A blogger friend invited me to a women's Bible study at her church. The church offered a variety of different studies and childcare for kids of all ages, so after talking with Peter, we decided it would be a good experience for the kids to get to know other children their age, to have some time with a caregiver other then me (since we dont want Montossori school next fall to be their first big time away from Mama), and for me to play with my religion chops in a group setting (I love me some good religious discussion!). I signed up for one of the no charge/no book/no homework classes since, if things did bomb, I didnt want to have invested in materials.
I cant deny that I've been nervous as we've led up to this morning. Would the kids be okay? Would I be okay leaving them? How would I feel if everything went off without a hitch? How would I feel if it were a nightmare? Would the kids even get up in time so that we could make it to the church (20 minutes away) by 9am so that I could get them settled into the kids program and get to my class upstairs by 9:15?
Things seemed to be going well. Peter and I watched football until 11:30 last night, then went to bed, but I was still able to get up for a run this morning. Home, shower, Bobby up, Peter's shower, Maya's up, and breakfast. Yay! Things going well! I packed their lunch (I figured we'd play at Mr. B's and have lunch before heading home and that they'd possibly pass out in the car to start their nap) and then got them dressed. Score! We were in the car at 8:40!
The drive to the church was uneventful and we arrived promptly at 9. I passed another set of twins (who ended up going to the same 2 year old classroom) and rolled the kids into the church in their stroller. We got to the 2yo room and that's about where it went downhill... My worst thoughts? Multiply them by about 10 and that's where we were.
The room looked great. They had a half dozen motherly and grandmotherly volunteers, lots of toys, a book reading station, and little cubbies for the kids' stuff. There was a check-in where you took a key that corresponded to your child/ren so that they couldnt be signed out without you turning that in. The halfwall that blocked the door was locked and, although you could see tearstained faces and hear whines, the kids inside looked to be having a good enough time. Enter my kids.
The second I put them inside, they screamed and cried. Bobby climbed the wall to grab my shoulder and refused to let go. I peeled him off of me, but then he climbed the wall (I dont even know how) to try and climb over the sign-in ledge. I go inside to try and calm them and they both lunge for me, in tears. I showed them toys, books, you name it. They werent interested. At some point, Maya sees a toy she likes and walks away from me to investigate it, but by the time I've disengaged Bobby and shown him a toy, she's back. They finally walked away from me, but it was to go to a door (what I'm sure they saw as an exit). One of the volunteers assured me that if they were a mess and couldnt be calmed, someone would come get me. I got to my class around 9:15 and I'm not ashamed to say that I nearly cried myself.
At 9:30, someone tapped my shoulder and said "I'm sorry, but we've been unable to calm your son down."
Yeah. That was an understatement. As soon as I exited the stairwell from the 3rd floor to the 2nd floor (where they were), I could hear him screaming. And not just screaming, but that uncontrolled wailing that drives a stake directly through your heart. I go inside and he is laying on the floor, just bawling. A quick look finds Maya and her tearstained face in the arms of the one of the volunteers, looking at a toy. I go to Bobby who, once he hears my voice, opens his eyes, sobs, and leaps into my arms, burying his face in my shoulder and just letting go of the tears. Through the sobbing, I could hear "Mama" and just sobs. It broke my heart.
One of the volunteers explained that they were letting him cry on the floor because everytime someone tried to placate him, he just cried harder. While I understood it, it still broke me to the core as I held him, rocking him, calming him. Eventually he relaxed and sat down in my lap, letting me just kiss him and rub his forehead. And then Maya caught an eye of us.
Oh the tears. And the screaming. And the fighting away from the volunteer so she could run to where we were. She grabbed the other arm and Bobby slid over so she could get in my lap. She sobbed out "MamaMamaMama" before she starting choking on her own tears. It was all I could do not to cry. They were both red, blochy faced and in anguish. And I did that. I left them and brought them to such a state. Oh.My.God. I felt horrid.
I finally convinced them that we were going and they let me stand up. I gave over my keys, signed them out, and got them in the stroller. Maya didnt even want to hold my Bible (which has an illustrated Rosary section and you know her love of the Blessed Mother so that says a lot!). She just wanted to get away from the kids area. I thought they might like to go to Mr Bs, maybe run off some energy. They let me take them there and take their shoes off, but after about 2 minutes, they both went tohe door and wanted to go home. So, that's what we did. We went home.
They were miserable. MISERABLE. We finally got home, played a bit, had lunch, and they went to bed. But, I feel so horrible and, for the first time, I'm second guessing myself.
I know that plenty of people send their kids to daycare from the start and experience the growing pains right away. And there are plenty of folks who stay home for a while and then send kids to nursery school and deal with this. So, I'm not alone. And most people say "Just keep it up and they'll get used to it."
But I dont know... I'm not sure I can do that. The looks on their faces. The heartbreak. My own heartbreak! It was a type of devestation that I havent felt since they were 3 months old and I left them with Peter- their FATHER!- for an hour and heard them sobbing when I returned. And he's their dad! They love him and know him!
I had initally thought, when they were babies and RSV season had passed, that maybe I'd go to the gym and leave them at the kids program so I could workout for an hour. Talking to Peter about that, however, we made the decision to not do that. I'm wondering now if that was a mistake. Should we have brought them into a group environment sans a parent earlier? At 2 years old, are they just so used to Peter and I (or even my MIL or Sarah) that trying to adjust to a new environment is just too much of a shock?
The volunteer whom Maya "liked" told me that she and Maya seemed to bond, once Maya was away from Bobby (who, at that point, was screaming like a banshee on the floor). She's always been slightly more social (usually) so I'm not surprised she made a friend and allowed herself to be wooed by toys. They said that she was crying and trying to love on him because he was so upset and, since she couldnt help him, she cried even harder. So, they tried to break them up to help her transition and in the hopes that one of the volunteers could help Bobby settle. Whether that made him worse, I dont know, but it seemed to help her a bit. And, possibly, had he settled down, they both would have been fine by the time the 2 hours was over. But seeing me, she definitely showed that she wasn't happy and was just settling until that time that she could get what she wanted: me.
So, I'm pretty shaken, to be honest. Did we do them a disservice by not introducing them to an environment like this earlier? Is this something we just have to deal with and eventually it will get better? We'd initially said we'd give it a month and if each week was nightmare (it would be every Tuesday morning) then we'd throw in the towel and say they just arent ready for this. But now I dont know. I want to throw in the towel now!
I called Peter and filled him in on the drama. He was at work and, obviously, couldnt talk, but said we'll discuss how to make this work when he gets home.
On the one hand, I think it will be good for them to get used to an environment without a caregiver they are used to and to make new friends their own age. On the other hand, I dont want them just fawning over relative strangers and easily letting go of me. There's not an easy answer to the problem. We didnt want to make this a time where they were watched by my MIL; a big part of me signing up for the study was so that the kids could have this opportunity. If they arent ready for that (or dont want it), then it's not worth it to me to continue and try to arrange outside care.
So, now we're deciding whether or not they aren't ready or if the shock of this was just too much and maybe next week (or the next) might be better.
But their red eyes and splotchy cheeks all scream out the word for the day. F-A-I-L