What My Son's 'First Day Of School' MELT DOWN Taught Me About Love

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parenting lessons about love

I thought I did it all right:

Pop in to see the classroom and meet the teacher — check. Attend 'back to school' picnic the night before — check. Read “The Night Before Preschool” before bedtime — check. Same school, same teacher, same classroom as the year before — triple check.  

So, why, when I said, “OK buddy, time to put on your new backpack and go to school” did my son start crying? And I mean really crying — screaming, yelling, holding onto the doorway and saying "No!" 

At first I was super patient and reassuring, until I realized he was not going to stop. I carried him kicking and screaming into the car, broke into a sweat “buckling” (aka wrestling) him into the car seat and proceeded to drive all the way to school with my toddler son wailing.

Once we arrived at school he ran away, back to where we'd parked, and refused to get out of the car.

Holy Sh*t, I thought, this is bad! 

I felt confused, surprised and frustrated. Oh, and by the way, I had to get to work in 20 minutes.

So, I once again carried him back out of the car ... me in heels, him sideways on my hip at first and then upright where he drooled, cried and snotted up my work shirt and brought him into class 20 minutes late. I was in tears. 

The first bit of adult eye contact I made was with the school director who was cheerfully waiting at the door. When she saw what was going on, she immediately offered to ease him in. He agreed to let her help him, thank God. When we got into the classroom, I waved the teacher over and she knew exactly what to do to help him feel safe. When he finally, slowly, let go of me and looked as though he would be OK, I said goodbye.

Guilt-ridden and emotional I walked out, grabbed the 'first day of school' tissues that were laying out, and balled my eyes out some more in the car.

The only sense that I could make of this morning was — love.

I spent almost the entire summer with my kids. For better and worse, we spent long, fun-filled, exhausting days together. There were few transitions, not much scheduling, and lots of mommy time.

I hardly got dressed in work clothes, barely ever wore makeup, and basically existed to spend each day with my son. So, when I said, “Buddy, it’s time to go,” he protested because he was going to miss me.

I chose to believe that his first day of school meltdown was simply his toddler way of saying, “No, don’t let summer end. It was so much fun ... I love you!”

And just like that, I paused and realized that our summer together was priceless.

It was not perfect and I was definitely ready for school to start, but that precious time together meant the world to my little guy. And thankfully, he helped me realize that it meant the world to me, too.

So, cheers to our amazing children who teach us something new every day — if we just stop to hear the message, no matter how loud and messy it may come.

Dr. Sheryl Ziegler is a mother, psychologist, speaker, and author of an upcoming book, Mommy Burnout. You can follow her parenting advice in her newsletter by signing up today.

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