First Day of School Freak Outs

How I learned (the hard way) that it's better to say a "quick goodbye."


My heart raced as I peered through a window on the school gym door. Moments earlier, I had dropped my son off for his first day of preschool. It was a painful goodbye.

He had cried and reached for me as I bravely handed him off to the teacher.  In retrospect, I should have just left, but I wanted to make sure that he was okay. I took shelter in the gymnasium.

I waited for someone, anyone, to walk by so I could beg them to peek in at my son. An unsuspecting stranger passed and I jumped in front of her. She was kind enough to check on my poor child but her report wasn't comforting. "Umm, he's crying, but it gets easier, I promise."

I was the lone mom who remained at the school. When the children went out to the playground, the director invited me sit at her desk to watch my son play out of a tiny window in her office.

Big mistake. My little stinker tried to escape under the fence. He kicked until he busted open the gate and ran across the parking lot. His teacher chased him in circles and finally snatched him up. The director handed me a tissue and told me to go home.

To say that the first day of school was traumatizing for us would be an understatement. I knew that it would go smoother when he started at a new school the next year. After all, he was a year older and we'd survived plenty of separation during his first year of preschool.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself hiding in the bushes next to his classroom. His teacher had pried him from my arms  and saved me from a pretty impressive tantrum that involved yet another escape and a heated chase. All around us, peaceful children walked to class and their parents looked on in terror as I chased my rampant child. Luckily, his teacher heard the commotion and came to the rescue.

So there I was once again, crouched and hidden, waiting for a stranger to walk by so I could beg them to check on my son. Yet, as the leaves poked into my back, I realized that the best thing for me to do was to just go home.

My little one needed to make this transition on his own, without his crazed mom hanging around. The only person I hurt by sticking around was me. I built up all my nerve and left. When I picked him up hours later, he was all smiles.

I learned so much about myself in those moments of hiding on those first days of school. Now, so many years later, my three-year-old is starting preschool for the first time. I've made a promise to myself  to make our goodbye as quick as possible. It'll be better for both of us if I show him that I'm confident in him and trust his teachers. My plan is to kiss him on the cheek, walk away, and not look back.

Of course, on the off chance that someone reading this happens to find me hiding in the bushes in front of the school, I give you permission to snatch me up, pull the leaves from my hair, and tell me to go home.

Is the first day of school hard for your children? How do you handle the dreaded drop off? The separation? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Leigh Hewett August 01, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Rebecca, No more bush hiding for me. I swear! :)
Scarlet Buckley August 02, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Ugh! It was really hard for my son, too! Lots and lots of tears that went on for weeks and weeks and still more weeks. This time around, my little 3 year old daughter is starting school, and I will be starting work. i won't be able to hang out and look through the little window, because I have to be working. I am hoping for the best, but admit that i am already starting to feel the anxiety of walking away from my baby girl. I know I have to pretend to feel all confident and strong, but I already miss her, and miss the life we've had, which is all about to change. We are on to the next chapter, and it will be different. It's so true that this transition is not just about the child. There is separation anxiety for mama, too. I am going to take some advice that a dear friend always gives me: I need to be good to myself; recognize that this period may be a little hard, and treat myself to a nice hot bath or whatever. Not to mention, sweet little big girl can have all the ice cream and snuggling she wants.
Julie Crowe August 02, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I completely understand the feeling, Leigh! This story is hysterical though, and one I hope you will continue to share with your son and grandkids over the years! I am laughing picturing you in the bushes!! :)
Linda Labbo August 02, 2012 at 01:05 PM
My little gal had separation tears for years; however, they were usually gentle in nature. At 3 years old, her biggest issue seemed to be her desire for "no nap", which she quickly announced to any and ever teacher she encountered until nap time was out of the picture. I always had a pang in my heart when I dropped her off but by the end of the day she was always happy! Enjoyed your post... so funny and insightful!
Jesse August 02, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Uh...that does sound traumatizing! Good for you for pulling it together for your 3-year-old. He will feel your strength. For me, I LOVE the first day of school! My kids always seem weepy on their way in but they always come home happy. I love this little look you gave us into one of the many tender moments we have as mothers.


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