I’m sitting here, listening to the whirring of my kitchen lights because for the first time in the 18 months we’ve lived here, I can hear them. It’s quiet here, now, too quiet. I work from home, so you’d think I’d be knee deep in assignments right now, earning my much-sought-after me time, but instead I’m having trouble not getting sick.
Where is my Natalina, dancing around and clambering on me? Where is Dulce, asking for “prenzuls?” Where are the blocks all over the floor, the Elmo shouting at me from the toy box, the robot saying his ABCs? How can I be expected to work in these peaceful conditions? There isn’t even a toddler trying to press buttons on my computer. No one interrupted that last sentence to ask me to get their toy that’s sitting just three feet from them, or to get them juice or to help them go to the potty. No one is crying about not being allowed to watch a video.
I just went to the bathroom. Alone. Before noon naptime.
I just don’t know if I can handle this. At least I’ve stopped crying, right? Still, it’s turning out to be quite hard to check my anxiety levels. I’ve had my hand on the phone since I dropped them off.
What if something goes wrong? What if they hate it there? What if they’re lonely? What if they’re scared? What if they’re SCARED? What if those jerk kids hit them or teach them bad behaviors? What if they’re the jerk kids and hit someone else or teach him bad behaviors? What if they don’t eat? What if they don’t sleep? What if they refuse to use the potty? What if they freak out?
The morning started out like any other. I got them up, gave them breakfast. Then they were excited to put on their new backpacks and tote their new lunchboxes. Their dad helped pack them into the car. He paused to snap this picture.
When we got there, I showed the babies their cubbies and I put their things away. Tough Natalina played the part she thought she should with a smile. “Don’t leave!” she said, grinning broadly.
Dulce, on the other hand, was serious. She clung to me, crying, desperate for me not to go. The teacher tried to lead her away, but she wrenched free. I walked with them over to the craft table where Dulce continued to cry and freak out.
“You can go at any time,” the teacher said, smiling. “We’re used to this. We’ll take care of it.”
I hesitated because I know that the children who do the worst at preschool are the ones whose parents hem and haw and make it seem like a big deal to leave them. But my kid was screaming and clinging to me. I wasn’t leaving.
I managed to sit her down at the table and got her engaged in the craft of making paper carrots. All the other kids drew lines on their carrots as a real-life representation. Dulce drew a face. Her first real face, at that! A circle, two eyes, a nose and a smile. Not bad. I helped the babies stuff their carrots with cotton balls (all the other kids were stuffing their own…I perhaps have coddled my kids just a tad too much.) Then I told Dulce gently that I was going to leave, and asked her to count me down (a game we play meaning I’m coming back.) Engaged now, in the activity, I was able to go without tears.
Well, at least without tears on her part. I cried when I got to the car. Driving home, I even exercised my new freedom by putting the window down and blasting the music, something I haven’t been able to do in years. It didn’t help. I cried when I got home. I cried over breakfast with my husband even as I marveled that we could talk about the fall of Gaddafi without little voices asking us, “Why talk? Why talk?” I’m a weenie.
I miss my kids, but I know they must be having fun. (They must be having fun, right? Right?!) I’ll go and pick them up shortly and thank my good judgment for only putting them in for two days a week so that I don’t have to go through this everyday.