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COLUMN: The First Day is the Hardest

COLUMN: The first day is the hardest
By Karen Gibson/Gatehouse News Service Posted Sep. 15, 2009 @ 12:01 am Updated Sep 15, 2009 at 3:14 PM HOPKINTON

Sending my baby out into the world of education was a lot harder than I had anticipated - for both her and myself.
We had been anticipating this day all summer, and here it was. On Tuesday, Kaia and I woke up with the excitement of the first day of school. All morning, she kept asking when we could leave. When we hit traffic on the way there, her little face was in the rearview mirror pleading from the backseat for those cars to "get out of our way! I’m going to school!"
When we arrived at our destination - the Playhouse Preschool on Wood Street - she couldn’t get out of her carseat quick enough. She strapped on her backpack, and took her hand away when I went to hold it as an act of independence from the cool kid going to school. She marched up to the door, with her mommy following behind trying not to tear up.
When we got inside, the nerves set in.
The place was chaos - both parents for every child (and a few grandparents too) were packed into the small entryway. They were putting away backpacks, taking photo after photo, yelling in excitement for finally making it to this day.
Kaia hung up her backpack on her designated hook, and then it became clear she wasn’t quite ready to let go when my independent girl asked me to pick her up. As she clung to me with her head on my shoulder, my tears began. As I uttered reassuring words that she would have a great day and meet wonderful new friends, her arms grew tighter around me and my tears started to flow even faster.
Was I really ready to relinquish my baby into the world? She has never been to daycare, or with a babysitter outside the family for that matter, could I really let go? I honestly started thinking, "You know, I could hold off and send her next year. She is only two years and 11 months, so she could wait another year and then maybe we would both be ready."
But as the tears and terror must have shown in my face and Kaia’s, one of the teachers, Miss Linda, stepped in. She introduced herself to Kaia and asked if she wanted to play. Kaia still clung to me, and when Miss Linda asked if mom wanted to come in for a few minutes, Kaia quickly nodded her head.
Kaia and I followed Miss Linda in to the doll area, and as she asked Kaia if she would like to do the doll’s hair or feed her in the highchair, I start spouting out random thoughts running through my head -"She’s fully potty-trained, but she asked for a pullup today just in case she has an accident;" "Call me if she gets nervous."
Page 2 of 2 - Miss Linda looked up at me, and said, "She’ll be fine, Mom. You can call in a little while and see how she’s doing." I nodded my head, gave Kaia a kiss and told her I would be back at lunchtime, and I headed out. The 50 feet to the door was like walking to death row as Kaia screams "mommy!!" and cries in Miss Linda’s arms.
I get out to the parking lot and start bawling in my car. I call my husband, who tells me she will be just fine and she needs this time to be with her peers and have fun. I know he’s right, but I still feel like Kaia is in school with a bunch of virtual strangers thinking that I have abandoned her.
The whole time I’m at work, I am thinking of what she’s doing. When I get a call from Miss Linda about an hour and a half after the dreaded drop-off, I panic. "Has Kaia been crying this whole time, and they want me to get her?" But, Miss Linda just wanted to reassure me that Kaia was absolutely fine. She cried for about 6 minutes (very exact) and has been doing great. She asked how I was doing, since I was being reduced to a puddle on my way out.
At noon, I go to pick up Kaia and she is playing with two little girls at the swings. I call her name, and we run to each other like a scene in a movie.
We are so happy to see each other, and we both realize that letting go isn’t so bad, as long as we can come back together at the end of our long day

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