If you don't already have children and are wondering if you're ready....ask yourself these questions:
Do you want to feel guilty 100% of the time? Do you want to feel like every decision you make has the potential to destroy your child's psychological and moral fabric? Does the idea of financial and emotional indentured servitude appeal to you? Does the prospect of being woken up several times a night by miniature humans with irrational fears, wiggly teeth, and fears of their Frozen Poster of Elsa coming to life off the wall sound like fun to you?
If you've answered to answered "YES" to any of these questions, you should A) Have Children Immediately, B) Come over and help parent my children, or C) Join a traveling circus
This week was Lauren's first full week of Kindergarten. It all started out just great. She went off the first day... a little nervous about a new school with new teachers and friends, but all in all pretty excited. As the week wore on, she realized it was a longer day then she was used to at preschool and started to miss everyone at home. Then it happened....her worst fear realized - her tooth came loose at school - and it sent her into a tailspin. She decided she hated Kindergarten and would not be returning. When we explained to her that she indeed would have to go back to school the next day, she came down with a stomach ache, fake cough and began hyperventilating. We figured after a good night sleep, she'd snap out of it and be ok the next day. After a rough morning, we got her off to school, only to get several calls from the school nurse letting us know that she'd been down in her office crying to come home. She wasn't sick, the nurse assured me - just missing her mom. When Lauren realized she wasn't being sent home unless she was actually ill, she told the nurse she was going to throw up. The nurse thought it would be helpful if Lauren talked to me on the phone. I assured her I'd be there to pick her up at the end of the day and that we'd get ice cream. At this point, my heart was breaking to hear my little girl so upset. I felt awful and wished I could do something to alleviate her little fears. When I picked her up that day, she broke into sobbing tears and cried on my shoulder all night, begging me not to send her back to school. We tried all night to soothe her and reassure her. I started to feel like an awful mom for sending her off to school and causing her all this anxiety, but Brian and I knew we had to stay strong and not let her see us get upset.
The next morning, she adamantly refused to go. I put her in the car as she sobbed and hyperventilated and drove her to school. She wouldn't go inside. She put her backpack down and shook her head. Finally a teacher had to come out and literally pick her up and bring her in kicking and screaming, as Lauren grasped on to my shirt screaming "Don't make me go, Mommy!!!" I got back to my car and just lost it. I sobbed all morning. What had I done? I know she has to go to school and that lots of kids have trouble these first few days...missing their parents and feeling homesick. But I just handed over my child to someone who is a stranger to her, and let them take her from me where she feels safe and secure and bring her into a room full of people she doesn't know. I felt like I had completely betrayed her trust. I called my mom and she told me how hard it was for her to leave me when I went to kindergarten. Apparently I cried and refused to go in to school, too. I wrapped myself around the flagpole and the principal literally had to peel me off of it and drag me into the classroom, while he told my mother to just go and that her staying would only make things worse. I was the class crier that year. I cried for my mommy daily...and I was only in half day kindergarten!!! Anyway, my mom told me how awful she felt, but that I got over it. By full day 1st grade I was just fine. No long term damage done to my little psyche. My mom also told me she had been the class crier when she was little, too. That she cried for her mom all day. Apparently we come from a long line of criers. Now I had a little crier of my own. It doesn't make it any easier, though - seeing my child so distraught, but at least I felt a little better about sending her to school.
It's just a catch 22. I mean - what are the options here? She's 5 years old and it's time for school. It's not like we're sending her to work 14 hours a day in coal mine or something. In the big picture here, she's going to kindergarten. She colors and has music and art and rest time. REST TIME! They get to nap with their little blankets after lunch. Her teacher is beyond sweet. She's a mom of 2 babies and totally understands. She's sweet and nurturing and I couldn't ask for a kinder teacher. The school itself is beautiful. It's cute and it situated in a nice little residential neighborhood. It's less than a half mile away, too...so I can be there in like a minute. So as guilty as I feel when I'm prying her off my leg in the mornings, I have to keep it all in perspective. Or at least try. But really...when you're a parent - there's always that question in the back of your mind...AM I DOING THE RIGHT THING??
And inevitably, regardless of what decisions we make as parents and what we do in the best interest of our children - 20 years from now these kids will be sitting on a couch in a therapist office telling them how much we screwed up as parents. It's the American way. So if you're a new or soon to be parent, I'd like to take this opportunity to say, WELCOME TO PARENTHOOD! Grab a glass of wine and get ready to feel guilty! :)