My toddler became a preschooler this week.
I didn’t think I’d get all that emotional about it, to be honest. The kid spent 50 hours a week in daycare from four months old until 2-1/2. I’m used to leaving him. He’s used to being left, and he knows I’m coming back. We worked our way through that part years ago.
I’ve been looking forward to the whole thing. He needs the socialization, and I certainly don’t mind having the break a few times a week.
So I was a little surprised when I was unable to get through a reading of The Night Before Preschool without a lump forming in my throat.
When I dropped him off on Wednesday for his first day, he complained about having to wear his name tag, became annoyed when his new teacher dared to dirty up his hand with a smiley face stamp, and then gave me a quick hug and a kiss before walking off to find something to play with.
I was left shaking my head at myself as I fought back tears in my car afterward. He’s fine. He’s great. We’ve done this a million times. Why am I crying?
But we hadn’t done this a million times. This was different.
I want to say this in a way that doesn’t offend anyone. Because as a parent who chose daycare for two years, I absolutely recognize the value and importance it plays for working parents…
Ryan’s experience in daycare was fairly good but not great. That is not the fault of our daycare. Ryan was blessed to have wonderful teachers and directors who truly loved him. But all kids have individual needs and personalities, and daycare simply was not the ideal environment for Ryan. By the time we left Phoenix, I had come to think of it as a necessary evil.
Frankly, I felt guilty leaving him there every day. I am so hesitant to say that because I certainly don’t think parents should feel guilty about it. I’m just being honest about how I felt. It didn’t stop me from doing it, day after day and week after week. It’s what we needed to do. Regardless, it weighed heavily on me.
But preschool … preschool feels wonderful. It feels like something we’re doing for him. Not because we have to, not because it financially makes sense, but because we are finally in a place and a situation where we can do it.
It will be good for him. It will allow him to make friends and have a life outside of our family. He will learn things that will prepare him for next year’s preschool and kindergarten after that. And then he can come home and decompress, take a nap, have some quiet time for himself and hang out with his mom.
And if it’s not good for him? If for some reason it doesn’t work out, if it’s not what we think it’s going to be, we can pull him out and bring him back home with me full time. I absolutely do not think that will happen. But knowing it’s a legitimate Plan B is so refreshing. It means I don’t feel chained to preschool the way I did to daycare.
Anyway, one day in, Ryan loves it. He chatted the whole way home after his first day, recounting every important detail. It went a little something like this: I did circle time and sang songs and I slide down the slide and I eat pretzels. And then Mommy came back and we’re in Mommy’s car! And we go back to my house and I watch a show and then I eat lunch, ok?
Did you notice how he slyly crowbarred that TV show into his itinerary? Smart already, evidently. Our preschool tuition dollars at work.