First Day of Preschool: Lessons in Reciprocity

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I knew when we decided to put Nana in the neighborhood pre-school, there would be a transition period. After all, we’ve been joined at the hip for the past eight months.  In fact, I anticipated tears, breakdowns, tantrums in the street, basically absolute chaos on the first day.  And of course, I expected Nana to cry when we left too.

As we walked into the classroom, the kids were sitting on the carpet and the teacher was leading them in a good morning, nice to meet you kind of song.  Nana immediately sat down and when I say she did not give us a backwards glance.  Humph.

We even stood outside the door for a few seconds, waiting for her to realize that we left and for her to come run after us.  After a minute, the Hubster went back to peek in.  He said her back was turned to the door and she was not even thinking about us.

*insert sad face*

If you listen to the Add Water and Stir podcast (shameless plug), you’ll know that Nana and I have been attending therapy for attachment and food issues.  I had just proclaimed the benefit of us spending so much time together and that our relationship had transitioned from caretaker and charge to mother and daughter.

The decision to send her to pre-school was a journey that was fraught with insecurities, concerns about the right curriculum and teacher, anxiety about her ability to navigate social situations (and food situations) where we already saw challenges, and overall philosophical discussions about my role in her education versus handing it over to someone else.

Why would we change up?

We enjoyed our time together.  I loved that we were always on the go – to the library, the science center, play dates, museums.  Even errands were educational opportunities in reading, figuring out what we needed for the house and ways for us to strengthen our bond.  Nana and I listened to music together, dancing and singing around the house.  My mother one time asked if we practiced our ad lib music.  Nope, that was our special thing.  We vibed off each other.

But for all of that yummy attachment goodness, it was clear that both of us needed some time away from each other.  I am launching a new business and could use some chunks of time to get things done during the day.  She, as a very social child and unfortunately, an only child, needed more touchpoints with people her age. And as far as the discipline needed to ensure she was getting all the educational stuff… yeah, over time that got boring for both of us.

Plus, I could see how the issues from previous traumas were impacting her ability to relate to other children.  Her need to control all situations made it difficult for her to play in groups.  Specifically she found it hard to fit in with the other girls who were not having that nonsense.  She is hyper-aware of her surroundings and easily distracted by other things happening around her.  I wasn’t always providing her the discipline needed to fit into a structured environment since we had the flexibility to change course fairly easily.  But this meant that she was often disturbing other children who were trying to stay on course.

We looked at all type of arrangements trying to see which one fit into our budget.  The thought of her in school all day, every day, was wackness in my eyes. Our therapist provided some needed levity to my anxieties.   “Just try it out.  If it doesn’t work, you can do something else.”

So that’s where we are.  Trying it out.

But here’s the deal: Nothing can rock your perception of attachment progress than when your child runs off to someone else and never looks back.

There are several other things that annoy the heck out of me about the first day of preschool (including the food stuff for another post), but that one hurt my feelings.

We adoptive parents can be a fragile bunch, seeking affirmation from relationships with our children that aren’t always reciprocal. I realize that on an intellectual level. But on a heart level, I wanted her to want me.  And I can’t help to wonder if school is going to undo all that hard work we’ve done over the last eight months.

When we picked Nana up, she ran over to give us a hug, clearly happy to see us.  And yep, that was reciprocal.