My 8 year old daughter (V) is distance learning. We spent the weekend clearing off her desk, removing the paper clutter; out with the old to make space for the new. My 4 year old daughter (L) has been away from daycare and home since March. Some days she has separation anxiety when one of us leaves. Today was a big day for her. She would be away from both parents for a good chunk of the day, around seven plus hours.
She protested. She didn’t want to get dressed and had become accustomed to pajama wearing most days. Comfort and play was key. She balked at the shirt Mommy chose and picked her LOVE emoji shirt instead. She wanted to play and this new routine was keeping her away from her toys and imaginative play. V got dressed and was watching a YouTube video on her iPad.
My husband announced, “We have to take a first day of school picture!” Begrudgingly, the girls posed in front of the bush. L held her pink bunny and a few toys from home to take for the car ride. Adorable smiles and a pose of the leg. Click!
We packed the car and headed out. L asked me to play music on the radio. With only commercials or annoying pop music to choose from, I pressed play on the cued up CD and held my breath. I didn’t know what I was going to hear. Fingers crossed. It was Depeche Mode. There was silence from the backseat. No protest. We drove out onto the street.
The first day. It was the first day of seeing a handful of school buses on the road. I said, “Look, a bus! It’s everyone’s first day too.” We pulled into the familiar lot of her former daycare. The one that was closed for so long. I heard her take a deep purposeful breath. Then another. She was calming herself. I thought, she is listening. She sees and hears everything. She’s been seeing and listening to me practice yoga and meditation, and demonstrating calming breaths and she internalized that. It became a useful tool in her toolbox to calm her anxiety. That is a win in my book and I don’t want to discount it. I was a proud mama.
We got out of the car. The daycare’s slide was wrapped in caution yellow tape. No trapezes swung on the bare playset. All the grownups were wearing a mask. We had to take a different entrance. No parents are allowed inside the building. L’s prekindergarten class will help form the foundation for her to be ready for a successful kindergarten next year. She held onto her pink bunny, now sealed in the school-required Ziplock bag. We held each other as she cried and didn’t want to let me go. I let out a tear too. The teacher said “Good morning!” And handed L a welcome goodie bag. She gave us a few moments to say goodbye and then led L into class. Luckily, I parked in front of her classroom window so we could wave and blow kisses.
It sure is a different time to be living in. Today I’m back to work. It’s the first Monday in a long time. My husband is at home managing his telework and setting up V for her day of google meets and independent work. We will make it through. We’ll run into each other’s arms at the end of the day, check in and share the events that unfolded. We got this. It’s only the beginning of a new chapter. A return to somewhat normalcy and we will always have each other.