No matter how many children you have, those first milestones on their life’s journey are always the hardest. Today was the first day my youngest (who will be 2 very soon) went to a pre-pre-school program. She’s only going for 4 hours, two days a week, so logically, it sounds like a good start – not too much too soon, but enough. I couldn’t believe how traumatized we both were! And I’ve been through this before, twice. And each time, I was equally as traumatized and cried equally as hard and felt like the crappiest mom in the world for daring to allow my child to feel so much anxiety and fear. Then I goad myself into thinking it’s for the best and her siblings got through it without a scratch and it’s the same program they were in and they came out of it unscathed, so clearly she will have the same experience and turn out just as wonderful and adjusted as her sisters.
Then I walk into the classroom with her, telling her it’s going to be fine; you’ll play, meet new friends, get to play with lots of new toys, go outside and play on the gym equipment. There are 2 little boys sitting there on the carpet surrounded with legos neither one is playing with, one sucking the hell out of his security blanket and the other with eyes red from crying, his mouth hanging agape. My daughter did not appear impressed. I sat down with her on the carpet and tried to encourage her to play with the baby dolls; her favorite activity at home. I pulled out at least three dolls from the bin each with it’s own unique ailment; a missing eye, a head decorated with crayon scribbles, an arm twisted in a way the manufacturer did not intend. And I encourage my little one to hold onto that very special dolly and love it better than some other kid clearly did (maybe the kid with his mouth hanging agape, but I don’t know for sure). Then I pull some of the clothing out of the bin; raggedly cast-offs that someone didn’t want anymore and by the look on her face, my daughter didn’t either. Then I came upon a baby bottle; you know the one, the one with the strange orange liquid in it that seems to disappear down baby’s gullet when you tip it in a certain direction? But this baby bottle’s orange liquid had turned into an orange crust way back in 1987. No wonder the babies in this bin looked so hardened; they hadn’t had sustenance in nearly 30 years! Those babies should be grown and making babies of their own by now! Instead, they’re laying in that blue bin hoping some kid will pick them up and hold that baby bottle up to its mouth so it can try to suck that one last nutrient out of that pitiful dried up baby bottle.
So what did I do? Did I run like hell, grabbing all of the baby dolls from that bin and the kid sucking on his blanket and try to make it all better? Shelter them, provide them security and nurture and love them? No. I walked out the door, with my daughter wailing and screaming behind me and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed as I walked out the door of the pre-pre-school (who am I kidding, DAYCARE) questioning myself as to whether or not I did the right thing.
As parents we have to give our children life’s lessons that are hard. Sometimes, we are forced to give them those lessons when we’re not ready to, like in situations where both parents have to work and children need to be placed in daycare during even their earliest development. Or when it’s time for Kindergarten and that will be the first time
parent and child are separated. Or the first time mom and dad spend the night alone and the child needs to stay with a relative or family friend for the night. Or when some kid hurts your child’s feelings and your child has to process that situation his or her own way according to his or her personality. It goes on and on. And as a parent, we each have our own lessons to get and to give and each time, parent and child come through it changed, better, grown and adapted.
As parents, we don’t bring children into this world to own them, make them puppets and force them into doing the things we want them to do or foster them into versions of the people we wished we had become in life. (At least I hope no one does but I guess its been known to happen.) Rather, we help those little souls to bridge their passage into life and hand them tools to forward their own special little journey. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard for us to watch them grow, to watch them become independent, to turn around and walk away from them when you know the experience you’re putting them in might upset them initially, but will help them in their journey overall. And we may not give them all the tools they need, they may need to pick some up along the way but we need to be secure in knowing that we’re doing the best for them, always.
I know there are people out there whose parenting skills appear to be sub-par in either an extreme manner or in a less egregious manner comparably and one can argue that those parents are not doing what’s best for their children and the tools they are providing are broken and rusty at best. And this is true. But we should do our best not to judge (at least out loud). Their journey and their child’s journey is different from yours or mine. In fact no one’s is the same, so it’s rather unfair to judge another’s. We should offer help, encouragement, tools to the parents who are lacking good ones to give and try our best to raise an untainted, unbiased future generation. We can’t fill our kids heads with examples of hatred, failure, unworthiness, exclusion. We need to look at ourselves carefully, examine the example we are providing, examine the tools we are giving and make sure they are worthy of the one thing we all want our children to develop into: good people.
When I went back into the classroom to pick my daughter up at the end of the day, I was met with her smiling face and a loud cry of “mommy” as she ran into my arms, happy, content and perfectly unscathed. Blanket boy and agape mouth boy were snug in their cots, peaceful and content. My daughter’s teacher showed me pictures of her interacting with the other kids and having fun; playing on the slide, playing kitchen with other little girls. It warmed my heart to see her adapting. I know we might have a tough day tomorrow, maybe (probably) for a week or two after that. But the first morning she goes to pre-pre-school and I can leave without either one of us crying, I will know her lesson is learned, her tools have been provided and she’s one step closer to fulfilling her life journey.
I know the one eyed doll smiled at me as I walked out the door. She’d seen the start of this journey many times with many other children. It was why she chose to stay right where she was; her journey was to be one of the tools along the way.