This September, despite being the youngest in the class, Little Girl entered preschool without a care. She went right into the classroom — no sniffles, cries, or screams. She seemed to love it. Then, around the first of October, she started telling me she didn’t like school. She started crying when we pulled into the parking lot. She starting clinging to me using the toddler death grip. The teachers, as they pulled her off of me, assured me this was normal behavior. That it would stop once Little Girl got used to school. Feeling guilty enough as it was, I was heartbroken. At night, when I would cry and threaten to pull her out of school and just stop working during the day, my husband agreed with the teachers. She’ll outgrow it, he said.
Last week we were running late. I had to drop my father-in-law off at the airport, so we didn’t hit the nursery school until 9:40. The halls were empty. It was quiet and calm. We stepped inside and, for whatever reason, Little Girl went right into her classroom. No whimpering. No pulling her off of me. No tears. Hmmm. Could it be? Could she be overwhelmed by the crowds? I don’t know where I got the idea, but I decided to try an experiment. That Friday I got to the school late on purpose. Again, no one in the hallways, no one in the parking lot. And again, she went right in. It happened on Monday, too, the same day one of the teachers proclaimed Little Girl to have had an, “excellent, day! She had so much fun today,” she told me. It had to be: She was overwhelmed by the crowds of people. Makes sense. She’s a tiny little girl, a minnow in a sea of grownups and siblings and teachers all milling around in those hallways.
Today, five minutes late, Little Girl almost ran into the school. She didn’t even look back at me. She marched into the classroom like she owned the place, showing one of the teachers her little backpack that contained Elmo, a stuffed dog, and her favorite haiku book. My lesson: Sometimes it just takes a small change to reap big rewards.
This week I will be looking for my small change with Big Girl. I need to find whatever it is that is making her so upset and angry. I am actually wondering if it’s the new school. It’s a very challenging place for someone who is shy and hesitant. I wonder if it’s just too scary and tiring and frustrating for her to be a minnow in a giant sea of kids, some of whom write threatening letters on the bus.