As anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows, we got royally jipped in terms of heat and sunlight hours this summer. The only thing that got me through this bipolar summer of 2011 was the fact that my youngest son was starting school full-time in September. In short, this is my princess year. This is to say that for the first time since Dec 2000, I have 6 hours a day to myself. Just me, my thoughts and I (plus a few breakfast dishes). Every weekday. For 37 weeks a year. Delicious.
There was just one thing standing in my way. Rookie moms.
Many of the sweet children in my son’s kindergarten class are first borns, or as I prefer to call them, guinea pigs. Being a veteran mom, I know from experience that saying that first goodbye cuts like a knife. Many a rookie stay-at-home mom’s secret fear is that our kids don’t actually need us and will head into the classroom with nary a backwards glance. And these kids, those sneaky devils, smell that fear in our hearts and use it to masterfully manipulate us. They wail, as if cued in a chorus, the moment the kindergarten teacher presents herself to steal our children. Veteran moms know that those first goodbyes need to be ripped off a band-aid, a quick kiss & a hug and they’re off to the land of learning. Some first-time moms however, do a Sally Fields, basking in the glory of “my kid really, really needs me” and joins the class for a kindergarten refresher.
After my first princess year drop off, I went running. As I ran, I vacillated between being joyous that I finally had “me” time and miserable that my baby was a fully competent and capable kindergarten kid. When I shared this with my husband later that evening, he thought it was time to see my therapist again.
On the third day of school, my son decided that he wanted his mommy to stay at school like all the others. So, he cried, clinging to my body, rubbing his luscious tears and dripping nose juices all over my new Lululemon pants. And being a veteran mom with my personal trainer waiting for me at the gym, I dragged him to his teacher so she could pull his little body off of me while I ran out the door. I was tough on the outside but inside, I was crying too, yet narcissistically reassured that he did actually want me to stay.
After a weekend at home, things got worse on Monday, as the other kids caught onto the crying game and more parents were being sucked into this loud emotional vortex. At her wits end, the kindergarten teacher had a chat with her little charges and announced that “mommies and daddies are no longer allowed in our classroom.” And so every day after that, my obedient son would stoically wait for the morning bell, his lower lip protruding, while tears would start to pool in his eyes. Feeling as though he was being betrayed by his own body, he would then stick his two fingers into his tear ducts (Three Stooges style) in an attempt to stop the flow. Pained, I would tell him that I could walk him into the classroom, but he would just shake his head and whisper “You’re not allowed”, and march down the corridor with the enthusiasm of a death row inmate. He was that good.
This push/pull on my heartstrings was causing me serious heartache. How was I to enjoy my Princess year if my Princes were not happy to give it to me? My older boys in Grades 3 and 5 didn’t want to be associated with me on the playground, but this was my baby, my parenting Mona Lisa. I couldn’t just leave him there with his fingers embedded in his eyeballs. What was I to do?
A dear friend recommended that we read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This is a lovely story about Chester Raccoon who doesn’t want to go to school, so his Momma plants a kiss on his hand to take with him to school so that he can feel her love whenever he needs it. We read it that night and the tears stopped immediately. I think we both realized that I was going to be okay and that he didn’t need to make me feel loved by crying. And I have his kiss on my hand for whenever I need it.
Love Princess Lucie