The reason I didn’t cry when I took my son to school

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By Jennifer Adams Collins

“Don’t forget to wear waterproof mascara!”

“Grab some tissues before you leave.”

“I’ll have the tissues ready for you when you get to work.”

“I’ll be thinking of you today… the first day is the hardest.”

All of the above sentiments have been uttered to me at some point since I became a mother nearly nine years ago.  When it comes to letting go, there are so many “firsts”.

The first day of daycare.

The first time leaving the baby with a sitter so my husband and I could have a date.

And the list goes on.

So many “firsts”.

With my daughter Emalee, the “firsts” came rather naturally and my emotions played out as I expected they would.  It is never easy, letting go.  But it is a part of motherhood and an important part of childhood.

With my son, things have been quite different.

I knew that my children would be unique and have their own personalities.  I knew from the day my son was born that things with him would be completely different than they had been with his sister.

Immediately my fears of not having enough love for two children were calmed. I was confident.  I knew that there would be enough love and enough of me for them both.

What I didn’t know was that this tiny little boy was going to overwhelm me with  his need for me. 

I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with Eston until he was nearly two years old.  There was no dropping him off at day care just eight weeks after he was born.  Nope.  We were together every single day.  Every.  Single.  Moment.  Or so it seemed.  I nursed him.  Held him when he slept. I kept him with me everywhere.

His sister started school.  I stayed home with him.  From very early on, he would cry his head off if I left his sight.  He had to have me.  Oh how he needed me.

Eston would nearly hyperventilate with his crying when I would leave him at church.  God bless the women that held him while he cried in the nursery so that I could have 15 minutes alone to sing and worship.  Only I couldn’t quite clear my head because I knew he was miserable (and I’m sure they were, too).

And date nights??  Not hardly.  I don’t think I could pay a sitter enough to console my little sidekick with his powerful need to be with Mama.

When the time came for me to go back to work full-time, I was really worried about how my son would do.  By that time he was starting to get better with being apart.  We were lucky to find someone who could come watch him in our home.  Those first weeks of returning to work were harder on me than I expected, though.  Because I knew what I was missing.  I missed playing with my little boy.  I missed his laugh.  I missed his snuggles.

Then day care days came. 

It  is hard to find a good day care in our rural town.  The one I wanted to get our son into was full, so we were placed on a waiting list.  We found another place to send him until a spot opened up for him.

I worried about him every day.

I thought I was crazy because I never worried about his sister this way.  She is a go-with-the-flow kind of girl and has been so ready for each stage of her life.

Eston was just different. 

With him we dealt with night terrors.  He developed a strong reaction to discipline.  He began to fall apart at the slightest elevation of my voice.

He was changing and I couldn’t tell if it was because of his new daily routine, his development, or just his personality. 

Then there was an opening at the daycare we wanted him to get into, so we made yet another transition.  He fell right into place there and began to thrive.  We still had days from time to time where he would cling to me a bit when I would drop him off, but for the most part he adjusted well to this change and his new day care.

Then one day I received a call that no mother wants to receive.  A state day care licensing investigator informed me that the day care my son had previously attended was under investigation for rough handling of children.  My son had been named as one of several children harmed while under their care.  And then I was read a very specific recount of an event where he was indeed roughly handled.

That was a day that I needed the waterproof mascara.  That was the day that a box of tissues would have come in handy.  That was the day that I saw white hot anger.

Someone had really hurt my son.

I won’t detail the days and months that have followed since then, but there is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t question my instincts with him or feel like I failed him in some way.  It has also been very hard to trust anyone to care for my children.

This week my son started Pre-K. 

I recall wondering if he would be emotionally ready when it came time for him to go to school.  We have been through so much.

But he was more than ready.  He was excited.  He could hardly wait.

He visited his classroom a few days before school started, met his teacher, and proceeded to go around to the other children in the class like a tiny politician.  Shaking hands, introducing himself.

On the first day of school, I walked him to class.  He went right to work, putting his folder in his mailbox, hanging up his backpack, hugging his teacher, and then hugging me goodbye.

No tears.  No drawn out hug.  No clinging.  Just a simple hug, kiss on the cheek, and a “see you later Mama!” and he was ready to go.

He was ready.

And so was I.   

GracefulMessFaceBIO: Jennifer is a mom with a day job and she likes to write about her victories and messes along the way. Her blog Graceful Mess is hosted by the Bangor Daily News. Jennifer’s writing has also been featured on BlogHer, iVillage Australia, Daddy Doin’ Work, and Mamapedia.

Twitter: @GracefulMessME

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.