I just spoke to someone recently about her panic as she prepares to drop her infant off at day care for the first time. She asked me if I cried my eyes out when I dropped either of my two boys off with (total) stranger for the first time.

“um, let me think…nope.”

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a piece of cake. We did our research on the day care, had a friend who used the same place, knew some of the providers, they weren’t strangers. My oldest was also a little “spirited”, so we saw this as an opportunity for him to work through some things. I’m pretty sure he screamed bloody murder when we left him at day care for the first time. For the first 10-12 times that I dropped him off at the pre-school child development program at the high school, into the hands of his usual babysitter, he screamed and cried like I was throwing him into a wolf pit. It wasn’t an easy process, but my child (and both mommies) survived the horribly-awful-crying drop offs and now he cries and throws fits when we arrive to pick him up from somewhere (that’s an awesome feeling as a parent).

But, my casual coolness left a few days later. My wife and I were watching our 1st grader get on the bus.

1st grader and the pre-K kid - Pic owned by H. Robinson

1st grader and the pre-K kid – Pic owned by H. Robinson

After it drove off, Lo turned to me and said, “you know, it’s weird that all of a sudden we’re not dictating what he does, someone else is telling him (and us) what to do with him and for him. We aren’t in control anymore.”

Wow. Good point. Why this didn’t occur to us when we sent him off to Pre-K or Kindergarten, I’m not sure. But it hit me when she said it. She’s right.

The school is dictating his behavior, the consequences, what time he arrives and leaves, what time he eats, what he will work on that day, what standards he must meet, what he can do at recess, etc.
He is out of our hands and..it’s weird.

As I said, we’ve done day care, pre-k, child development programs, sleepovers with family, even Kindergarten and we never really felt this tug quite as much. When he got on the bus for Kindergarten, he was so excited, I didn’t even feel a single tiny tear. Why is this different? Is this going to keep happening with each and every acknowledgement of his growth, development and maturity?

This is the reality of life. This kid has to follow other people’s rules. Forever. He still has to follow the mommies’ rules, of course, but he’s going to grow into a person who will be able to (hopefully) follow the rules of society, not just our household.

For some reason, it’s giving me pause and making me unsettled.

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