For most moms, sending a child to preschool is an emotional and difficult experience. I expected that. I was prepared as much as any other mom to feel sad, excited, proud…all the emotions that come with this milestone. I wasn’t prepared, however, for the amount of triggers I would run into during this experience. I’m kind of shocked I didn’t think about the obvious stuff, but I didn’t, and so it hit me out of the blue (the worst way for grief to hit you). The last couple of weeks have sent me into a tailspin of anxiety, anger, and a deep, deep sadness.
Preschool orientation started it all. The common chitchat with other parents asking how many children I have. Is Crue my only? I was asked that question so many times in two hours that I left completely mentally and emotionally drained. The first couple of parents were pretty easy. I’m used to telling people about Nash and I’m used to the different reactions. I think I got more emotional responses than I normally do because of the high anxiety other parents were feeling regarding their own children starting school. I decided halfway through the orientation to tell the rest of the parents who asked that I only had one. Leaving Nash out felt like a gut punch … like a betrayal of him. Saying Crue was my only in front of Crue also hurt beyond measure. He’d never heard me say that before.
I’ve always been one of those people who try to please others. One of those people who care entirely too much what other people think. Nash has taught me so many things; one of them, at least I thought, is to not care what others think. To put my own feelings in front of others’ when it comes to my own mental health. But for whatever reason, that day I didn’t stick to my guns. I tried to make other people happy. I tried to save them the discomfort of not knowing the right words. When I do talk to others about Nash, half of the time I find myself having to console them after I share, causing myself so much more unnecessary pain. I know without question that if another mama was going through this grief, even if I had never gone through this, I would want her to do whatever made this day easiest for her. If I knew for one second that telling me about the child she lost made this day just that much easier, by all means tell me. I know most mamas would feel the same way. So why do I not give them the credit? Why do I not give them the chance to carry that for me? On top of the Nash stuff, Todd and I have had two miscarriages in the last three years and are still continuing to try for another child, thus far unsuccessfully. The number of parents with babies at the orientation was insane and I found myself angry I was not one of them. If my last pregnancy had not been lost, I would have a 2-month-old right now. I would be one of them. Here I am on the verge of tears every second from talking about Nash, or not talking about Nash, and then I see parents with their preschooler and baby in tow while I watch Crue desperate to make friends with anyone who will give him the time of day.
One of my biggest regrets about Nash’s passing is that I didn’t follow my intuition that last day I dropped him off. His last day on earth. There were more kids than I liked at his daycare. More kids than had ever been there on any other day. I was so worried that I called my sister, my husband, and my sister-in-law from the babysitter’s driveway before I pulled out. I told them all how uncomfortable I was, the overwhelming feeling of fear. I still chose to leave him there. Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, or to come across like that overbearing mother people talk shit about. I thought at most he wouldn’t get the attention I would like. He wouldn’t get played with. Not for one second did I think that he would die! Since then I have not been able to hold back any worry or fear I have when it comes to someone watching Crue. Even the people I trust with him most in this world. It’s something I have to do. I have to know, God forbid something happens to him, that I told them exactly what I wanted and what my fears were. Whether it’s a busy road, a pool, a lake, a bigger kid…I tell them. I tell them every time. I’ve learned to not care if that makes me look neurotic or strange. I have to fight the urge to care what they think or how they may judge me, so that I know if I don’t get to pick him up that day…that I don’t have to live with the pain of not saying those things. Dropping Crue off anywhere is still so very hard. I kiss him every time I leave…not for the typical reasons but because I know he could die. I know all too well this may be the last time I see him. That thought is something I still have every time I drop him off ANYWHERE. This is how I feel when Crue is with people I know and trust. So you can imagine some of what I might have been feeling to drop him off where I knew no one. You can imagine how I felt when two of the parents told me this is the biggest class they’ve had at Crue’s preschool in years. They have a waiting list to get into an already over-full class. My anxieties are at an all-time high. There are too many kids. Is what I’m feeling normal parental fears? Should I follow my gut? Am I overthinking it? Can I trust how I feel about others taking care of him? Can I trust anything I feel at this moment?
The next visit they called a teddy bear clinic. All of the kids brought their favorite stuffed animals, and we got to mingle with other parents and get used to his classroom. Again, lots of questions about how many kids I had. They sent us home with a folder to be returned to school with him on his first day. One item on the list of things to bring was a family photo with the names of family members written on the back. The only family photo I had has Nash bear in it. Do I include Nash? Do I not? What if Crue tells the teacher it’s his brother and she tells him it’s a teddy bear? I decided to include him. I wrote on the back that Crue may or may not mention him. That way if he doesn’t, no big deal, and if he does, he’s included.
The first day of school I was holding back tears. Trying to be strong for my very ready and excited 4-year-old. Again the mom in front of me asked if he was my only and I said yes. Why? Why did I do that? Why did I do that again?!?! I dropped him off and left in tears for so many more reasons than the simple fact that my baby is not a baby anymore. I cried that he may or may not be my only preschooler. That this may or may not be the last first day of school I share of a child of mine. I cried because he isn’t my first. I cried because he is. I cried because I did what I have spent four years not doing…leaving him in a situation I’m uncomfortable with.
Regardless if I’m ready, Crue is ready. He’s more then ready, and I find myself bursting with pride that I raised him to be such an independent little man when every ounce of fear in me wants to make him anything but. It’s my greatest success in parenting so far. That despite how I feel on the inside, I didn’t put that on Crue. This journey of grief is very much like the journey of life. It’s ever changing and unpredictable. The only difference is I’m the one with the growing pains, not Crue. One day when Crue graduates, I hope he reads this and knows just how hard this was for me and just how proud I am that he is taking this world head on when all I want to do is put him in a bubble. I know he will do great, my little rainbow, and I have comfort knowing even when he isn’t with me, he will never be alone.