I must be being punished for not taking the perfect photo of my daughter on her first day of preschool. You know the one: shiny brand new outfit, adorable little backpack in place, hair perfectly coiffed, my darling child smiling and holding a sign -– homemade, preferably, because you know… who doesn’t have time for that? -– displaying such vital information as who her favorite Disney character is.
No, my daughter, Elizabeth, got an unceremonious picture taken of her with a Nutri-Grain bar hanging out of her mouth, wearing a secondhand dress I dug out of a huge bag of clothes our neighbor gave to us last week, with poor lighting and her younger sister photo bombing in the background. Maybe that’s why, while every other child being dropped off at preschool that morning seemed to have no problem exiting their parents’ car solo, walking into the building with big smiles on their faces and so willingly taking the hand of the school’s director, my child was throwing an absolute shit fit. And I mean the textbook kind of shit fit: chest heaving, tears streaming down her tomato red face, screaming “I don’t wanna go to school!” over and over at the top of her lungs, like a broken record.
I think my favorite part was when my kid – albeit accidentally – slapped the director’s arm when she was trying to comfort her. All in front of the freaking drop off line, which was about seven cars deep and five feet away from us. Now, all of this would have been unpleasant enough as it were.
At almost four years old, Elizabeth is actually the last of all her friends to start preschool. I stay at home, so she has never been to daycare, and I’ve had plenty of people warn me about the difficulty of leaving your child for the first time at school. I fully expected to be a hot mess of tears and snot as I left my precious little one behind for the first time. And while the bulk of my tears that day stemmed from my feeling horrible for my daughter, from the realization that she must have felt so abandoned and scared, I also cried from sheer humiliation.
We live right around the corner from my daughter’s school, so I had walked Elizabeth and Maggie, my younger daughter, over in the double stroller. That means I was outside, front and center on the sidewalk as the scene was unfolding, powerless to stop the seemingly unending parade of minivans pulling up and witnessing the absolute mess that was my daughter in that moment. I’m sure every parent in that drop off line has “been there.”
I’m confident that, if anything, they were pitying and not judging me or the situation. That they understood that Elizabeth wasn’t being a little beast, but that she was just afraid and confused. But it still sucked. Because for once, I just wanted something to be easy with my daughter.
I only have girls, so I don’t know any differently, but the drama… good God, the drama. I love my children more than I can ever explain, but they literally cry over EVERYTHING. There’s the constant fighting over toys, the bloodcurdling shrieks over who gets to open the door or walk up the stairs first, the incessant battle over their desire to buckle themselves into their own car seats… it never ends. And I’m done. Sometimes I just feel like I have nothing left to give. I know every parent struggles and that every child has their moments and issues. I know some parents would sell their kidneys on the black market if it meant their child would, for instance, be a good sleeper, which Elizabeth has been since day one.
So I know we all have our shit. I know that that day was not about me. It was about my little girl venturing off for the first time on her own to explore and learn and grow and develop. To make new friends and draw pictures that we will proudly display on our refrigerator for exactly one week before they are relegated to, on a good day, a memory box, but otherwise… please don’t make me say it. You know where they’re headed. And she ended up doing great. I even got a sweet little picture of Elizabeth smiling and having a ball about 20 minutes after I had left, my head bowed in shame and proverbial tail tucked between my legs, or was that just my saggy mom butt… who knows? Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe it will be worse. Maybe I will put some wine in my Nalgene bottle for the walk to school and hope for the best. Cheers, parenthood. You kicked my ass yet again.