Earlier this year, when my toddler turned two we decided to enroll him into a preschool. The move was to enable him to socialize with other children of his age. Learning in a play based, easy going environment was a definite plus. Of course, there was also the perk of having some me-time finally and not having to think of new ways to entertain an antsy toddler all day long.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area you will join me in moaning about the high cost of rent, the insane traffic. the high cost of living and of course the insanely long wait list at most good daycares and preschool. Once we started doing the rounds of the various preschools, we almost felt like bad parents. You know the kind that doesn’t care about their child’s development and didn’t enroll them into the best preschool in the area the moment he was born. Thankfully a lovely preschool five minutes away from home had an opening for my son, only six months down the line. We jumped with joy, thanked our stars and almost kissed the school director.
It was all decided, Advait would start school first week of June 2017. I had a little less than six months time to prepare my co sleeping toddler for the rigors of school life ahead of him. Which meant helping him deal with separation anxiety, encouraging him to eat on his own and sleep on his own in his own bed instead of cuddling with me. The never ever used crib was converted into a toddler bed, new utensils and cutlery were ordered off Amazon. We were serious about this thing.
Of course, one thing that you learn very early in this thing called parenthood is, there are a lot of things that you want for your kid or you want your kid to do. Unfortunately, the only thing that does happen is, what your kid wants. And Advait wanted nothing to do with a crib or a toddler bed. The first night was uneventful and the bed felt spacious and had enough space to fit all our limbs onto the bed. It felt amazing and I even dreamt of the nights to come where I would have a full night’s sleep and wake up in the morning feeling rested. The second night too began well, with my child in his bed, only to declare near midnight that he wanted to sleep with Mama Papa. He plonked himself in the middle of the bed and that’s where he sleeps to this day.
When it came down to eating, I was ready to stand my ground. I was ok with him not eating a couple of meals but he was going to learn to feed himself. I didn’t want him going hungry the whole day at school because I had coddled my child. And he did feed himself on numerous occasions. But. You had to know there was a but. But as it turns out, Indian food is not very conducive to independent eating. Not many toddlers can tear a bite of roti, pick up some vegetables and then willingly put it in their mouth. There’s a reason Mac n Cheese, Chicken Nuggets and French Fries are so popular with kids and parents. Besides being yummy, they are easy to eat. Of course, I made the rice, the khichdi and daliyas a lot, but there were days when I was feeling lazy. Which translates into, I would rather feed him than cook three different things.
And then there was the big one. Dealing with separation anxiety. I had never been away from my child for longer than an hour and then too he was generally with his grandparents. Never with someone completely unknown. How would he react? Would he feel abandoned? Would he get scared? Would he ever stop crying? I was frightened beyond belief. I had never cried while going to school. But I had also refused to go to school till I was 5 years old. What if Advait wasn’t ready and I was pushing him into this too early. To mentally prepare him, I kept telling him how he would go to school and how there would be lots of kids to play with and lots of toys to play with. How his dad and I wouldn’t be there and would come to pick him up in the afternoon.
June 12, 2017. The D-Day had arrived. Sweaty palms, flushed face, constricted throat, labored breathing, racing heart. I had not been this nervous since my last college exam. As we walked towards the school gate, I looked at my son as he pranced along my side and almost felt bad for him. He was so excited that his parents were taking him out and had no idea that we would be leaving him in there. As we talked to the school director and the teachers, I realized that Advait has let go of my hand and was now sitting at the table with the other kids. He was already immersed in playing with the toys there and was trying to converse with the other kids. Unlike my imagination, there were no tears or tantrums from either the child or his mother.
Surprisingly he also ate and slept at school just fine. Turns out he doesn’t really need his mommy for eating or sleeping and just prefers to have her help. I guess every kid has their own way of handing new situations. Some might get scared, some might resist and some might welcome them with open arms. But all in all, with time, all kids seem to adjust to school life just fine, as long as the school has a safe and loving environment to help them grow and flourish. We as parents do try to slow down the growing up process as long as we can by clinging on as hard as we can but grow they do and grow they must.