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If there is one thing that I've learnt over the last few months, it's that in terms of every day parenting of a pre-schooler, there aren't many things that are worse than when you drop them off at nursery only to be traumatised by their huge desire to not want to be left, followed by an influx of tears and pleas of "Mummy don't go!" The result? Feeling like the worst parent that ever walked the earth.
EJ started nursery in January. He was later than a lot of kids his age, but we have been quite lucky in terms of having grandparents to help with our childcare and last year when my Mum was very poorly, it wasn't the right time for him to be starting somewhere so new and daunting when things were so unusual at home for him. As soon as he got his government funded hours we were happy to send him for a couple of mornings a week while I worked. He had got to an age where he needed to mix more and develop his social skills and so far he's been amazing!
As expected at the beginning it took a bit of getting used to and I was prepared for the quivering bottom lip and the teary goodbyes and of course, they happened, but they soon settled down and he began to really enjoy it. It's worked wonders for him too. He has come on leaps and bounds in those eight months and we were beyond proud at our last parents evening when we were told how brilliant he's doing.
Then the Summer holiday's started. EJ goes to his usual sessions in the Summer as he has enough hours to spread across the year. The case isn't the same for all of the other children and so he's found himself amongst some new children. Some older, some younger and it's most definitely not as busy. Somehow and for some reason this has seriously upset him.
For the last few weeks I have had such a bad time during nursery drop off. Tears before getting out of the car. 'Big cuddles' that he won't release me from. Outstretched arms reaching for me as I walk out of the door and me sat in the car trying to pull myself together only to burst into tears with the sadness and guilt of leaving behind my upset little boy. There it is again. The worst Mum in the world feeling.
Of course after ten minutes he is usually fine. (Save for the first day this happened when I had to go and pick him up. That has never happened before). Once he's been there a little while he settles down and enjoys himself. But we don't see that bit do we? For the rest of our day all we can visualise is the bright red face with the streaming eyes and the snotty nose and the sound of "Mummy don't go!" on repeat. For the rest of our day we live in a pit of guilt.
EJ's nursery is fantastic and thankfully so are all the staff. They are brilliantly understanding and are always a great help when it comes to the 'big goodbye'. They always let me know he's okay aswell which is reassuring when you're in the middle of a guilt trip trauma. His key worker is wonderful with him and he loves her to pieces. I'm so glad they have such a good relationship otherwise this phase would be so much worse.
Needless to say, Tuesday and Thursday mornings are fast becoming my least favourite times of the week. I wake up anxious and I know that in turn, that probably makes him anxious, but I'm not a robot and I can't switch off my emotions. It's something we will just have to get through together.
I know the phase will likely be over as fast as it began and I take comfort in that fact. But until that day, I'll be the one sat outside nursery in my car trying to pull myself together to go about my day. But at the same time safe in the knowledge that there's another Mum out there doing exactly the same thing.
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