This morning, I saw a mom drop off her 2.5yo daughter for the very first time at daycare.
She was juggling a large bag of supplies, her beautiful redhead who had begged mama to go to school, and a toddler dragging behind. The mama was fighting tears.
“What do I do?” she asked me in a shaky voice. I explained the sign-in procedures, and how her daughter would have a cubby hole in the classroom for her things, and how the teacher would (hopefully) greet her daughter excitedly and have something awesome for her to do right away.
I told that pretty redheaded little girl that she would have a letter of the day, a number of the day, a color of the day. That she would do art projects, and sing songs, and have nap time, and snacks, and lunch…I have never seen a kid so excited.
And her poor mama behind her. What do I do?
It is at this point when I would normally turn on the parental sarcasm that I so love to employ, but I just…couldn’t. I remember those days. I had days when the kids would cling to me and need to be surgically removed so I could go to work, and I had days when the kids would run to their classrooms, find their friends, and never look back as I quietly stuffed a lunch box in a cubby, called out a quiet “I love you” and an air kiss, and snuck out of the room.
I’m not sure which is worse.
What do I do? I wanted to tell that mama that she would be okay, that someday she would drop her kid off and bop away to her exercise class, or to the grocery store where she could push a cart in peace, or do go home and stare at the wall, read a book, or watch a non-animated TV show made for adults. And that “oh my goodness” relief of alone time for the first time in so long you can’t even remember.
But she wasn’t there yet. She was entrusting her baby for the first time to a stranger, allowing that pretty redhead to step out on her own and meet some new friends and learn whatever it is 2yo’s learn in preschool.
I still have those heart-tug days when my almost-2yo cries when I drop him off and I feel like world’s most selfish heel of a mom…but I get a small (MUCH needed!) break, and he gets to hang out with some buddies and learn from someone who didn’t give birth to him.
That mama will get there, too.