Today, I am sitting here in a Starbucks, surrounded by other coffee drinkers and Wi-Fi surfers. It seems impossible but true that it’s been over three years since I joined other adults in going out to be together alone.
Yesterday was the first day of preschool for my daughter. My husband and I stood prepared for this big day. We did all of the tours. We read her all of the right “going to preschool” books. We practiced walking with a backpack and saying goodbye. We met her teaching team the week before. We even did a dry run to her school to get the feel of traffic and parking. The emotional landscape was covered as well. I was prepared for tears or transitional meltdowns from her.
What I wasn’t prepared for was my own fallout while saying goodbye. Confused and disappointed, I did the tearful parental walk of shame back to my car. It shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did.
I have always been more of a Deanna Troi then a Mr. Spock when it came to emotions.
Curious about how others managed their first day, I did a Google search for why parents cry when dropping kids off. The first page of results were all articles on separation anxiety in children. I scrolled through more and finally found an article on the topic in TheDailyMail.com. It featured a back-to-school survey by Fairy Non Bio, (a UK baby detergent brand). The questions for parents yielded some familiar sounding answers.
It was revealed that parents were five times more likely to cry than their children on the first day. The study also found that the pain of letting go has even provoked some to try for another baby. Half of the surveyed parents pined for their children’s company and a third missed the background noise.
Now, I won’t go that far, this being the first break in my SAHM constant care since 2011. Instead, I, like many moms, pine for the solitude to read and take a bathroom break uninterrupted. The findings also showed that many of the parents expressed that seeing their children dressed for school marked an end of an era. My reaction seemed to be falling to a normal area, but I wanted to dig deeper.
Still concerned that we were doing the right thing, the words to Supertramp’s “Logical” song rang in my head all day. My mind told me what Mr. Spock would say, but I was feeling Deanna more.
Sharing from my own pre-parental life experience, I can recall another time when I felt this pain of letting go. As a stage actor, there is this lovely time right before a play opens; a bittersweet limbo that lies between creation and observation. It was always a perfect place for art to live. The gift we as performers were sharing was safe from criticism and judgement there in the Neverland.
The last three-and-a-half years of being a parent felt somewhat similar. The gift I was sharing now with the world was my daughter. Would she be welcomed, understood, and respected for all of her amazingness? Would she be accepted and embraced? Was I being overprotective or greedy, wanting to keep her safely unschooled and keep her to myself?
I was over-thinking this. I mean, it was just the first day of preschool. My anticipation was probably no different from the thousands of parents posting backpack pictures on Facebook.
This amazingly funny picture of Karen and her own daughter brought my deeper musings into perspective. It provided the laugh I needed to get over myself.
Today is the second day of school. Already, it seems much less loaded. Somewhere between tears and laughter, I realized something important. I needed to give myself a bit of a break. I had practiced understanding when my daughter was feeling overwhelmed. I encouraged her to cry and to get out her feelings. If it was good advice for her, it was good advice for me and for you readers, too.
It is okay to feel these big milestones. Go easy on yourself. Get yourself an iced Earl Grey. Accept a Troi-like virtual hug and a Mr. Spock “live long a prosper” from this GeekMom.