​Three Into Four: The Emotional Rollercoaster

27/01/2015 17:06 | Updated 20 May 2015

Unhappy Child Sitting On Floor In Corner Crying To Herself At Home

I remember crying all the time as a child.

I would sob at the slightest provocation – most commonly, waiting for my mother to come and pick me up from school or ballet class.

When she was even a minute late, which was frequent because she was always at least 10 minutes late, my upper lip would start to wobble, I'd imagine myself abandoned forever and the tears would flow.

And then she'd show up and within seconds, I'd forget the emotional breakdown had ever happened.

So it's only fair, karma-wise, that now that I'm a mother, I have a daughter who is a crier.

In principle, I don't mind – I much prefer crying and openly having a fit (an emotional style that continues to work for me, for better or worse, in my adult relationships) to bottling up emotions – but I just want to make sure she's OK.

It started in November: after an easy transition to full days of school, something I'd been nervous about because Diana is an August birthday, the teething issues began.

All week she'd ask about school, her friends and her teachers, and would happily get ready each morning. We'd leave the house smiling, but as we'd turn onto the block of school, D would start crying.

The crying would continue waiting in the queue to be let into school, even if her friends were there chatting to her or trying to comfort her, and would last until she walked into school and up the flight of stairs to her classroom, at which point she'd return to her happy, smiling self (according to the teachers; parents don't come up with kids in the morning).

Since this has been ongoing for the last few months, I have tried every angle to figure out what's been happening, discussing the issue at length with D's teachers, who continue to reassure me that she's not being bullied, has plenty of friends and spends her time at school beaming and doing every artsy activity imaginable.

(I go into the school relatively often as I read to children in other year groups and every time I see D, she is a bubbly, excited, happy girl. So I'm buying that she does love school).

Another reason the issue seems unrelated to school is because it's impacting other activities, like D's Saturday morning dance class, which she also loves but has started to occasionally cry at beforehand because she wants me to stay with her.

Over the past several weeks, I've adopted every emotional stance imaginable: I've been understanding and comforting, encouraging and positive on the mornings D hasn't cried (they've started a rewards chart at school for days when she can come in with a smile on her face), strict and disciplining and made the occasional threat ("I can't take you to school if this continues...")

I've even ignored the tears completely, the stage I am currently exploring, which everyone has advised me to try.

We don't talk about the episodes at home – D is so happy doing her own thing she doesn't mention them and seems to have forgotten they've happened, other than to say, occasionally: "I'm going to be brave today" – and I try to keep my face impassive as I usher her towards the door to school.

We've even started coming late-ish to avoid waiting in the queue (I think getting there early and waiting tends to exacerbate the issue), although the other morning D tried to have a fit about being late, so I think this is about attention, or feeling sensitive, or maybe finally understanding that school is an everyday occurrence that will continue for a long time.

I'm glad that D is at least only temporarily affected by these breakdowns; I wish the same were true for me, but as an emotionally sensitive, likely-to-sob at any given moment person myself, I find myself mentally wiped out because I feel totally powerless that it's continually happening.

All before 9:30AM.

For a while, I thought D was a bit jealous that younger sister Liv got to hang out with me during the time that D was at school, so I created special one-on-one moments for us (I'd take her to swim class by herself, we'd go see The Nutcracker) so that she felt like she was still having plenty of mummy time.

The result? I'm left with D still crying and Liv in a constant panic that she is going to get ditched at any given moment. "Me coming?! Me coming?!" she always shrieks whenever I tell the girls our plans for the day.

And, predictably, Liv - for the moment - is absolutely desperate to go to school. Let's just hope this excitement lasts the two years until she starts it for real...