This September, I’m jumping into new parenting territory. My two-year-old, Ella, is starting preschool, and while our whole family is excited, part of me feels…
…nerve-wracked and jittery. Ever since returning to work after Ella was born, I’ve enjoyed our weekday routine of opening the front door to one of her grandmothers or aunts, welcoming them into our home, and placing Ella into their arms. For the next eight hours, I am separate enough to conduct interviews, write essays and join team meetings, but close enough to hear Ella laugh, answer questions about odd-colored poops, and catch glimpses of her running with family members in the backyard. It was the perfect balance that my new-parent heart needed.
But this year, my husband Max and I feel that she’s ready to start at our local preschool. Intellectually, I know she will be fine and love meeting her classmates. Whenever we approach our neighborhood playground, she runs up to the first kids she sees — whether they’re a crew of fellow toddlers or a cluster of eight-year-olds — and lets out an enthusiastic, “Hi, friends!”
So, can anyone tell me why I’m so afraid she will feel lonely or picked on? I know most little kids are welcoming and open-hearted, and I didn’t struggle with making friends until middle school. Even then, just the thought of my friendly, funny, belly-forward girl feeling left out or not having someone to play with makes me want to burst into tears.
“In Linea Nigra, Jazmina Barrera writes about a documentary she watched that explains how the part of the brain that is ‘directly related to fear is switched on during childrearing and remains that way through the rest of the parent’s life. There is no way to turn it off.’ …Fear, it seems, is always a part of parenthood. It is more a part of me than it is of her.”
I was relieved to hear that my emotions are valid. I’m also thankful to know that millions of families have gone through this rite of passage, and those kids — and their parents — have made it through.
Please share: How did you prepare your child for the first day of school? Any special rituals or things you wish you had — or hadn’t — done? I’m all ears!