stood there listening for the angst filled sob from my son who was out of sight, but not earshot. He had not actually run after me, which was good. It was probably thanks to the kind, stranger teacher helping me talk him down in the hall. I just had the sobbing child, not the child chasing me down the hall.
After hiding for what felt like an eternity, but was actually only two minutes, there were no more sounds of crying echoing through the halls. I peeked oh so cautiously from my safe spot, and got a thumbs up from yet another teacher and the “have a nice day and don’t worry about your falling apart son” goodbye wave.
As I walked towards the door, I felt the tension that had seeped its way into my neck and shoulders. (Apparently nine minutes is exactly how long it takes to develop a pounding tension headache.) I wiped the sweat from my upper lip and fanned my shirt a bit to help cool off. (It had to be 100 degrees in that school, right?) Now my own anxieties kicked in.
Did I do the right thing?
Should I have stayed longer?
Did I stay too long?
What in the world is that teacher in the hall thinking?
Is he still upset?
Will his teacher have time to console him?
Will they call me if he is having a horrible day?
How bad would it have to be for them to call me?
What are we going to do tomorrow?
I walked out the door and an amazingly polite 3rd or 4th grader opened the door for me. “Have a nice day!” he said with a smile.
I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, “Will my own little guy be the one doing that one day? Are we going to make it there?”
Between the loaded wave goodbye from the teacher in the hall, and the farewell from the nice young boy at the door, I just didn’t know. Have a nice day? I just left my son as a puddle in the care of strangers! And this was day 9! That’s right, nine days of kindergarten, each one a little worse than the last. It was going to get better, right? How did I end up here? I used to teach kindergarten. I always had a few who struggled with the adjustment, but my so smart, no kids of my own, young self knew there was an explanation -a parent at fault somewhere who had raised an overly sensitive kid.
Well, look at me now! Now, I have the cryer. I have the child riddled with anxiety over new things, social things, and anything a little too chaotic. Yes, I have a child who is so sweet, so smart, and so sensitive. He thinks and analyzes, constantly. He loves to be silly, to make believe, to explore the great outdoors. The pure joy on his face when he sprints through the yard? Priceless.
But sometimes, he heads down that shady path of worry. I’ve been there. I was that kid too. Gotta love genetics, right?
So now, I know to guide him and support him. Love him and help him. But I also have to push him (just enough) into things that he may not like at first. That was day 9 of kindergarten. Day 10 was a lot better. We’re on day 20 something now, and he even walks in the school by himself! We still have some mornings with tears, but not stand-offs. We still have moments of anxiety to work through, but we’re learning.
The transition into kindergarten can be rocky, but I’m sure it’s not the toughest transition I’ll face with my son. So what’s a mom to do through all of these changes? I’ll keep learning right along with him as we both discover exactly who he is and how he does things. I’ll help him learn to navigate the world so that one day (a day that I’m sure will come MUCH too soon), he’ll be able to do it on his own.
I guess what I really want to say is, if you are the mom with the crying kindergartener, it’s ok. Take a breath. It does get easier. It may take days, weeks, or honestly even months, but it will get easier. You’re doing a good job. Just keep loving, learning, and supporting. Soon, probably much too soon, they’ll be doing it on their own.