I feel like I have been prepared for many experiences that other parents have told me would be challenging because of the experiences the parents in my life have shared with me, and because of my degree in early childhood. However, I have found that some experiences are hard no matter how much you are warned or how hard you prepare. Right now, I am really struggling with separation anxiety. Ev’s AND mine.
Since Ev was 9 weeks old and I went back to work after maternity leave, drop off has been much harder on me and my husband than on him. He usually gets engaged with his teacher or other children almost immediately. On the rare occasions when Ev was seemingly resistant to join the group, it only took a friendly word or distraction from the teacher for Ev to feel comfortable.
Ev recently turned 2 and has been transitioning into the 2-year-old classroom for a couple of weeks. We were excited about this and actually anxiously waiting for his transition plan from his teacher and the director. The transition plan consisted of Ev spending time in the 2-year-old room, increasing day by day. At the transition meeting, the teacher and I talked about how quick his transition would probably be because Ev loves the 2-year-old room and the teacher. When the director said she felt like Ev was ready to be dropped off in the 2-year-old room I said I totally agreed because he showed no signs of hesitation.
However, every day this week has been tough. The first two days Ev was ok being in the classroom but he didn’t want me to leave, he wanted me to play with him. Today he seemed fine but as I was leaving I heard him start to cry. That was really hard. I didn’t know what to do. I was out of his sight so as far as he knew I was gone and I didn’t want to go back in and start from scratch or interrupt how his teacher was managing it. But I also didn’t want to leave feeling like I abandoned him. Luckily, his former teacher walked in and I asked her to go check on him. I was hoping that seeing a familiar face would be enough to soothe him (or soothe me enough to leave anyway).
This transition has been hard for obvious reasons. I want my child to be happy. If he isn’t happy, I want to be able to fix it. All kinds of things start running through my head when Ev’s lip start to quiver. Did I make a mistake dropping him off at the 2-year-old room? Did I rush him? I feel guilty that I didn’t allow more time to spend with him in his classroom so he can think about fun times with me in his new space. Why didn’t I talk to his teacher more, exchanging smiles so Ev would know from my cues that she is a safe person? I started to question the quality of care. Are his caregivers taking good care of him? Are they the reason he is sad? In my rational state, I know that Ev is in quality care. I know his teachers care for him and want him to be happy as much as I do.
I called about 10 minutes after I left and the teacher who answered the phone checked on him and said he was fine. Then a couple of hours later the director called me to tell me he was happy and told me specifically what he’d been up to (playing outside and playing with planes). It probably took less time for Ev to calm down and eat his breakfast than it took for me to get out of the parking lot. When I pick him up, he will mostly likely whine that it’s time to leave.
While I can tell myself that separation anxiety is a natural part of development and this is just a phase, I know it won’t change the heartache I’ll feel if we have another difficult drop-off.