So today was one of the hard Mama moments in life. Blake, who is now 5 years old, had made a decision that he did not want to go to school this morning. It may have had something to do with the fact that we had to take down his blanket fort in order to have his room cleaned. It may have had something to do with a long weekend full of fun and family and food. Or it may just have been that he didn’t want to go to school.
I literally (LITERALLY) had to drag him out from under his bed (damn you, MALM bed from IKEA for having such a perfect hiding spot for children built right into you!). He whined. Kicked. Whimpered. He didn’t want any part of going to school. He wouldn’t put on his shoes. He wouldn’t put on his jacket. We were late so my patience was growing thin. I tried reasoning. I explained that part of being a kid is to go to school. Mommy and Daddy go to work, you go to school. This is where you learn new things, play with your friends, and have fun experiences.
There was nothing I could say or do that was going to make school look any better to him today.
When we arrived at school, he dragged his feet to the kindergarten spot. He put up every resistance. Gave me every reason why he shouldn’t have to go to school, namely being that he just didn’t want to. And that is when it started. The tears. The large, pleading tears and a quivering lip with the words “Mama, I just don’t want to go. I don’t like it. I don’t want to go to school.”
My heart broke. He brought me to my knees just like that.
I looked up to see one of his kindergarten teachers at the gate. I smiled, despite the feeling of my stomach hitting the ground, and quietly explained that Blake was having a rough start to his day and didn’t want to be at school. At this point, the tears were streaming down his cheeks. She smiled back, with an understanding nod, and got down to his level.
“Blake, tell me about Thanksgiving. Tell me how your weekend was!”
Nothing. He didn’t look at her. He just kept quietly crying. I could tell he was trying to hide it. Trying not to show his friends that he didn’t want to be here. Trying not to show how vulnerable he was at that moment. So hard for a little guy who is quiet to begin with.
“Blake, why don’t you come with me. We’ll walk together to our room.” She gently took his arm, trying to reach for his hand. But he just kept looking at me with wide eyes that were welling over. He reached out for me and grasped my legs, almost pinching them in desperation to not go to his classroom.
And at this point, I became a Mom puddle. I got down at his level, gave him a big hug. Partly to comfort him and partly so that he wouldn’t see how upset I was. He wouldn’t let go. He pleaded with me to not make him go. Asked me to let him stay with me for the day. The tears kept flowing, and he choked them back. I swallowed hard.
I said “Blake, it’s going to be okay. You need to go to school today and I’ll see you at dinnertime. Daddy will pick you up at the end of the day. You’re going to be okay. I love you but I have to go.”
And I stood up. It took every ounce of strength to take a step back from him. He looked up at me, defeated. He knew he was going to school. He slowly turned, still crying, and walked with his teacher, who knew that this was just as painful for me as it was for him. But Blake didn’t know that. I’m sure he just thought I didn’t care enough to bring him home. But what he doesn’t yet realize is that I care too much to bring him home. It’s such a fine line that I walk sometimes. That line drawn between wanting to embrace them through every hard lesson and stepping back, allowing them to learn the lesson on their own.
I watched as he walked to the class. His shoulders were forward, his head down. The conversation in my head was just as difficult as watching him walk away.
“Would he be okay? Will they call if he’s still upset? Will anyone make fun of him for crying? Does he know I love him? Is he mad at me right now?”
I made my way back to my car and texted my girlfriend, a mom of two boys. She put me at ease, kind of. We all have those moments, she assured me. It feels really, really awful. Like shitty awful. Feeling like a bad mom. Feeling like I’m not able to be there for my son. Feeling like I’ve let him down.
I kind of got over it. I went to the gym. I got my grocery shopping done. Tom got home and over lunch I told him what had happened. It was still gnawing at me. I hadn’t heard from the school so I’m sure he was fine but that uneasy feeling of now knowing how he was wouldn’t go away. And then my phone rang and the name of the school was on the caller ID. It was his teacher, calling to reassure me that while he was incredibly quiet, waiting for the bell to ring, once inside he was himself. He was talking with his buddies. He answered questions about his weekend. He was back to being Blake.
I know these lessons in life are as important for me as they are for my kids. I just disliked going through this one as much as Blake did. I can’t wait to get home tonight, give him a big hug, and rebuild his fort. I want to build the warmest, coziest, pillow and blanket fort we can. Because there’s a part of me that knows it will make both of us feel better.