Leaving Nathan in the care of others has never been easy. We've struggled since the beginning. Each new setting sent him reeling. Night terrors and fear of the dark created sleepless nights giving way to cranky mornings. He would protest leaving the house and cry at drop off, my heart heavy from boatloads of mommy guilt. Just as he would get used to one routine, a season or teacher would change. It seemed endless.
By September, when he entered kindergarten, I was braced for the worst. He was going to a new school, with a new teacher, with all new kids. There was nothing familiar to grasp for comfort. I talked up how great it would be, always careful not to say too much. I'd walk the tightrope of building up anticipation without building up anxiety, constantly teetering to the wrong side.
Things went exactly how I thought they would. He cried. He pulled on my arm and tried to drag me back home. More night terrors, more fears, more difficult mornings. He began to have some degree of comfort by mid-October, then his classroom assignment was changed. After only two weeks with his new teacher, Superstorm Sandy knocked him out of school for a week. November's on-again off-again schedule lacked the consistency we needed. By the holiday break in December, I was ready to homeschool.
Winter was long. On good days, we'd arrive at the same time as a friend who would encourage him to walk in. On a bad day, we'd stand outside huddled against the cold, with me gently but impatiently urging him to please, just go inside.
But spring has awakened something in this boy. He is peppier, happier. He is eager to see his friends or tell his teacher about his weekends. He doesn't cry when I leave him.
On Monday, we walked to school in the rain. I stopped a few feet from the door; he kept walking.
"Nathan, come say goodbye."
"Bye," he said with a half-hearted wave.
"Come here, please."
He sighed and came to me.
"Goodbye, I love you, have a great day!" I chirped as I leaned in to kiss him.
He turned his face.
"Nate, no kiss?"
"Mom." It came out calmly and quietly, but you could hear it in his voice. He was telling me to go away.
"I love you!" I called out desperately as he walked in the doors.
"OK!" he yelled back, more than a little irritated.
Maybe all the crying wasn't so bad now that I think about it.