Have You Ever Done the Pre-School Walk of Shame?

Well, I did the walk of shame the first day of Josie’s pre-K. I held myself completely together, even insisting that I wouldn’t even cry because I’m not the mom who generally gets emotional about milestone things (read: heartless mother who questions everything any time another mother gets sentimental about ditching the crib or kids growing out of clothes). Plus, I’ve been doing daycare drop-offs for years, so it’s not like I’m used to spending all of my days with her and now I won’t be! I thought that this would just be another kiss-and-hug-and-see-ya-later moment.

But that was not my story last week. Josie and I both put on brave faces as she toted her gigantic-looking backpack into her new classroom. I made a mad dash for the door as she burst into tears, but it wasn’t until I had to say out loud to another mom as we hugged hello, “I just did my first pre-school drop-off…” that I completely lost emotional control.

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And then, the walk of shame. Tears spilling onto my cheeks as mothers and teachers alike let out audible awwws in my general direction. I wanted to shout to them, “It’s fine! I’m fine! It’s fine!” But, of course, I could only fake a smile through the tears and wish I would’ve parked closer to the door.

I kept asking myself WHY? Why does this feel so big? (And why did this public display of emotions have me beating myself up when I’m more than used to exercising my overactive tear ducts? It’s possible this new realm of school stuff is digging up some not-so-fun things in my heart…same reason why I’m struggling with Josie’s usual morning habit of dressing herself and celebrating her microfashion…apparently I care what other people think. Ugh.)

But why does this feel so big?

It felt like in one moment, she went from being a toddler to a little girl. I knew she’d be a toddler for a short time, but she’ll be a little girl for a whole lot longer. So we’re really ushering in a whole new chapter of life. One with more friends, school lunches, and responsibility.

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So, I’m struggling to write this because, again, I’m wrestling with going from not usually getting emotional about milestones to getting super-emotional about a milestone. Going from wishing for the next phase of life to crying about the next phase of life.

But here’s what I know. It’s not much, but if you are on the struggle bus of sending kids back to school and waffling between rejoicing in structure, but wallowing in despair, loneliness, identity crisis and anything else that may plague you emotionally during this time, take heart.

  • It’s Ok: Daniel Tiger has a great song about how it is ok to feel more than one emotion at the same time. So true, Daniel. I’m thrilled for Josie to be in a structured, learning environment that will prepare her for all of her years in school. But it’s also ok that I take a few moments to cry about how just yesterday she was scaling the side of her crib and couldn’t grow hair to save her life.

  • Name the Fear: My fear in Josie starting pre-K has generally nothing to do with her and everything to do with the fact that I’m going to have to step up and take on more responsibility as a mother (packing lunches, helping her remember take-home folders, being perfectly on time). Fear that I don’t feel equipped to help Josie navigate real-life situations even though I am equipped because I am her mother. And fear that I’ll stop reminding myself that fear is a liar.

  • We had Kids to Raise Them: I stole this brilliant little nugget from my friend and Radio Theology co-host Daron, who encouraged his wife and another mother with that simple fact. That no one has babies to keep them babies. We have kids to raise them into amazing adults. To mold them and guide them and care for them as they make their own mark on the world. As a mom who has trouble staying in the present because I do always wish for the next phase (currently in the “no” phase with Cal, who is 15 months and into EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Next phase, please!), I hope to learn more and more how to enjoy each phase for what it is, what it brings out in myself, and what it teaches my kids. We’re raising adults, here, after all.

I’m happy to say that after Day 1, Josie and I were both old pros at Pre-K drop-off. Our transition hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, we’re still working on establishing a new normal, including emotionally, but we’re taking it a day at a time.

And thanks to Jodi, the sweet mom at pre-school who empathized with my tears and messaged me later to check in! Now THAT’S Mother of the Year stuff right there!

So here we go, mama! Future-facing, let’s raise the best kids in the whole wide world!

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Lisa GraftComment