Every morning on our way to daycare, Charlotte starts crying “no mommy” in her soft sweet voice as soon as we turn the corner off the main street, several blocks away from the synagogue where she attends their Early Childhood Center. By the time we arrive, her eyes are red and she’s snuffling and mumbling “no mommy” with tears streaming down her little cheeks. When I do finally make my exit (whether I do a quick pass off and wave, or sit for 15 minutes to read stories), she usually gives a dramatic silent scream as I leave the classroom.
I hear her sobbing uncontrollably as I head back to the parking lot.
During the first few months of daycare, she cried when I dropped her off. I was told this was the transition phase. Then for a magical month she would smile, wave, and say “bye-bye, mamma” after we put her lunch bag and jacket in her cubby. Now we are back to crying, lots and lots of crying. The rational side of me knows it’s “just a phase” of separation anxiety. And yet, my heart breaks anew every morning as the tears stream down her face and I question why I don’t just keep her home with me, all day, every day. Of course I know I would go crazy and that I am a much better mommy because she goes to daycare a few days a week and she gets a lot out of being with early childhood educators and kiddies her own age. But still, sometimes her profound separation anxiety feels like a karmic punishment for my selfishness at needing “me time.”
She likes her school and teachers, she talks all the time about Eli, Natalie, Zoe, Nitzan, Hannah and the gang of kiddies in her Tootim (strawberry) class. The vast majority of afternoons I pick her up, after checking the board to see her nap and diaper stats, the teachers tell me that aside from the first 20 minutes or so, she had a wonderful day. So what gives? Why the water works at drop off? She’s almost 2.
I’m not, nor have I ever been, one of those moms that spends every moment of everyday with their baby. Happily, I have let anyone who wants to, hold her since her baby naming. My husband spends a lot of alone one-on-one time with her so I can run to the gym or go out for drinks with my girlfriends. Her Bubbie puts her to bed at least half the time and spends lots of afternoons and evening with Charlotte and her Zadie while my husband and I go house hunting and out for the occasional movie and dinner date. She had a nanny from month 3 to month 10. I don’t like or use the term “stranger danger” around her. Intentionally, I have done all these things with the hope that it would prevent just the sort of separation anxiety we are currently dealing with these days.
Admittedly, I’ve resorted to giving her a pacifier at drop off, something she hasn’t been interested in during the day for months. Perhaps I need to sweat all over her Cyclops alien “lovie” and have her hug it while I seemingly abandon her. We talk about going to school the evening before, how much fun she’ll have –going for a buggy ride to the library, having challah for snack on Friday. Her lip starts to tremble at the mere mention her going to school the next day.
I know a mom who ended up postponing sending her kid off to preschool because she couldn’t handle the crying at drop off. I get it. As a mom all you want to do is make your kid happy and not cry.
So what are the tricks of the trade? Is there more I can do? Or do I just have to wait until this wave is over and we’re onto the next emotional dip of the toddler roller-coaster? I am at a loss and it makes me sad.