Maybe it was the pure exhaustion from getting up so early for the first time in months. Or maybe it was the deflation of the excitement of that first day of school that she anticipated for weeks. Or maybe, it was just a lot of changes for a 6-year-old little girl to take in all at once.
Regardless, the first day of school got to my Reagan this year.
It was weird, though, the first part of the evening went well. She told me about how they colored most of the day and, while not overly excited, she didn’t seem to have any qualms about it. That is, until bedtime rolled around and it all came spilling out.
Miss Reagan was adamant that she did not want to go back to school the next day.
At first, I played it off – told her that she had to give it a second chance and that she would love it. After all, we were late for bed (yes, on the first day) and I still had about one million things I needed to do.
After bedtime hugs, kisses and reassuring her that it would be OK, I stepped out of the room and started my nightly tasks of getting things ready for the next day. Not long after, I heard sobs coming from her bedroom. I crept closer to her door and could hear her crying about not wanting to go to school.
Overwhelmed with all I still had to do, I went back in with my it-is-what-it-is attitude. Softly, I reminded her that she would get used to it. Then, I told her that I don’t always want to go to work, but sometimes there are things that we have to do. Regardless, I reminded her that she had to go to school tomorrow, and she had a choice of crying about it all night or choosing her attitude and thinking positively about it.
After a gazillion tissues, hugs and kisses, I again left the room and went back to my housework. Moments later, I heard the same whimpers wafting from her whereabouts.
Quietly, I snuck close enough to hear her fears in her tears. “I don’t want to grow up. I want to be 5 forever.” Clearly, I was missing the cause of the problem.
So, I calmly walked back in and placed my hand on her back as she was facing the wall cuddling her precious lully.
“Reagan, talk to me, why don’t you want to go to school anymore?”
“Because it is not kindergarten, Mom! I want to go back to kindergarten. I want my old class and my old teacher,” she bawled.
After diving in more and really listening to her feelings, I found out that it wasn’t that her teacher or even her class this year was bad, it was just that it was different. She did not want the change. In her mind, going back to school meant going back to the safe place that she had grown to feel comfortable and loved in. And well, all that had changed.
In this little one’s six years of life, she has dealt gracefully with more changes than many of us have had to – especially in the last year and a half. And this, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Completely (and finally) I understood it; I could feel that twinge of pain from missing her comfort zone. And guys, if you ever see that pain and fear in your baby’s eyes, I am telling you that all you want to do as a mother is swoop in and take it all away. But, I was helpless.
So, we talked about change and how it can be scary – I made sure that she knew that her feelings were legitimate. Then, we threw happy bombs at her fears: this year one of her besties from the neighborhood is in her class and she has the opportunity to make new friends. We talked about how her thoughts drive her feelings and how, while she couldn’t control the fact that she had moved on to a new grade, she does have control over how she thinks about it.
It was an hour-long bedtime that night; to be honest, I am not sure if I totally killed it or totally failed. I literally fixed nothing – she would still get up and go to school. I simply let her feel what she felt.
Change is hard. It can be uncomfortable and downright frightening — especially to a little babe. But it is inevitable. And while I want her to feel and heal from her expectations of what going back to school looked like, I truly hope that I provided enough guidance to see the beauty of the unknown, exciting adventures in front of her.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her daughters and writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.