Archie Bear started nursery this term. He now goes every morning, Monday to Friday, 9am-12. It is a completely new era for all of us, and I was so, incredibly anxious about it. I was so scared he would be really upset and not want me to leave. I was scared the staff would say those words ‘he’ll be fine once you’re gone’, and I’d feel the pressure to leave him, to walk away while he was still crying, screaming and reaching out for me. I was scared he wouldn’t make any friends and that he’d be miserable.
But, we are loving it. Archie Bear has been so grown up and mature. He found the train box and has been pretty happy ever since! I keep going in and asking all the kids their names, introducing them to Archie Bear, but he never seems bothered by them. He’s asked me to stay a couple of times, and has got a little bit upset at the thought of me going, but we’ve chatted about it and I’ve never left him there upset.
But. I have heard those words, which send shivers down my spine, uttered by the staff there to other parents – ‘they’ll be fine once you’re gone’. I used to say those words to parents before I became one. I helped run the crèche at our church, where we had up to 12 babies between 0-18months old. We had a lot of ‘cryers’ and I remember saying it every week – they’ll settle down once you’re gone, don’t worry, they’ll be ok as soon as you’ve gone through the door. But now as a mum I have to stand my ground. I won’t leave Archie Bear crying and reaching for me, I can’t deal with it. It’s so hard to see him upset at any time, even when it’s because I’ve put him in time out or finally managed to turn off the tv – both things that are hard but necessary for us sometimes! Having to leave him, especially with people he doesn’t know, with tears running down his cheeks, a look of despair, confusion, abandonment and hurt on his little face, just makes me run straight back to him.
I am a nursery-worker’s worst nightmare. I want to give all the other upset kids hugs too!! If I could, I would gather all the needy, upset, lonely and unloved children in the world into my open arms and hug them, kiss them, tickle them, feed them, and hug them some more. My husband despairs over me sometimes. The thing is, I’ve stayed once they have sent me away, hidden somewhere round a corner or peering through a little window, and I’ve seen my child, or another child, still inconsolably crying after their parent has gone. Once, I hid outside Archie Bear’s nursery for about 5 minutes, trying to spot him through the thick hedge that ran around the outside of the play-area, and he was still crying for me, and they weren’t doing much about it. I hate it, because they’re never going to get the attention you want them to, because the staff are just stretched too thin. They have another 20 kids to look after and entertain!
As Archie Bear gets older, I feel less comfortable leaving him upset. He remembers so much, and understands so much, and I can’t bear imagining what thoughts are running through his head – why is she leaving? Will she come back? I don’t want her to go! She’s not listening to me – she doesn’t care about me. Ugh. I can’t carry on with that list, it makes me too upset.
I had a chat with another nursery mum round the corner the other day, after seeing her child still screeching, kicking, screaming, bashing the door, running away from the staff, knowing that they had told her just to go. I think she felt embarrassed, and unsure what to do. So she trusted what the staff said. Of course she did. The next day, she left through the side door, while they took her kid out a different door, telling them ‘mummy’s coming, she’s coming, she’s just gone to get something and then she’s coming’. That was a lie, and I was so upset by it. I felt so so bad for her child. They had been lied to, told that their mum was coming right back, while she was being sneaked out another door. I very nearly said something, then remembered it was really none of my business, and that I’d promised myself I wouldn’t interfere with the way other people had decided to parent.
Thankfully that child was a lot happier this week. I can breathe a sigh of relief. I want to wear a t-shirt saying ‘you can stay with your child as long as you want to – don’t feel pressured to leave them if they’re upset and you don’t want to!!!!!’
Although that’s not a very catchy slogan…