Today I dropped my son off to his first independent play class. It’s not that I have never left him alone before, as he has had lots of babysitters, but it was the first time I left him with strangers in a ‘school’ type setting. I’m lucky to have been able to wait until I chose to register him in a class to leave him, as many parents have to leave their children at daycare to go to work. Whether you leave your child when they are newborn or three, I think that the first time, (and, let’s be honest, subsequent times after) you leave your child is heart wrenching. You want your child to succeed and not be upset when you leave, but you also want them to miss you, and know they remember you while you’re gone. It’s definitely mixed feelings.
As this was the first time I was leaving Jack with people he didn’t know for a playtime class, I wasn’t sure what to expect from him. He’s been fine when my husband and I leave him with babysitters, but I didn’t know if it would be the same when I left him with people he didn’t know. I was pretty sure he’d be ok, but I was afraid he would get upset when he noticed when I was gone.
Well, turns out I had nothing to worry about. Jack saw the gym, and once he had his shoes and coat off, he took off into the gym. He didn’t even look back. I left and when I came back, he gave me a big hug (at least he was happy to see me!) The teachers said he did great as I had warned them I didn’t know how he would react when he noticed I was gone.
It gives me mixed feelings knowing he did so well. I am so proud of him for being such a confident, independent child. It’s lucky that he has an outgoing personality that allows him to adapt to social situations so well. I also think that it has helped that he has been surrounded by lots of people since he was born, and has been left with many different baby sitters. I am a little sad that he didn’t even notice me leave though. I know that he knows I’ll be there when he needs me, but it’s the first step toward him growing up. Next year he’s in preschool three times a week. The year after that, kindergarten half days five times a week, the year after that, he’s in full time school. I’m pretty sure I’m going to blink and he’s going to be leaving for college.
As a parent, I think it’s important to be able to let our children go and allow them to be those independent individuals that are dying to come out. I think Jack has been ready for a while, but since things are tight due to having three children, we put off putting him into any classes. It is definitely hard to let go and let them try to survive on their own. We all want to make sure our children are protected and safe, and allowing children to leave that safety bubble is hard. Props to parents who have to leave their children at daycare at a young age. I can only imagine how hard it is to walk away from them every day, especially when they are upset. I have left Jack and the girls upset lots of times with babysitters, and even though you know they’ll be ok, it’s still hard to leave.
It leaves the question, is there anything we can do as parents to make sure our children are ok when we leave them? I can’t say that I have all the answers to this one, but I think that the most we can do is make sure our children know that when we leave, we will come back. There is a Daniel Tiger episode that has a song about how grownups come back. In order to teach this, you can’t be afraid to leave your child with others. It’s definitely hard to trust others with your precious children, but it allows you to teach them that when you leave, you come back. It also allows them to learn how to interact with other adults and care takers. It doesn’t even have to be long times that you are gone. Maybe go to a movie one afternoon with your spouse. You can even time it around nap time. Just something that allows your children to get a taste of you leaving and coming home.
Next month, Jarrett and I will be doing our first overnight trip away from the kids since we had the twins. That will be a new experience, but one that we need to do not only for our own sanity, but to teach our kids how to handle Jarrett and being I gone for longer periods of time.
What can we do as parents when we leave them? I think we just have to trust that our children will be ok. If you are gone during the evenings, you can try using “Missing You at Bedtime, Mommy” or “Missing You at Bedtime, Daddy” books. They allow children to see you when you aren’t there by using personal photos throughout a story that allows you to put your children to bed when you arent’ home. They see you throughout the book putting them to bed, and are told that they are loved and missed. You can check out www.rachelfawdry.com for more information about the books.
Whether our children love leaving us or find it hard to be separated from us, we have to trust that our children will be ok, and know that even though we leave them, we will always come back.