Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Hard Parenting Day

Today's been a hard parenting day.

Tory and I attended our second ECFE toddler preschool class this morning and it was the first time separating mid-way into parent / child classrooms. Deep down, I knew she might have an issue with separating and that's exactly why I signed up for this type of class. Tory's has no prior experience with a parent leaving her in a "school environment." She does great with our nannies and babysitters (yesterday she said "see ya later, Mom!" when I left home for my OB appointment) but she was also at home on her own turf. I thought it would be good for her to have a classroom-type experience now to prepare her for real preschool next year.

Separating was HARD. I won't lie. Tory was a mess with tears streaming down her cheeks the moment I told her I was leaving for the nearby classroom. Her face was red, her eyes were puffy and she showed no signs of settling down.

It was also a bit embarrassing. I know the ECFE teachers have dealt with child separation issues before, but I was the only parent out of 11 others who's child cried when they left the room. After I tried to reassure Tory for a few minutes in the child classroom and it wasn't working, the teachers encouraged me to say good-bye, leave her be and see if she'd calm down after I left. When I walked into the parent classroom, the other mothers sighed in unison and gave me sympathetic looks. I know they empathize, but I felt super on display. Hey guys! My kid's the one freaking out in there! Oy. About 10 minutes later, Tory's teacher called the parent's phone and asked me to come back to the room. Tory sobbed for the last 15 minutes of class while I sat beside her.

Since class this morning, Tory's been a wreck. She's extra clingy this afternoon, hanging on my pant leg and even demanded to eat lunch while sitting on my lap. I get that she's nervous to let me out of her sight. I've been as patient as possible with her because I understand it's a lot for her to take in. It's also exhausting and I could really use a glass of wine. 8 more weeks, Apothic Red! There's currently a nap-refusing toddler snuggled under my arm watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse because mama needs a break from all the crying.

I thought ECFE would be a helpful experience in Tory's development. She is a big mama's girl and I do think it's important for her to have other social and learning experiences. But, I can't help but worry I'm pushing her too hard, too soon. Maybe she's not ready and why on Earth am I pushing her to be separated from me? She's 24 months old, for goodness sake! We have a lifetime ahead to do separate things. Tory has several transitions happening in her life right now -- a big girl bed being delivered next Monday, a new brother on the way and potty training on the horizon (though she seems to be leading the charge with that one). Is it really vital she learn to function in a classroom environment on her own right now? Today, I'm stuck in "am I doing the right thing?" parenting limbo.

Another mother said to me as we were leaving the building today that there were only two ECFE classes last year where she wasn't called back to comfort her daughter. So, that's a win because her child was finally able to separate today? I'm not sure I can stomach Tuesday after Tuesday this year of Tory in a tailspin. Yet, we'll try it again next week and I'm sure it'll get better eventually. This is the best thing for Tory, right? I hope so.    


  1. Hang in there, it will get easier! Allie was the same way at first, but now goes to preschool with no problems (well except for last week, haha). I can totally relate to that feeling though of "are you doing the right thing?" Obviously it is SO tough to see your kid miserable and upset and you just want to console them, but then you wonder if this should be a learning lesson time. Ugh, so frustrating. However, when I read this I have to say I'm a little surprised with the ECFE people. I guess I'm not sure how I would feel - is it better to let Tory cry for a long time and not call you, or is it better to call you, but I sort of feel like by calling you back, they're "teaching" her that if she cries hard enough, you'll come back. I wonder what types of methods they used to try and console her. And again, maybe that's not the time or place to have a teaching moment with her and it IS better to call you - again, so frustrating and so hard to know what is "right."

  2. Oh this is so tough! I know exactly how you feel. I remember thinking the SAME EXACT thing last fall when L started preschool. Honestly, to this day I still question if it was too much for her. Seeing how great she has handled everything this year makes me question if she really just wasn't ready yet last year. But maybe she is doing so well because she went to school last year? Who knows!
    Anyway, I would definitely suggest giving it more time...like at least another month or so, before making any permanent decisions. But if it continues to be a stressful situation, for both you and her, it isn't worth it. She is still really young, there is plenty of time for her to learn to be independent from you in outside situations. Like you said, she has a lot of changes going on right now as it is.
    I also agree with Jodi above...I don't know how Tory is, but if it were my kids, they would immediately pick up that if they cry long/hard enough, mom will come back. My kids seem to do better when we keep our departures short and sweet.
    I hope things go better next week....for both of you!

  3. For what it's worth, I think you are doing the right thing! ECFE is basically the easiest way to introduce Tory to being away from you, because it is such a short time and you're so close if necessary. I am not sure if waiting makes it any easier - the first separation in that environment is going to be hard regardless, so like you said, better to have it be in ECFE than in actual preschool!

  4. I feel your pain Heather, we have gone through a few attachment spells with Lauren.

    Have you tried a social story with her? We use these at school a lot to teach kids social skills. It worked with Lauren when we had to switch daycares (and she was being bit every other day, ugh).

    Something along the lines of:

    Tory goes to school.
    School is so much fun.
    Tory gets to play with ___ at school.
    At school Tory gets to color.
    Mommy will be back to get Tory when school is over.

    I am sure if you googled it you could find much better sentence ideas than that but just a few starter ideas.

    Make it into a little book with a sentence and a simple picture on each page - I just did stick people on mine but made sure they were all smiling.

    Then read it with Tory a few times a day. Some kids eat it right up, others don't.

    Of course though when it comes down to it though, I say go for what feels "right" to you. What is your gut telling you is best for Tory?

  5. Our ECFE has a downloadable book with simple plot about the class routine and pictures. ("I wash my hands! I play with my friends!") It worked great for us; you could make your own with pictures, like the previous comment suggested.

    Our ECFE teacher also took a 30 second video of the room and kids eating snack and emailed it out. Maybe you could take a quick panoramic vid with your phone or camera next time to help her remember it better and talk about it between classes?

    Even though I even have a tough time with the separation (is that pathetic?), I know it's important for just those 45 minutes a week. For us, it's the only separation each week unless my husband is home and I go to Target, so by mid-year I'm really thankful for time to learn more about parenting...which is the gift (new parenting strategies, etc.) you're giving Tory by participating in the parent education portion of class.

  6. Anna had a lot of trouble with drop offs at that age and she had been in daycare since 5 months. It comes and goes.

  7. Hey - thanks everyone for your words of encouragement / helpful ideas. Sometimes it's hard to know if you're doing the right thing for your kid at the right time, so I really appreciate your thoughts!


  8. Loved all the ideas from your commenters here!

    So sorry it was such a sucky first day. Ugh. Gus was that way at first, and it always seemed like there was at least one kid in class who was sad on any given week. Are you going to bring a "lovie" of some sort in for Tory to have during the separating part of class? I remember Ann suggested that, and we brought one of Gus's favorite stuffed animals at the time.

    It does get better. She was shocked on her first day! She didn't know you were going to LEAVE HER! And that is sort of hearbreaking, but also understandable and reasonable and I think every week will get better. And then you'll have a bad one thrown in there on a day that she's cranky for some other thing. ;)

    Gus LOVED the sand table there, and if ever he was having a hard time separating I could sometimes convince him to calm down and stay and hang out and play with the sand table.

    But definitely start talking all about school all the time, and all the fun stuff she does and will do there. Talk about teacher Ann, I found myself saying things like, "I think teacher Ann would love this story, what do you think?" or "Do you want to pick out a leaf to bring to teacher Ann at school next week?" Sounds ridiculous, but it got him really excited about school and her and his friends there.

    It took half the YEAR before I didn't have to fight/cajole Gus into sitting during circle time, BTW. And as annoying as it was, it was super gratifying to see how much progress he made over time and how well he started to respond to the structure of it, how he learned all the songs, sang along and even did the gestures. Major proud moments happened there, and they will for you and Tory as well. I just know it.

    Also, anyone can tell how much you love this little girl, and I love that you are thinking so much about how all the changes around her might be affecting her emotions and behavior. And I get being worried that it's too much at once. I bet you will both really appreciate ECFE though, when the time comes and baby brother is here, because ECFE is all about Tory, special time for Tory, and you will both hopefully respond positively to that and appreciate it even more.

    Hugs! Good luck next week!

  9. While I haven't been in that exact situation, I so know the sweaty, uncomfortable and just overall unsure feeling that goes with a moment like that. Ah kids - they can cause us such stress!

    I have done two ECFE classes and I'm surprised Tory was the only one struggling - it's sooooo common.

    When we started with Oliver last week I was really surprised/confused that they had us stay in the same room for the first week of seperation. This led to a very, very chaotic hour where many children screamed/sobbed and all the other kids kept running back and forth to us. I guess they know what they are doing but it seemed to just drag out/prolong the separation and I wonder if it made it that much harder for some kids this week. Who knows?

    I would echo the others who say to try it again at least a few more times. Kids are so up and down and maybe Tory was having a particularly rough day because she was coming down with a cold or something. And the fact that Tory can and does separate from you on a regular basis is such a good sign that she will adjust in time.

    I really hope the separation eases up in the coming weeks! But if you decide it's not working this year, then that is just fine too. And I hope Tory is feeling less clingy today so you can have a little space to catch your breath.