The heartbreak of losing her to…pre-school

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Every mom experiences heartbreak on the first day of pre-school.  Here is my story.
By Chantelle K. Dockter
MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
CCCOW,

Typically my articles consist of questions/answers regarding psychological or relational concerns. This month I felt the desire to write a more personal article, on a topic that many moms can relate to. My oldest daughter’s first day of preschool.

My husband and I have been blessed with two beautiful, vibrant daughters. Alexis is 4 and Kylia is 2, although they both think that they are much older than they really are. I practice therapy 3 long days a week so that I can be home with them 4 days in a row. Mondays and Fridays are our “girl” days, where we do errands, have play dates, or whatever it is we may choose. Last year we knew Alexis would begin preschool this fall, and we got her enrolled early. We did our due diligence in asking a lot of questions, picking the preschool we felt was the best fit, dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s. She was all set and ready to go.

However, I was not. I thought I was ready, as my husband and I both believe education is extremely important, even as early as preschool. We also felt confident that Alexis was definitely ready, both socially and developmentally. So, intellectually I was prepared, but my mother’s heart was not.

I kind of ignored the fact that our Mondays and Fridays would change, that Alexis would be off on her own adventure those mornings that we used to spend together. During the summer I turned away from “back to school” talk, and just focused on the present, longing for the summer to be endless.

As typically happens, the school year was quickly upon us. I would look at my 4-year-old and see a little girl that frankly has grown up too fast. How did she go from that tiny, fragile newborn to the chubby-faced, inquisitive toddler, to this big girl, ready and excited to venture out into the world? What happened to the days of her clinging to my leg, not wanting to leave my side? I welcomed this day, and now, in a way, I dreaded this day.

My husband and I arranged to both take Alexis to her first day of school, and the teachers invited all the parents to stay for the first hour. From there, I would head to work. The weeks leading to the first day we made sure she had her school supplies, back-pack, first day outfit (VERY important to girls), and all required school forms filled out to completion. All easy stuff, as they could be checked off of a “to do” list. What couldn’t be checked off a list was the mixture of feelings brewing in my heart. That conflicted feeling of wanting her to experience this new season of school, yet in a way wanting time to stop so that we can enjoy our uninterrupted time together for a little while longer.

Alexis woke up early that first day, and was giddy with excitement and anticipation. She put on her new outfit, made sure she had her princess back-pack, and was raring to go. I held it together for the pictures taken that morning, the drive to school, and for the hour with the kids (although the tears kept threatening to spill over). I even thought I would make it until I got to my car. Yet as I watched Alexis walk with the rest of the kids to her classroom without even a look back, a fellow mom must have noticed my fragile emotional state and came and placed her hand on my arm, stating, “It’s hard, isn’t it? You are doing great.” That was all it took, the understanding eyes and empathetic words of another mom. The tears flowed. My husband just wrapped his arms around me and let me cry. I felt a twinge of embarrassment at my tears, and began to chide myself. However, I quickly put a stop to that because I understood there was a reason for my tears.

I cried because our baby is growing up. I cried for life going so quickly, and for the change it brings whether we want it or not. I cried for the beginning of a new season, and with it the closure of another.

I feel my emotions very strongly, which can be both a blessing and a curse. When it comes to being a mom, I feel things on an indescribably deep level. So rather than beat myself up, I accept that I will be “that mom”. The mom who wants to let go, yet fights it, the mom who cries at her kids’ performances, and feels sick when they are ill. The mom who hurts with and comforts her children when their world is not what they expected and when disappointments abound. I embrace being “that mom”.

Alexis is thriving at school, which we knew she would. Little sister Kylia tells me everyday that she wants to go to preschool with “Sissy”, which makes me realize how quickly she too is growing up. I am accepting the blessings that this new season brings, and embracing each moment that God gives us together as a family. And the tears that come even as I write this article are filled with love, which is a beautiful thing.

Written by,
Chantelle K. Dockter, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
Associate of CCCOW; CCCOW.org