Longtime moms might look at this post and laugh, roll their eyes and get nostalgic and/or weepy all at the same time. Have you accomplished this most special rite of passage of dropping your ‘baby’ off – and leaving them there, either at school or preschool – for the first time? Will you be doing it this year? As someone who dropped my 3-year-old off last year (at preschool, for the first time ever), I am not ashamed to tell you that I got back into my car and promptly cried because my ‘baby’ was growing up. Me, the woman who unabashedly proclaimed war against preschool for 2-year-olds, was now a preschool mom. This year, I found myself rocking the back-to-school blues and inexplicably getting a bit weepy (again!) when her second year of preschool started recently. (She’s growing up!?!)
To help all of us crazy-loonies cope with this most normal and happy occasion (starting another school year), here are 5 tips aimed at the newly minted preschool mommies to make our big drop off a bit easier on everybody (these thanks to our own preschool’s director, who gave us all a tender talking to at orientation):
1) BE CONFIDENT. We must remind ourselves that young kids pick up on more than we realize: If you’re freakin’ out (visually and audibly) about your baby starting preschool, then so will your child. You’ve chosen your particular preschool for a good reason (hopefully one that you feel comfortable leaving your child at), so BE CONFIDENT. You know how to parent your child, you know how to make wise choices, you really do know what’s best for your tot. The choice has been made, so don’t start doubting yourself now. Tackle this phase with assurance.
2) PREPARE YOUR LITTLE ONE. Start the week or two ahead of time, create a buildup. Tell them what fun things they’ll be doing: playing with new friends, learning how to paint, swinging on the swings, gardening, singing songs. Whatever your kid likes, tell them about how they will get to do all of those things at preschool. Be honest; I remember telling my girl that “things might be different at first” (me dropping her off), but that I would always come back and pick her up after she played with her new friends, learned how to paint, swung on the swings, gardened and sang songs.
3) BE POSITIVE. It seems silly, but SMILE. Get extra-excited when you talk about going to school. Yaaaaayyyy! (hands clapping) Even if you’re petrified, cover it up with enthusiasm for your child’s sake. You might even start to ease your own fears in the process.
4) GET SIBLINGS IN ON IT. Enlist older siblings in your brainwashing tactics. You’re going to go to school just like Ella! Tommy went to preschool, too, and he’s so great! Get the older kids to talk to your little one and tell them aaaaaaaaall about how amazing school is and how much fun it is…without you in the room.
5) SAY GOODBYE FAST. On the first day – the day when you take your baby to a room full of strangers, a teacher and a colorful new room – make sure you only say goodbye once. ONCE. The preceding weeks have been about preparation, now it’s time to rip that Band-Aid off. Be confident, be positive, be happy and smile when you walk in the room grasping onto your little person’s hand. DO. NOT. CRY. When it’s time, bend down to your baby and follow this script: Okay! It’s time for all the mommies and daddies to go! You’re going to have so much fun! I love you, and I’ll come right back here to get you when you’re done playing with your new friends. HUG, KISS, THEN SAY “BYE BYE” AND WALK AWAY. Do not turn back (even if you hear screaming).
Easier said than done, but believe me, the longer you linger, the harder and worse it gets (this advice from my fabulous Kindergarten-teacher sister… 90% of children calm down about one minute after the parent is gone). As someone who wanted to break down crying last year, right there in the middle of 15 new students and 2 teachers, the second I saw my little girl’s lower lip quivering, I wouldn’t let my tears come until I was back in my car. When I picked her up three hours later? Smiles, laughs and constant “I want to go back there” questions.
Good luck new preschool moms!
What helped you drop your child off at preschool for the first time?