I've heard that when you have a child it's like a part of your heart is now roaming around the earth outside of your body. I have never felt those words more heavily than the day I sent my son Josiah to kindergarten.
Preschool seemed safe, like an extension of home. There were lots of mothers with babies on their hips lingering around and muslin tote bags hanging on hooks, nothing felt very official.
When did kindergarten become so serious? Full length school days, supply lists, homework and backpacks that look like luggage. I felt like I was releasing my boy to the big wide world. While I was excited for all the two had for each other, I felt the gravity of this new and necessary stage of sharing him.
The first week went well and Josiah seemed to be adjusting nicely until we had an unexpected school switch. His new teacher was not exactly the most sensitive soul on the planet and the third morning of the new class proved to be a breakdown sort of day.
I stood at the door way to say goodbye and Josiah burst into tears.
"Why is he crying?" the new teacher said in an annoyed tone.
Peace, gentleness, kindness, these are deep values I hold to. Rage and violence actually seemed like an option in that moment is all I'll say.
"Because this is a big change Mrs. X and it's okay to cry when you feel overwhelmed and unsure in a new situation. Can you give us just a minute? Thanks." I replied while daggers flew from my eyes.
Josiah buried his face into his hands while long sobs flowed out of him. My heart was in about a million pieces. Jack put his hand on Josiah's back and a baby Lucy on my hip held his head. We all hugged for just a minute while I tried to figure out what to do.
"I can't do it Mom, I can't go in there..." he cried.
"I know, I know this is REALLY hard. Can you look at me?"
I was racking my brain while trying not to completely fall apart myself. I knew intuitively if I took him home it would make it worse but I also new I had about 3 seconds to turn this situation around. He needed some thing real and very big, he needed the strength of my heart.
I desperately felt in all my pockets hoping I had something tangible to give him; I had nothing except my keys. I quickly unscrewed a tiny old key off my chain while wondering if he'd even buy my meager attempt at helping him cope.
"Buddy, do you see this key? This key is very special because it holds all my strength and love. I want you to take this key and put it in your hand. This is so hard but I know you can do it. When you feel scared, sad or unsure reach in your pocket and feel the key because it means my love and heart are with you okay?"
"Do you feel it? I'm giving it to you right now, in this very moment."
His tear stained eyes looked up and nodded. He knew he had to go.
We hugged and I whispered one last "I love you and I'm with you" in his ear and he walked into the room. I barely made it to the car until I burst into tears and cried the entire way home. I picked him up later that day fully expecting round two of emotional parenting hell but he was surprisingly okay. I was so relieved to find out he still had my made up treasure and hadn't lost it.
"I think that key helped me mom, I just kept feeling it in my pocket. Thanks."
He took the little key everyday for the next week until he decided he didn't need it anymore.
What he doesn't know is that even without a key, he will carry my heart forever.
Jack is next and this time I'm prepared, I cut this little heart out today.
Calling all Supersisters: Tell us in the comments your first day of school traditions and rituals that help with the transition of new teachers and a new school year? a special breakfast, a secret wink, a note in a lunch box, etc... Or even better, what did you do in moments of crisis like Josiah's or Carter's? Don't hold out on us!
The PBS Parent masters have some great advice here about how to help the start be smooth for everyone. You can also check out this on how to build a good relationship with the other person spending so much time with your child.