Today, Finn found a feather outside, and seemed so happy… just hours after screaming his lungs out for an hour-and-a-half straight. It was his first half-day of “summer camp” at the Montessori school he’ll start attending in a few weeks. It was his first time being left with strangers.
Keith and I sat with him in his classroom as he excitedly explored every mechanism of a dump truck, then a fire truck. We waited thirty minutes — longer than the time “allowed” by the school — then said we’d be leaving for a little while, said we’d be back soon, said goodbye. He seemed okay until we got to the door, and then he ran after us already in tears. “Mommy! Daddy!” he shrieked and cried. We reassured him and then walked out, as we were told we should. As I cried more quietly on the other side of the closed door, we waited to see when he would stop. He didn’t. His teachers tried singing to him, playing with him, offering him snacks. He kept screaming. I kept crying.
“If you go in to get him, he’ll win,” a teacher in the hallway said. “You don’t have to leave him for the duration. Come back in an hour. That way he’ll learn that you always come back.” So we left, dragging ourselves away. I felt guilty of desertion, abandonment. I wondered what long-lasting psychological damage Finn might suffer as a result.
That phrase, “Mommy always comes back,” doesn’t seem to work. But coming back does. An hour later, we went back into the school and stood outside the door again, where we could still hear him screaming “Mommy! Daddy!” with exactly the same intensity. When we calmly re-entered the room, Finn’s pleading became an exclamation — mid-phrase. He ran over and asked “Mommy, up?” And then it was over, and with snots and tears still covering his face, he began talking as if nothing had happened.
After I watched Finn singing on the way home, laughing in his bedroom, running with a feather, I marveled at his resilience. Then an hour ago, Finn woke screaming and whimpering, something he hasn’t done much this month.
People keep saying “It’s harder on you than it is on him.” I don’t think so. This is heavy, very heavy for my little man. I wish I wish I wish I could make it lighter.