By Amy Heesacker
When my first child cried out for me on the first day of preschool, I lurked at the end of the hall, wiping my own tears and phoning a friend who helped me stay strong. After walking him in to his first day of Kindergarten, I sobbed in my van while imagining my little Nemo swimming unprotected toward an ocean of sharks and scuba diving dentists.
All of this I more or less expected of myself. I’m pretty emotional (my husband will laugh out loud at this gross understatement of my lability), and I felt that these were big milestones in both my son's and my own development. We were beginning the process of letting go, and I accurately anticipated our mutual apprehension, sadness and muted excitement.
Despite my previous experience "letting go," or perhaps because of it, I wholly miscalculated the reactions to my second child's initiation into the school system this year.
My daughter is nothing if not independent. In her toddler years she often preferred to spend library story hour sitting in the lap of a complete-stranger-mommy, often to the dismay of the complete-stranger-mommy's youngster! She is also happiest when playing with other children and never fails to make an easy friend in whatever line or waiting room we happen to be confined to that day.
So naturally, I predicted that the transition to preschool would be smooth and possibly even enjoyable for both of us. She would be in her element surrounded by new friends and new story-time laps. And I felt some guilt-tinged enthusiasm for those many childfree hours I'd have to fill.
In the unlikely event that my daughter did experience some anxiety I thought that I would handle it like a pro. After all I had done this before and lived to write about it.
So, what was my back to school surprise? My daughter cried, not just one day but the whole gut-wrenching week (...and still counting). After prying her fingers from my suddenly ambivalent body, I drove away in a trance, completely thrown off by my error in judgment.
This time I hadn't prepared for tears, hers or mine. When I was safely hidden in my awkwardly quiet home, I sat on my couch and bawled, astonished that I had foolishly believed that the process of letting go could ever be easy.
Amy Heesacker is a thirty-something SAHM and part-time psychology professor living in the deep South with her husband and two children.