Torn

by anna on January 27, 2010

Mini is torn

Mr. Right-Click finally convinced Mini to wear the pair of Superman pajamas we bought for him a year ago by informing Mini that Superman is the greatest of all superheroes. Mini has always been a child that celebrates achievement, and so this fact about the supremacy of Superman piqued his interest enough for him to put the pajamas on, and run into our bedroom shrieking, “I a super hero to the rescue! Super hero to rescue!” Still, when Mr. Right-Click tried to confirm that Mini was a superhero, Mini said, “Yes, I’m a superhero. I’m a baby superhero.”

Mini at the Fish Zoo

Mini’s invention of a Baby Superhero is one of those little metaphors you stumble across every once in a while that somehow perfectly captures a moment in time. In this case, it perfectly encapsulates Mini’s stage of development: he wants to grow up, but he doesn’t. He wants to be a big boy, but he doesn’t. He wants Mommy to coddle him, but he doesn’t. It can all be very confusing, and it can (and does) turn on a dime. The fact that Mini is completely fluent now only complicates things, because we no longer have the luxury of kidding ourselves that he doesn’t understand things, or underestimating the depth of the emotions he feels, or ignoring the gentleness of the soul that lurks beneath those big blue eyes.

mini reflected by jellies

And so we are back into a stage in which my heart gets ripped out of my chest and smashed into a billion pieces each morning when I take Mini to school. Mini’s teacher says that the reason that school dropoffs have become difficult again for Mini is that he is growing up. She says he is torn between the lure of becoming more independent from me, but at the same time he is terrified by the change that this suggests. She says that two year olds struggle with transitions.

jellyfish by anna

So this is how it goes: each morning we get into the car, and on the way to school I will pull out every last trick in my bag to assuage Mini’s fears and anxieties about the forthcoming separation. I will do the fast-food rule, I will point out the snow on the mountains (yes, this happens sometimes, even here), I will ask him to count trucks or school buses with me. I will tell him what we’re going to do in the afternoon, I will say, “I understand,” when he says he wants to go home. I will even pretend to let Bruin Bear drive the car on occasion to get his mind off things. Usually, by the time we get to school he is nearing something like excited to be there, and this lasts for as long as I stay there, playing with him and his little preschool friends. In recent months the time in between us arriving at school and me leaving has become longer incrementally, something I did not notice until I realized some of the other preschoolers had taken to referring to me as “Mini’s Mom,” as in, “Mini’s Mom, will you move that bike out of the way?” or “Mini’s mom, come play with cars!”

mini at the fish tank

At length, it will be time to go, and Mini, sensing this, will grab onto me and, under the pretense of “walking [me] to the gate,” he’ll take both my hands. Then he’ll say, “I want to climb on you,” and uses my hands as grappling hooks so he can climb up the side of my legs, so now he’s perpendicular to me, and it’s impossible that I move even an inch, much less actually leave the school premises, or else he will crash to the ground. [And it's moments like those when I really don't get those people who complain about bloggers talking about their kids, because was there ever an experience more ripe with writing prompts than a small child and his negotiation of the world? Because sometimes it feels like the sky above the preschool is constantly raining metaphors, and all we have to do is gather them up and spit them out on a page.]

Inevitably, a teacher will come over to us to “help [Mini] say goodbye,” much is made of giving lots of kisses, and just one more, and just one big one more, until finally there is that moment in which I have to just rip off the bandaid already, and I say, “Good bye, buddy! See you in a few hours,” and I hear the wails for “Momma! I want my Momma back! I want my momma back!” as I walk out the gate and run to the parking lot, get into my car, and drive away before I can even think about going back.

Transitions are no fucking picnic for 36-year-olds, either.

{ 12 comments }

Kerry January 27, 2010 at 7:17 am

My daughter had little of this type of thing, since she had been in daycare until she turned three. Sometimes she whined a little on the way to preschool, but once we got there, she forgot I even existed. I’d have to say, “Hey, where’s my kiss?”

My son, however, is two and is starting a two-mornings-a-week preschool program next month. He doesn’t remember daycare at all, and he doesn’t even like it when I leave the room to go to the bathroom or something. So I’m pretty sure we’ll be living this whole thing soon.

anna January 27, 2010 at 7:51 am

I think it does make it a little harder when they’re used to being at home from a young age. We got over that initial preschool thing fairly quickly — I think it was about a week and a half. But now he’s doing it again inexplicably, and it wears on me a lot. He even has friends there that he knows by name, and the girls all say, “Hey, Mini’s here!” when he gets there. He would be OK if he was going there and I was going to stay, I think, so I’m pretty sure it’s not the place, it’s just the fact of me leaving. They say that I’ll miss it when he stops doing it, which is probably true. Parenthood is a bitch sometimes.

eliz January 27, 2010 at 7:34 am

I think whenever they hit some developmental milestone the clinginess re-emerges because we went through it yet again a few months ago, at nearly 4 1/2. All of a sudden going to someone’s house for a playdate without me elicited wailing and the need for hugs.

The easiest way to get through these phases is to allow them to be a baby and allow them to make the choice to “grow up.” (I know this doesn’t work when preschool is non-negotiable and already paid for, but perhaps this technique might help a bit.) I “fought” with her over this, thinking all she needed was a gentle nudge and she’d be fine at someone else’s house for an afternoon, but that only made it worse. But when I said, “That’s OK, sweetie. You be with me today and we’ll cuddle up and read a book,” she enjoyed it for like one day before she was asking if she could go to a friend’s.

anna January 27, 2010 at 8:01 am

That’s a good idea. With preschool, a lot of times I’ll stay late because he loves it when I stay with him there, that’s his ideal situation. He likes for me to stand in the way when he’s riding bikes, and then jump out of the way at the last second. I have noticed that he wants to be more snuggly after school sometimes now, so I definitely baby him the rest of the day, which he likes. But with school, it’s like I don’t want to get into a thing where he starts to think it’s negotiable. I’d rather drop him off and make him stay only like an hour than do that, but when I call to check on him, he’s always recovered within two minutes of me leaving anyway.

Jenni January 27, 2010 at 8:29 am

I get this – Oscar seems to be struggling with moving to his big boy bed. All of a sudden he wants to sleep in our bed again, and he hasn’t slept there since he was 10 months old. It is hard to see him trying to negotiate this – trying to be a big boy, but also wanting to be mommy’s baby – when I feel there is so little I can do to help him along.

anna January 27, 2010 at 8:40 am

Jenni, re the big boy bed, we had some trouble with that, too. First, we had a toddler bed and he didn’t like it at all. He’d sit in it sometimes, but never would sleep in it. Then we got a full bed, not a twin, for him, because we were ending up going in there late at night and inevitably somebody would fall asleep in the chair, so we decided that this way at least whoever went in there could sleep. Well, when we got that full bed, he never wanted to go back in his crib again. At first, we’d have to stay in there until he fell asleep, but after a few weeks he got to the point where we could just put him down and he’d stay in bed without getting up again.

Becky January 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Ugh, I know: metaphors raining from sky, heart broken into millions of pieces, thinking “I am putting us through all this for a few lousy hours a week.”

I’m with you.

anna January 27, 2010 at 5:37 pm

They say it’s harder on the moms than the kids, but this is only a small amount of consolation, I’m afraid.

lynn @ human, being January 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm

God, I remember those preschool dropoffs. Excruciating.

Now, I drop Lauren off at school for 3rd grade, she hops out of the car and doesn’t give me a second glance. I watch her in the rear view mirror until she enters the school. It gets easier for her, but for us, well … some days are better than others. Fridays are the worst because I won’t see her again for 5 days. Boo hoo :(

anna January 28, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Yeah, it just gets harder and harder, huh? But also sweeter, I’d imagine.

home and uncool January 28, 2010 at 8:51 am

Beautifully done, Anna.

We had this same problem with my son. Loved preschool but sometimes the teacher had to literally pry him off me. Now he’s in 2nd grade, we have occasional relapses after long school breaks. Parenthood is a real punch in the gut some days.

anna January 28, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Yeah, Mondays are always harder, and so are days after holidays. Once they get into the routine of both parents at home with them, they don’t want to let go.

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