Goodbye Separation Anxiety
For one year, every Monday, Tuesday and Friday morning, it would start at home before we’d even left for childcare, Elliott’s separation anxiety.
“No Mummy, I don’t want to go to kindy today” as he quietly sobbed as he sat on the couch or on some mornings, stamping his feet in protest.
“But Mummy has to go to work today honey, you’ll have fun with your little friends there and you can play with trains” I’d try saying in my effort to make him feel a bit more positive about the experience.
But that wasn’t the only thing I tried to do. The moment he saw me making his lunch and packing his bag, he knew what was happening. So I started ducking down to the car with his bags before he saw me. This didn’t last long, he soon caught on.
Then I started making a morning trip via the train station to see if we could see trains. Sometimes we were lucky and sometimes we weren’t.
I tried driving around the neighbourhood on a Monday morning trying to find the rubbish trucks for Elliott to look at.
I then started letting Elliott watch car and truck YouTube shows on my phone while driving to childcare in hopes that this would get his mind off what was happening.
There were mornings when I found myself saying yes to things that I knew I wouldn’t be able to commit to, only to keep Elliott happy. It made me feel terrible.
While all of these things diverted his attention to where we were going, once we arrived at the child care center, the crying started, the clinging to me started and so did the beginning of my daily heartbreak.
I knew I had to make it quick so it didn’t drag out, it wasn’t easy, I just wanted to keep hugging him, I just wanted to take him home. But I couldn’t.
The teachers at the childcare center would always reassure me that his crying lasted no more than 5 minutes and that he went on to have a great day. I could see it in the photos they would take. But the next day, we’d always go through the same thing. Oh how I envied the parents I’d see happily dropping off their children, children who couldn’t wait to scurry outside and play. The didn’t know how good they had it, I thought.
There was one day that really put me over the edge, like someone well and truly reached into my heart and pulled it’s strings (actually, they yanked them).
I dropped Elliott off as usual, experienced the horrible separation anxiety as usual and left him in the arms of a teacher, not his usual day teacher, but another we’d seen many times before. We parted ways and I walked out into the carpark. I thought I’d peek through the fence to have a look at how Elliott was travelling. I spotted him but he was no longer with the teacher, she’d placed him in the sand pit area with a few other children where he sat looking so sad, looking around and at the ground, just keeping to himself. That wasn’t my little boy, where had he gone? It was in that very moment that my instincts kicked in again and I walked over to my car, got in and cried.
‘What have I been doing this whole year?’ I asked myself. ‘Why haven’t I seen this before, why haven’t I listened to Elliott’s calls for help?’
As soon as I reached home I made a phone call to another childcare center that I’d visited early in 2014 but couldn’t get Elliott into because there were no vacancies. I remember absolutely loving this place and being so disappointed I couldn’t get him in.
It was as though my stars had aligned this day because the three days I needed for Elliott were available. I couldn’t get over to the new childcare center fast enough to fill in the forms and I wasn’t letting Elliott go through another week, I got him in the following Monday.
What a change I saw in Elliott, it was amazing and absolutely filled my heart with joy. When I dropped him off he actually turned and looked at me to say goodbye, his way of saying ‘it’s ok for you to go now Mum’. When I picked him up of an afternoon, he didn’t want to go home! The third day we had a couple of issues with drop off but I figured it was because the teacher that had been so wonderful in helping him and talking with him on his first two days wasn’t in the room, it was evident to me that he very much relies on things and people he’s familiar with.
It really made me wonder what it was at the other place he didn’t like. I’m quite sure there wasn’t anything wrong, it could have been a matter of when he was dropped off it was always a different person and that he was often left to his own devices in a big yard full of kids or perhaps he didn’t receive enough one on one attention, or who knows, perhaps a one off incident happened in the early days that made him anxious for the rest of the year. Or it could just be the fact that this new childcare center is much smaller and homelike which better suits Elliott’s personality and needs. It’s hard to tell with children of Elliott’s age (3 years old) when they can’t converse properly and that’s why motherly instincts are so damn important.
What I do know is, following your motherly instincts is one of the most accurate tools for decision making. Never again am I going to question my instincts because they are most certainly right.
Here’s to separation anxiety not coming back!