Almost every morning my heart is broken. OK, five days a week to be exact. For almost all of last year and so far this year too, dropping my 3-year-old son off at school is a tragic affair, unequaled in torment and misery–until the next day. It reminds me of Prometheus’ punishment for stealing fire from Zeus, but why I deserve this public flailing I’m not so sure.
The sweet little girl who also had a tough time parting from her mama now runs off to play with her friends. The other boy who clung to his father’s neck now runs from him at break neck speed to join everyone at the breakfast table. Long after all the other kids have adjusted to daily day care drop-off, there is my son, clinging to me, crying, nuzzling into my neck; covering me in snot and tears, pleading desperately, “No mama, don’t go. No mama! NO MAMMMMMMAAAAAAA!” Yes, we are the scene makers; the ones the others parents stare at, glad they are not us. The teachers look at me like I am the cause of the problem.
Sigh. Go ahead, judge me. At least we steal every scene we make.
I have tried everything. Staying and reading him a book. Staying and playing. Arriving earlier. Arriving later. Talking to him about what it means to be a big boy now. Bribing him. Bringing his chocolate milk, blanket, toy car, fill-in-the-blank into school with him. Making sure one of the teachers distracts him while I run for the door. But almost always, I leave the building to his wailing for me, and my heart aches with sorrow.
The fact is, my son is playing me. I see glimpses of a devilish smile through his cries. I have been able to make him laugh through these pathetic displays only to put him down and have him rev up the crying again. The teachers have had to rip him out of my arms–which I HATE. But sometimes, mama has somewhere she needs to be. I leave the building sweating and almost panicking myself, but I know he is fine within 120 seconds after I leave. I know this because I have spied on him by cleverly watching around corners.
So why then does he insist on torturing himself and everyone around him? Why, when everyone says this too shall pass, hasn’t it passed yet? And why after we share such great mornings together do we have to part ways with hysteria and salty tears (hysteria–his, salty tears–mine).
What should I be doing differently? What haven’t I tried yet that he needs to see, hear, or feel from me? And when, oh when, will he ever outgrow this never-ending “phase”?