Bug’s First Day of School

first day of school

Today was a big day for us. Bug went to preschool. We’d been talking about it for three days straight and she was very excited. She loves school. She sees it on television, and she’s tagged along with her older cousins to their classes. Every time we see a playground she begs to go. I felt like she was ready. She’s young still, barely even three, but she’s advanced for her age and very social. I thought it would be good for her. If anything it would be better than more hours of boredom in our living room staring at the boob tube.

We discussed everything the way we do. She’s a talker and it’s not unusual for me to spend whole car rides discussing topics that you’d think would be way too complicated for her to understand. We talked about missing me and being brave. We talked about how there might be other children there who were sad and missing their mommies and maybe she could give them a little smile to cheer them up. We talked about lunchtime and snack time and craft time and playtime. We talked about the possibility that there might be big kids who might try to push her. We even covered how she didn’t really need a pacifier at school because she was a big girl. We went over and over everything. She seemed excited.

When we got to the school, my excitement wavered way before hers did. I couldn’t find the classroom and accidentally walked into a different daycare program that didn’t know us from Adam. That didn’t bode well for my over-protective inner momzilla. But we did eventually find our way and since we were half an hour early (again my over-protective inner momzilla trying to be prepared) everything went smoothly. Too smoothly actually.

I walked her to the classroom. I signed her in and when I turned around to give her a hug and say goodbye she was gone. She was clear on the other side of the room playing with a puzzle and another little boy. I said, “Come here Bug, give Mommy a hug!” She shrugged. Her body language suggesting, Can’t you see I’m busy Mom?!! I’ve got important things to do here! I told the teachers it was her first time at any kind of daycare and they were shocked. She clearly was totally fine with it. Finally after a hurried sideways hug from Bug, I left.

It was weird. I was walking away from my kid who has been by my side for the past three years straight. I kept feeling like I’d left something behind, like my purse but even worse. I left slowly, walking by each window to make sure she was still okay. Of course she was. She didn’t even look up once.

She’s been away from me with Gramma and her Auntie Heather of course, but this was with strangers that I didn’t know. The room seemed sterile and weird. I guess I expected it to be brighter and cheerier and with more sunlit windows. I know they have to keep things clean and this place was definitely very clean but there weren’t any obvious craft areas or little pretend kitchens to play in like I had imagined.

I’ve talked to friends who have their kids in this program and they speak highly of it so I’m sure it’s fine but it was just, you know…not me. It wasn’t me being there doing what I would do. Of course I had a thousand fantasies of working for the preschool for a day and introducing them to all sorts of crazy whacky Brenda activities but Toby quickly talked me out of that with a few swift reminders that there are reasons I’m not a teacher and those reasons are politics and mean parents.

So I left. I spent four blissful hours at Starbucks and got one single freelance job done. Time flies when you are working hard. I’d say I wasn’t even thinking about Bug but that would be a lie. I was worrying like crazy. But I had a big deadline today so the time went quickly for me.

I left a half-hour early and showed up way before my scheduled time to pick her up. I thought I would spy on her and my worried heart could take a rest. I was wrong. This heart will get no rest.

When I got there, right away I could tell things had not gone well. I could see her sobbing on the teacher’s shoulder, her little knobby mouse-ear ponytails quivering. It comforted me that the teacher was holding her and she wasn’t off in some corner crying but she was obviously CRYING! What happened to my brave girl?!!!

As soon as Bug saw me, she reached for me, her cheeks streaked with tears, and wailed “Mommmmmmy!” My heart lurched. What had I done? My poor kid! I grabbed her and pulled the spare pacifier from my purse as quickly as I could. We had agreed earlier that she could have her pah as soon as I picked her up. I felt like it was the least I could do to hold up my end of the deal. It wasn’t part of my plan, of course. I thought this would be the beginning of Operation Phase-Out-the-Pacifier-I’m-a-Big-Girl-Now. But picking up a sobbing tear-stained kid wasn’t part of my plan either.

“Oh!” the teachers exclaimed as soon as they saw the pacifier. “You should have given us her pacifier! That would have made everything so much easier.”

I tried to explain to the teachers that Bug and I had an agreement but it wasn’t really the time for chatting. All the other kids seemed a bit traumatized by Bug’s wailing and I could see that they had their hands full. I wanted to get to the bottom of the upset but at the same time I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could and calm Bug down.

We did exchange a few sentences. They informed me that I have a very intellectual child and we laughed a bit over that. I had a feeling that she would give them a run for their money with her constant chatter. I figured she’d either be the teachers’ pet or their worst nightmare. Apparently at one point she told them, “You have to go buy a car so you can take me home,” and they thought that was pretty funny. That’s my Bug. We argue all day long over everything so I’m not a bit surprised that she gave them a hard time.

I’m not sure what went wrong. They said she cried off and on from ten until noon. That seems like a lot of crying. Maybe this is normal. The teachers said she seemed tired and even almost nodded off on one of the teacher’s shoulders. If she’d had a pacifier she probably would have fallen asleep but that’s not what I wanted her to go to preschool for. She does get up at the crack of dawn and even I notice that she starts to get grumpy around eleven for me, but we always push off naptime and she seems to get a second wind after lunch. She doesn’t usually take a nap until one or two in the afternoon.

I’m not sure what to think. I don’t feel like she was traumatized. I know her cries, and she was definitely crying the drama-queen-I-didn’t-get-my-way cry and not the oh-no-the-world-has-betrayed-me cry. In fact, as soon as we were outside she was pushing herself out of my arms and wanting to go play on the playground. I tried to ask her what she didn’t like about preschool but she was way more interested in the duck pond nearby and was rattling on about feeding the ducks.

All the way home I prodded her, trying to figure out what exactly set her off but all she would tell me is, “I don’t like preschool because I don’t like preschool.” She can be stubborn sometimes like that. I’ve been trying to journal with her every night, asking her about her day, and often she will tell me over and over, “I don’t know,” even though I know she knows plenty. It’s some sort of game with her.

The good thing about having a talkative child is that she will tell me what went down eventually. Right now it seems like nothing really went down. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe she was bored. Maybe she expected to be around the big kids like her cousins. Maybe I can pull some strings and see if she can get into a class with older children. I sort of doubt that I can do that and she does have a friend that she knows in the same class so I’m hesitant to mess with what seems like a good fit. It’s too early really to say.

She seemed to cheer up pretty quickly and we even talked about going back next week. I just don’t know.

I think it’s my job to just worry until the end of time.


  • Glenda

    Oh honey you are such a normal first time Mom. You are feeling exactly what I am sure EVERY Mother here has felt. It is so hard to go off and leave them that first time. My advice … not that you want it Ü play it by ear, talk to her lots and see what happens. I also have a drama queen and everything always looks better in the morning Ü

  • Anon

    My son had a few days of on and off crying when he started preschool, but now he goes and LOVES it . . . he even gets upset when he can’t go!! Don’t worry – all of us Moms have been there and Bug will be okay.

  • sunny

    I know exactly how you feel and its very hard – but also totally normal. 4 hours on the first day is a lot for Bug and she did a great job. I tried to be understanding yet positive about pre school so my son didnt think of it as a scary place. Children pick up on our feelings of hesitancy or sadness. I’m hope it will get a little bit easier with time.

  • (another) bethany

    Fynn had issues the first few days too. Same kind of deal, was great at drop-off, then would melt at some point. He adjusted, I adjusted slower, and now we’re pretty good. He still has his days, especially after breaks, but the teachers get his routine now, pillow ALWAYS goes along :), and my heart doesn’t crack so much anymore. It is hard! It will improve though.

  • Jenni

    As a preschool teacher, I am not surprised that she walked in confident and then broke down later. The novelty of it wore off by that time. At first, it was a fun new experience. Then, the thought basically is, “Okay, I’ve had my fun, I’m ready to go!…What? You mean this is for real? I’m stuck here?”

    It will get easier and I love that the teacher was holding her as well. That’s a compasionate teacher. I’d stick with her. AND that she mentioned leaving the pah. Leave it next time. They’ll wean her off it when she’s ready to let go at school. It’s like a security blanket.

    It’s tough. It’s tougher at one day a week (but I really think better). She will cry; and most definitely when you walk into the building next time. But with a compassionate teacher that she has, I would guess that it will wane quickly. I’m guessing the off-and-on was off when she was involved in an activity and the on was when she was remembering you.

    Stay stong!

  • sizzle

    I’ve heard that worrying until the end of time is like in the top 5 of Mom duties. :-) It’s hard to adjust to change but hopefully she’ll get a lot out of preschool. I know my nephew has really flourished at his. I can’t imagine how strange it must feel to be with someone day in and day out and then suddenly they are gone for a few hours. It’d be like losing a limb for sure!

  • Calee

    One thing that worked for us when I dropped Audrey off for the first time- not at preschool but for 2 hours every other week– was that I told her that I was going to have coffee nearby. She could all ready tell that Momma’s coffee was pretty important and I think it made it a little normal for her to know that I’d be doing something that didn’t involve her and wasn’t really going to be fun.

    You’re doing a great job- I’m sure she’ll make little friends and even want to go more often eventually.

  • andrea

    This sounds a lot like Charlie’s first few days at school. At first he’d run away from us, excited by the classroom and all the activity going on around him, but by the third or fourth session he cried in my arms and begged me not to go. I had a nice long talk with both the teacher and parent educator for our program and they assured me that it would get better and that they would call me if things got too bad. The teacher asked if he had a favorite toy and I told him that he loved cars, when I returned that day to pick him up the teacher had gotten out a set of cars which worked like a charm to calm him down. He now talks about school and his teacher and friends constantly and now on my work days (it is a coop) he keeps his distance from me and opts to hang out with the teacher.

    Give it a few weeks, it is a tough transition, but well worth it for both of you in the end.

  • whoorl

    Try not to worry too much, Brenda. Every mother goes through this – it will get better! I personally think she was a little OVER-stimulated, which might have been why she seemed so tired. The combination of new people, new teachers and wondering where you were was just a lot for her to take in at one time. Poor bug…trust me, she’ll come around. :)

  • Justyna

    Oh honey, big hugs!

    You just passed one of the toughest days of your life:)

    It will get easier, I promise!!!!

    We went through that too a year ago. ANd had the same idea: loose the pacifier at the same time. Bad idea! You never want to have a child go through 2 big changes at the same time. You tried to take away her 2 security things: You and the Pah. She needs to have something to make her feel secure when you are not there. Being there in school with her is not the solution. Letting her keep something to comfort her is. My girl had a bunny and she held it close to her for a month or so the entire time. But she also needed a pacifier, even though at home she only had it at night.

    It’s a lot of new things. Good things. You want this reaction now, not when she goes to kindergarden.
    Don’t give up.

    I’d ask if you can spend some time in there with her maybe the first day or so. Just watching and being there. Definitely let her keep the PAH until she’s used to the school. Trust me, she will love it. She just needs to feel secure.

    I know it’s heart breaking:) It’s just what we have to do as parents. But it’s hard. Hang in there. I wish I could keep my girl with me until forever.

  • Busymomma66

    She was probably very tired. I found with my kids that preschool exhausted them. So did Kindergarden. And they had been in day care since 9 weeks of age. All the different social stimuli and working things out, that’s tiring stuff.

    My son was a crier/clinger on drop offs (they had to physically pull him off of me) and a don’t bother me I’m playing on pick up.

    My daughter was a see ya later mom on drop off and a “Thank God you’re here, let’s go home NOW.” on pick up.

    My daughter’s way was much easier on MY emotional status.

  • mamalang

    It will get better, and I echo the idea of keeping the pah. You’ll probably be surprised that in a few months she will choose to give it up…sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing :) And she may have seen someone else crying, and that started her thinking, and then down it went. But you should persevere. Believe me, I know how hard it is to think that your child is being traumatized, but we all have to learn how to deal with change, and if you stop her going or something now, it’s a bad example. If she’s still having a really hard time in a few weeks, then I would rethink my stance.

    Good luck. This stage is hard on our mommy hearts.

  • Jummy

    Aww, this was hard for both of you, wasn’t it? I think you’ve got everything under control though, and that it’ll get easier for both of you with time. It’s also so wonderful that you and Bug have some great lines of communication between you too, especially since she’s so young!

    (And I think it’s a parent’s prerogative to worry until the end of time, just as you say. My dad is the worrier in my family.)

  • kate

    i am a long time reader who has never commented until now….as i was reading about this oh-so-difficult-first-day my heart was aching for you…but…i have read the other comments…and really now just want to nod my head in agreement to all other responses…i am a mom of four…i have both used a day care and run a home day care…so i know so well mom/child bond and how hard it is to walk away from your child in anothers care…but honestly…it gets easier…it always is hard at first…change is hard for everyone at first…but with loving caregivers…and time…baby bug will have a blast….!…and its really good for mommies to have some recharge time away from kids…even if it’s work that must be done…there is much to be said for well run programs…so much to learn!
    treat yourself kindly…its a HUGE deal to separate at first…i have faith it will work out.
    breathe deeply!
    p.s. i’d keep the soother too at school…it is comforting…perhaps think of phasing it out after she is comfortable with the day care and no longer new to her?

  • Wendy

    Another rite of passage in the journey of motherhood. :) It WILL get better. I started my 2-year-old in a one day a week program last year and it was a very difficult transition, but this is what worked for us. I worked an arrangement with the teachers to spend some time in the classroom. The first week I stayed two of the three hours. I made a point to play with the other kids, not necessarily my child, and tried to get him to interact with his teachers if he needed something. The second week, I stayed about an hour and a half. By the third week, his teacher thought he was ready to go solo and he did fine. Did he miss me? YES, but I made sure he knew that I would ALWAYS pick him up “after lunch”. Drop-offs were always a little heart-breaking, but the crying and clinging had stopped and by the end of the year he really loved school. It was a long, slow, very gradual process, but I think it was how he needed to do it. We started a three morning a week program this year and he is ALL OVER IT! Now he’s more upset on the two days a week he doesn’t have school. And, I agree, let her keep the pah…for now. :) Bottom line…you know your child, so see if you can find a way to incorporate school into her life that works for both you, her and her teachers. It may not necessarily be how everyone else does it.

  • Sam

    I promise you, as a former preschool teacher, it is totally normal for there to be tears and some time for adjustment. It sounds like you did a really good job talking it all through with her. The fact that they were holding her and even suggested bringing the pah (where I worked they had to leave it in the car! unless they were still in the nursery of course) means that they will love on her and help her through her tears. It’s hard when you have lots of kids because it’s impossible to hold them all! And sometimes they just need to work through it. I know it’s hard, but just hang in there and see how it goes for a few weeks before you make any adjustments.

    It’s rough when they’re used to having their mama all the time – I’m going to a once-a-week Bible study just so Thomas will get used to going a nursery. It will be rough at first, I know, but I really want him to be okay without me SOME of the time. I know I will be much more patient and loving with a break now and then!

  • BeachMama

    And you got work done??! J’s first day of preschool (which was only 2 hours, heck his Kindergarten is only 2.5 hours) I cried. I cried when I left him there, I cried the whole time I was home, I think I cried for three weeks. J didn’t shed a tear. It was good for him and definitely helped him get ready for real school. I just wish he had more time here, next year he goes full days and I think it will be a really big shock. I am sure next week will be easy peasy for you.

  • Jess

    It will get better!

    You know it’s a good place because the teacher was holding her (and she wasn’t objecting or even worse – if she were crying and the teacher wasn’t paying attention) when you arrived. Transitions are tough. My older daughter used to have to bring something with her to daycare everyday to help. At first it came into the room and was put “up high” in a safe place so the other kids wouldn’t mess with it. Later it just came with us in the car. She gave it a hug and a kiss, then it waited for her in her car seat till she came back.

    Drop off will become easier and easier (then harder, then easier again depending on vacations, any changes at home or sleep schedules, etc…)
    My kids were always exhausted after starting school. Even I was. My Mom said I fell asleep in my lunch after my first day of kindergarten.

    Our daycare has cool art/climbing/playing stuff, but they take it out (or go to it) when it is art/climbing/whatever time. It’s a small-ish space, so they don’t have room for everything to be out at once. It also keeps the kids from being overwhelmed/distracted by other activities.

    Good luck with the I’m missing something feeling. It gets better, too…but that was the hardest part for me.

  • Angella

    I can’t believe she’s in preschool already!

    This is all normal. While Graham never cried once, Nathan was a whole new ball game. Take it slow and all will be well.


  • Gayle

    It’s a huge change for her, and you. Give her time to adjust. My daughter went to pre-school at age three, almost 4. I brought her for 2-1/2 months and she still hated it, so I took her out. I tried again the next year and things went much better. Just be sure to give her time before you take her out. She may be loving it in a month!

  • bethany actually

    You have the best readers. :-) Just like that teacher was being kind and comforting Bug, your readers are being kind and comforting you.

    It sounds, based on many of these commenters’ experiences with their kids, like Bug is reacting pretty normally. And maybe if you expect the tears next week and are prepared for them, leave the pah, talk to Bug about how you’ll be back after lunch, etc. it will be easier for her.

  • Sonja von Franck

    I read your tweet about her tears and meant to ask if she was ok! I’m so glad to read another mother who’s a little apprehensive about pre-school. I’ve got a lot of moms giving me a hard time about not enrolling my son in the nearby pre-school – and he’s not even two yet! I keep saying, this is why I quit my job and he’ll be in school soon enough! I love our days together and I know it all goes by so fast. The time will come and I loved your analogy of it being like leaving your purse, but bigger… Keep us posted.

  • One Crazy Chick

    I saw the tweet and my heart broke.

    We had our first day of preschool yesterday too but my kids were in daycare full time until 6 months ago so there was no missing me trauma. All I can say is that it gets easier although I’ve heard that it’s easier faster if the experience is more consistant. If I were you, I’d try for the entire month of January and re-evaluate after that. If there is marked improvement and she wants to go, then continue if not, I’d take her out until she’s a little older.

    But hey, who am I to tell you what to do. As moms our main job is to worry!

    I hope next week is a little better.

  • pinky

    I loved how you mentioned that being somewhere without Bug was like leaving your purse behind, but worse. You put into words exactly how I feel when I go somewhere without my little dude.

  • Jennifer

    Whew, I thought about you guys all day yesterday. I KNOW bad drop off, bad pick up, bad my kid isn’t handling school very well. I mentally and physically crumbled for the two years it took for Emily to be able to handle going to school. I think I lived the worst case scenario and guess what? Emily has fond memories of preschool! HA! Who would have thought?

    I think the fact that the teacher was holding Bug and wanted to find ways to make Bug more comfortable is a great sign. You guys are doing great. Are you going to continue taking Bug?

  • Carolyn

    I’m so sorry to hear Bug didn’t exactly enjoy her first day–but trust me, it is nothing to worry about. I worked at a preschool (3 teachers for 34 three year olds!!–in one classroom!!–craziness!!) and it usually took a good 2-4 weeks for the younger kids to adjust and not to cry the entire 4 hours they were there–and they were going 3-5 days a week! It is an adjustment and I’m sure that overtime Bug will learn to love it and be eager to go! :)

  • patois

    One of the hardest tasks for little people and their big people is that parting. I am glad that you felt heartened to see the caring teachers she had. They will make the difference.

  • Susan

    Well I don’t have babies of my own, but my nieces all cried their first week of pre-school. It broke my sisters heart each time, but it got better each day. Her baby girl had the hardest time leaving her blankie, but eventually it was a thing of the past. So since I have no babies all I can offer is a cyber ((((Brenda))) hug for ya.
    Keep at it…Bug will get better.

  • Sonja

    Maybe it all was a bit too much at the same time – giving up the pacifier, going to the big girl school, meeting new people, listening to different grown-ups, etc. etc. Being tired certainly didn’t help matters, and the teachers most likely weren’t as focused on helping her through her sleepiness as you would have been (seeing how there are other kids there and all, ha!).
    You know what they say about hindsight. :)
    I’m pretty sure once she gets used to it a little more, she’ll do just fine!

  • Emmy

    Like Kate, a long time reader who has never commented. I just want you to know that I have a 2 1/2 year old who was an early riser and early napper (10:30 or 11:00) too! We just started daycare 3 days a week. Yes, it is hard. The good news is that YES!!!! It gets better. I’ll say my prayers for both of you!

  • karen

    You have had Bug by your side for the last three years – that’s roughly 10% of your life…but she has had you by her side for 100% of her life. She doesn’t know any other way! Sure, new things are exciting and she was pumped for her first day of school – I imagine what went wrong was that she finished with that puzzle and turned around and didn’t find you. In all the things you talked about with her, did you discuss how you wouldn’t be at school with her? I made that mistake with my oldest once (also nicknamed Bug!) with a party he’d been invited to – it never occurred to him that we wouldn’t both be attending, just like it never occurred to me that I’d stay there the whole while.

    Thinking of our first days of daycare still pulls my heartstrings and I agree with pretty much everyone above that this is a normal rite of passage for a mom. We’ll all be out here rooting for you – it might be hard to fathom now, but both of you will live through this!

  • Sharri

    It sounds very normal to me, although HEART-WRENCHING. I am a parent and a teacher. My son, who is in first grade now, STILL sometimes cries – but as long as you like the teacher, it will all be fine. You already talk a lot and process with Bug and that will be good. It will also be good just to let the first day crying go and NOT talk about it a bit too.

    I’ve tried to normalize the nervous feelings my son has about school by saying something like, “A lot of people feel sad some of the time when they are at school and they also have fun sometimes too.” I don’t want my son to feel like he has to cry to show me that I’m important to him. And that he can have fun and still miss me.

    Good luck! You’re already doing great!

  • Anonymous

    You will be fine and I also think its time for Baby Bug to go to preschool.
    Don’t worry, she will settle in soon

  • Kuky

    Poor baby bug. I hope she does better next time.

    I know just what you mean when you say it’s like leaving your purse behind but worse. I always worry about Isabelle. Preschool scares me. No preschool for Isabelle.

  • lynne

    Oh wow what a huge, mamoth day for you guys. I hope the preschool situation get better. Mind you I think it’s normal to be traumatic intially, I remember I lot of us kids crying on the first day or so, everything is weird, unfamiliar and you can’t tell the time so three hours feels like forever. Happy to say we got over it and some of my nursery school pals are now pals on Facebook. Some of them are sans hair though which is a bit odd. What the class of 93 getting old. Never!

  • Jamie

    Oh I feel for you and Bug. When my oldest was 4 we moved to a new state (military) and I decided it was time for him to go to daycare. That poor boy cried for weeks. The teacher was great though, she told me to stick with it or next year when he went to kindergarten was going to be very rough. I felt bad every day leaving him, but we made it through and that first day of kindy was great.

    I blamed myself for keeping him home with me for the first 4 years of his life, but that was what worked and what I wanted to do.

    Hang in there. I hope you don’t let the mommy guilt consume you (as it almost did to me).


  • Keli

    Well, while MY drama queen isn’t even quite 2, she seems to have many of the same qualities as Bug. She has this desire to be a social butterfly, but there’s something inside of her that just doesn’t want to leave me. Just this morning at reading group, she sat in my lap and reeeeached out to go play with the other kids — but she wouldn’t get out of my lap. It’s hard, because I want to just snuggle her forever – but I know that it’s better for her if I give her a little push and let her explore on her own.

    I am sure Bug will come around — next week will be better, and the week after that will be even better, etc.

    Hang in there.

  • maria

    My little girl isn’t at that age yet, but when I went to day care the first time my parents say that it was very tough the first day. They decided that it wasn’t going to work for me and started looking at different options.

    Then, a week later I asked them when I could go back. From then on it was all good.

    While I don’t know what I will decide for my own daughter I’m leaning toward not sending her to daycare/preschool, but waiting for kindergarten. I’d just say watch her cues like you have been and you’ll know what’s best for her. :-) You’re da mama after all.

  • ?Pie mama?

    I sat outside the door of my daughters preschool every day for the first 3 MONTHS! She was fine,didnt even know I was there. Her program was only 2 1/2 hours long though. You poor things! As much as I want to keep my kids close with me at all times-it is so great for them to get out and experience new things. My joking threat to my daughter daily is-“If you dont (fill in the blank) than I am going to homeschool you!” Your Bug sounds so much like my 1st!