We sent Brooks off to school FOR THE FIRST TIME this week. Technically, it’s called “camp,” but it is at the same preschool that Max has been attending for almost 3 years and the same preschool that Brooks will also attend from now until kindergarten. The curriculum is switched up a little to make “camp” seem different than the regular school year… But, when you’re in preschool, play-time is learning and learning is play-time, so the prescription doesn’t change much as the temperature rises.
Unlike with Max, sending Brooks away has proven to be most difficult. It was simple with Max. He was so easy-going. He made no fuss. He has always been MISTER INDEPENDENT and is probably already counting down the days until he goes off to college! 😉
Brooks is another story. Brooks is my precious baby. While he is intensely strong and brave, he is simultaneously fragile. He still gets chemotherapy everyday and this takes a toll physically. He is also extremely dependent upon me. We have been almost inseparable his ENTIRE life. On most days, it would appear as though there is an invisible placenta attaching the two of us. This may seem disadvantageous, but we have special circumstances! When your child’s life is threatened, you hold them differently… more tightly… perhaps too tightly.
We know that sending Brooks to school will be helpful for him (and me) in so many ways. Because of our history, though, we weren’t sure how smoothly he would transition… Breaking away from the routine does not usually come easily for him.
We practiced for school. He was excited to call Max’s school HIS school. He knew some of the kids in his class. His teachers promised to have his favorite toys set out in the morning for his arrival. (The whole staff at the school are familiar with his story and treat him like a prize!)
We had a lot of momentum going into Monday morning and the drop-off went exceptionally well. He said goodbye easily and even smiled for the camera to capture the moment.
Saying goodbye was much better than expected for Brooks, BUT NOT SO MUCH FOR ME. I wore a smile on my face, yet inside I was sobbing. In our dry-runs, I prepared for everything except for MY heart’s reaction. It wasn’t until I walked away did I acknowledge this to be such a significant development milestone; a graduation from absolute dependence on mommy. I also didn’t realize how hard it would be for ME to LET GO. With this (voluntary) situation, I was forced away from my usual role of catering to Brooks’ happiness. I was not allowed to tend to his every necessity. Without these responsibilities, my identity is incomplete. For the short time we were apart, I felt naked. These few hours, I threw myself into being busy.
When I returned to pick up Brooks, I will never forget the look on his face. He smiled at me but began crying out of relief. HE HAD BEEN SO SAD WHILE I WAS AWAY. With one look at him, I could tell the day had been a real challenge. There he goes, breaking my heart again.
When he said goodbye to me in the morning, that is where the fun times ended for Brooks… Apparently, he thought school involved my attendance as well. He was dismayed to find out that I was not part of the program. The teachers said he was more angry than sad and this made me laugh. Brooks is a fighter… If he had the vernacular, he certainly would have been dropping F-bombs. I fear the day his finger dexterity improves beyond “thumbs up.”
He is only signed up to attend “camp” three days a week for 3 hours each day so this is not a lot of separation we are expecting. With a day’s break and a fresh start, I held out hope that Wednesday would be more successful.
Unfortunately, Wednesday was much like Monday, with the exception of the smooth morning drop off. Once again, the teachers reassured me that he did have some happier moments.
Max asked Brooks what was his favorite camp activity. In between the tears, what Brooks liked best (or remembered most) was digging in the sandbox.
Trying to build more excitement for Brooks, Max asks, “Did you dig for treasure!?”
Brooks responds (matter-of-factly), “No, I dug for sand.” 🙂
Still I woke in the middle of the night full of anxiety and guilt. I questioned if this was the right time for further character building. I figured if Brooks resisted again on Friday, I would just keep him home.
I told my husband of this plan.. Erich forbade it! He said he would be furious if I kept Brooks home.
I do not cast my fierce maternal instinct aside easily. I would have fought Erich on this (regardless of his fury) if I knew for sure that keeping Brooks home was the right and best answer.
The thing is that I do not know.
I know he needs to learn to operate a bit more independently (for his and my own sanity). I truly have been needing some kid-free time. I have a few tasks that I would like to complete without the assistance of sticky fingers. My ultimate goal is for Brooks to look forward to school, knowing it is a safe place that he loves and is loved in return. I know we can not accomplish this goal simply by wishing…
So with Erich’s warning how does Friday unfold?
We wake up and begin getting ready for the day. Brooks asks, “Where are we going?” I tell him camp. He losses it. I try to reason with him and tell him that I will pick him up early. He doesn’t understand time. This promise is empty. I tell him that Max will be at the same school just in another building. He is consoled by this thought but only as he extracts an assurance that he can stay WITH Max. I considered asking the administrators to help me fulfill this request. As we got into the car, I still was unsure what would happen once we arrived.
I sent Erich a text of forewarning.
To me, this is permission to keep Brooks out of school for the day. As he starts to get worked up from the backseat, I proclaim, “It’s okay, you don’t have to go to school today.
He says, “You will not leave me there?”
I say, “I will not leave you there,” I then reiterated this to him about 100 more times along the journey.
Was this right? I don’t know. It is not the end of the world either way, but Brooks and I did especially enjoy our morning at home together. I don’t regret forsaking our objective for now… We will try again on Monday and perhaps she will hold a different outcome.