It is with a heavy heart that I left the school this morning. Maybe I should have been running from the building, clicking my heals in the air, celebrating this new freedom, but that's not how I feel at all. Maybe if the girls had been happily playing when I left, I would feel more relieved right now, but they were not happy in the least.
After five weeks of warming the seat of the parent chair in the classroom, I decided that "easy does it" was not working so I'd have to go with the "cold turkey" approach. Rip off the band aid, cut the proverbial cord, untie the apron strings. I spent those weeks sitting in the classroom for moral support, taking frequent breaks, trying to make each break a little longer each time, but my girls would still freak out every time I left and would cry even if I was there or anytime I was out of sight, and Sierra more so than Kelsey. It was nice being there, to a point, watching all the kids play, seeing how things were run, and noticing all the various child personalities at work and the dynamics of development and growth (and being the "resident Mom" wasn't bad, giving out hugs when a child, even other than my girls, needed a hug from a Mom instead of a Teacher). But I have a doctor's appointment next week and will not be available to console them. And really, how long could I let this reaction go on without addressing it? This was the week to swing the ax, for all our sakes.
I made them laminated necklaces of a picture of me with them, so they can hug "me" anytime they need to and to show them that Mommy is always with them. We've played school everyday for the past week, going through the drop-off process as their Mommy and then being the Teacher and going through their schedule at school, from free play to craft to snack to gym time to circle and songs, to the moment that door opens and all the Mommy's rush back in with open arms to take their babies home. I presented their picture necklaces to them this morning before breakfast, and said that today was Tuesday, the one-day-a-week that they go to school. We packed their snacks in their owl backpacks and drove the three blocks over to Terrific Twos. We walked inside and hung their coats and backpacks in their cubbies. Kelsey turned to me for a hug, her chin wrinkled and quivering, and Sierra, red-faced, started gripping my body so tight, I thought she might go right through. We walked over to Miss Barbara, one of the teachers who we've known for years who lives in our neighborhood and was Quinn's teacher; she was by a toy barn and animals that the girls have always liked. My mouth proclaimed "today is the day", but I'm sure my eyes spoke volumes more. I gave the girls hugs and kisses through their tears, trying to pry them off me, trying to be strong myself and to break down as much as it hurt my heart to leave them. They cried "Not yet, Mommy!" as we walked toward the door, "one more kiss, Mommy", "don't leave us, Mommy"... I knelt down by the open door, took Kelsey in my arms and told her I loved her and gave her the "last hug and kiss for now, I'll be back very soon, I love you". I took Sierra in my arms and squeezed her and said "be strong sweet girl. Mommy loves you". Another sweet teacher, Miss Anne, smiled at me and closed the door as I rushed out, a huge sigh escaping but feeling shaky and sad and like the meanest Mommy ever. I sat on the bench in the hallway, I could hear the girls crying through the door, Sierra shrieking for me and Kelsey whimpering, Miss Anne talking to them, asking them questions and trying to distract them (since they won't let anyone but family and close friends touch them to console them). Pretty soon, the crying stopped and another mother who came out said they were standing along the wall beside the closed door, holding hands, red faced but no longer weeping. I waited about 30 minutes and then looked inside for myself, through the small square window high up on the door. I scanned a crowd of children and toys right by the door, 6 or 7 kids sitting on the floor with bins and piles of toys, and right there were my beloved little girls, amidst the other kids and the toys. They still sat side by side, backs against the wall, Sierra still looking very reserved but holding a little puppy toy and Kelsey a little more lively, playing with two toy horses. I would have felt better if they were across the room playing happily, smiling away and just fine, but hey, I'll take it. It just seemed so sweet how the other kids were sitting right there with them, consoling them through play and comradery, whether they intended to or not.
And here I sit, alone at home for the truly the first time in the 3 years we've lived here.... writing about my children! (And, looking at pictures and videos of them on my phone...) It's funny how symbiotic our relationship is - they have a hard time being apart and I feel just as out of sync without them near me, like I'm missing my arms and don't know what to do without them. They are clearly the hugest part of my life, really 99% of my day, but 300% of my heart (100% for each of them!). I know it is time for them to go out (to a safe place) into the world, to find themselves and have a little time away from their Mommy, and that's all a good thing and part of growing up (all of us growing up, that is!). But I will be the one to cherish the moments we have when we're just being together, even long after they are fully grown and move on. Me and my babies!