Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today Is Brought To You By The Word FAIL

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


claire said...

As a early toddler teacher to the 2 year old group I would recommend that you spend a morning with them in the class. Especially since this is a new environment for them. That way they feel safe with other people. Help introduce the volunteers so that they see you with them and trust them as well. Then the next time I would get them settled and try and be a fly on the wall so they know you are there but letting them do their own thing. The next week i'd spend a few mins away at a time etc... Yes that method takes time but they have never been away from you either.

I would also prepare them ALL week to go to "school" get them excited about it! Something new and fun!

Babies smell your fear like yogi bear smells a pica-nic basket. So I would try your best to put that on the back burner and focus on letting them be at ease.

Best of luck!!

Lisa said...

You aren't going to like what I'm going to say BUT -- try it again. I have two kids so that doesn't make me an expert. However, if you don't, you will have this happen next year too. However, see if you can stay with them in the play area next time for a specific amount of time. Having Maya in a different area there too may help too.

You aren't a bad mom. You didn't fail them. They were being 2 year olds that haven't been without mom or dad. Your kids didn't do anything that other 2 years haven't already done there.

ccc said...

You have been such a wonderful mama that they want nothing to do with anyone else. And, I believe this is normal. "Experts" may tell us otherwise--that our children need to learn to be away from parents--but at age 2? All my children were always very close to me and I stayed home with them and very rarely went anywhere without them. If they had a babysitter, it was my mother. Half of my children are grown now, and have NO PROBLEM being away from me and adjusting to real life. In fact, they are very well adjusted and independent and have learned about trust and and love from an early age.
I would maybe look into a playgroup type setting in which the kids can play but with you close by in the same area.
I remember reading some informative books early on when my children were young that talked about the importance of the ages between birth-3yrs and how this time period was critical in how they were parented and their subsequent behaviors into adulthood. It changed how I thought about child rearing. I don't remember the names of the books now.
Good luck with your decision making

trennia said...

Bless their hearts...(((hugs)))..and your heart too...

Leah said...

I would also try it again. Eventually, your children are going to have to spend time away from you (unless perhaps you are planning on homeschooling?) and they will get used to it. I had to introduce my kids to other people at an early age, and it was miserable! But as I kept trying, they kept becoming more and more comfortable with the situation. And I am still #1 in their lives. They'd still prefer me over everyone else, but it's nice to know that they'll let other people love on them once in a while too.

Queenie. . . said...

We find that big changes are best made in stages. Sure, there will still be some crying, but if you break it into chunks, it is more manageable for the child. Every kid is different, but for your kids, being left was obviously too much. That doesn't mean you've missed a stage or that you won't be able to leave them, though!

I'd bring them back to a group session or something similar, but stay the whole time for the first time. On subsequent sessions, gradually stray further and further from them, and then try leaving for short periods of time. They need to trust that you'll return. It may take a bit of time, but you'll get there.

Don't be hard on yourself--it's a sign of how well bonded your kids are that they were so upset by your absence. But, they won't be 40 and still afraid to leave you!

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

My twins (23m) just started part-time daycare. We transitioned exactly the way Claire described. We went with them for a couple of hours at a time, 3 different times, before they officially started. I was shocked on our 2nd visit when my usually-shy Burrito wandered off hand-in-hand with one of the teachers. The first day, they both cried when I left (but weren't inconsolable like Bobby) for half an hour. The second day, 5 minutes. After the initial crying has ended, they both have a fantastic day all day, and don't cry once (until I show up at the end of the day!).

They've never been in group care before. They've had babysitters and nannies 2 on 1, but they have barely even been in any group playdate situations.

The other big thing we've been doing is getting ready at home. I bought them 6 (yes, 6) different books about going to school and about saying goodbye to mom, and they both read them many times a day. We've practiced wearing their backpacks at home. The first visit I took photos of the classroom and we've looked at the photos and talked about everything.

I think you should keep trying and spend more time transitioning them in the room when you arrive, but I also suggest spending some time every day preparing them. For about a week and a half before their first official day, we probably spent 2 hours a day reading books about school, talking about school, looking at photos of their school, or pretending we were doing school activities like wearing backpacks. Some was my idea, but reading the books over and over and over was totally my twins' initiative.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I want to say that I'm a little jealous. AJ NEVER had an ounce of separation anxiety. I it sounds somewhat ignorant of me, but when I left him that 1st time in Sunday School-i kinda wanted him to at least want me to stay with him...nope,he was all "ByeBye Mama" and actually cried when he had to leave.
The MAJOR difference is that he has no kids on our block his age. He gets no interaction unless we go to the park, or to Church, or when we let him go to a 2 day preK3 program last year. It was affordable, but our healthy child had strep throat 3 times and got the flu-he was more sick than I've ever seen him.
I was not going to do that to him this year, and frankly we needed this year to pay off some debt that will completely free us up to put him in a Christian private school for K. His little 'best friend' already goes there, so he will know someone.
Bobby & Maya have eachother and you and right now, to them that's all they need. You have no way of knowing that until you got out with them-gave them the opportunity. Albeit, I can completely understand the guilt. Even though AJ LOVES school, when he was so sick all those times, I felt the worst guilt of all-i let this happen to him. There is nothing we can do to escape the guilt we will feel here and there over choices we make for our child/children. I'm 39 and my mother just sent me a long email and she seriously feels guilty over the way I'm feeling because she can't make it better for me. I AM 39! That only says to me that as long as we have breath, there will be guilt. Try not to be so hard on yourself. I know that's easy for me to say, but still just try. :-)

Barb said...

I'm so sorry. It's so hard! But you've gotten great advice here. E is SO like Bobby, and people who don't have a child like that just don't get it. Daycare was torture for him for a long time, and that was part of my horrid adjustment to going back to work. I ached for him. Now that he knows them well, and they are part of his "family," (they even came to his Bday and baptism) he enjoys it there and misses them. But he's still clingy and would rather be with us. On the other hand you have mycousins daughter who at 2.5 walked into daycare for the first time and said, "bye Mommy!" They're just all so different. Xo you are doing a good job. I've felt that angst but you're doing great

Barb said...

I'm so sorry. It's so hard! But you've gotten great advice here. E is SO like Bobby, and people who don't have a child like that just don't get it. Daycare was torture for him for a long time, and that was part of my horrid adjustment to going back to work. I ached for him. Now that he knows them well, and they are part of his "family," (they even came to his Bday and baptism) he enjoys it there and misses them. But he's still clingy and would rather be with us. On the other hand you have mycousins daughter who at 2.5 walked into daycare for the first time and said, "bye Mommy!" They're just all so different. Xo you are doing a good job. I've felt that angst but you're doing great

Anna said...

oh, that is so hard and I can see two sides... my oldest was all mama, all the time, and when he was little like yours I started doing a mother's day out at church for a few hours twice a week. It was HORRIBLE leaving him the first few times, but I really felt like I needed to just for my own sanity because I seriously could hardly put him down, even at almost 2- he still nursed almost exclusively, woke up in the night multiple times to nurse, and I could barely shower... so I did the program and started out with just 45 minutes or an hour and eased into a little more. While he never loved it, I don't suppose, he got used to it and by the fifth time would stop crying as soon as the door closed behind me. So, I guess what I am saying is that it's all a balance; if it's important to you and worth the effort they will adjust. If it doesn't seem that important, wait a while and try again. If you're just doing it for them, wait it out; the day will come when they're ready and there's no need to force it.

Hope's Mama said...

Michelle this post broke my heart. I don't comment much any more but I had to stop by today. I'm in exactly the same boat, though I haven't even chanced leaving Angus behind yet, as I know this is exactly what would happen. I had to leave him with a very dear friend who he knows and loves and plays with their son exactly the same age, for 10 minutes the other day, and he lost the plot. When I returned, he was wailing and my friend was holding him, sprawled out in her arms. He had been thrashing about and she did not know what to do with him. Nothing calmed him down, and like I said I was gone 10 minutes. And she was a friend. I feel I'm doing the right thing being a full time stay at home mum, but it does seem to come at a cost. I too looked at leaving Angus at the creche at the gym many months ago, but it never eventuated, so I too am second guessing myself now. I worry that if it continues this way, I'm going to have to attend school with him. Ok joking, but you know what I mean!
I think if I were you I'd be scared to attempt this again as well, though I know everyone will say "keep trying". Sounds like you're all a bit traumatised by it all and I don't blame you. Take as long as you need.
Thinking of you all.

Devon said...

Ditto what Claire said...

Peighton just started preschool and I was so worried about her. The day before she started we spent an hour in her class, playing and having fun.

When drop-off came 2 days later she was happy as a peach to go off and play! Granted, she has been in the church nursery for about a year now so I guess she is sorta used to it...

I do think its important that they get used to be away from you. Start with 10 minutes, then 20....You get it. It does get easier and by you coming back to get them EVERY SINGLE TIME you drop them off somewhere, it builds security in them. Even if mommy leaves us for a bit she is always coming back...

((hugs)) I now how the mama heart hurts when our babies are sad. Hang in there!

Ms. J said...

You are being way too hard on yourself! As many of the other posters suggested, I'd also start with spending time with them in the nursery and slowly decrease it.

Another idea . . . would one of the babysitters in that nursery be willing to come to your house for some sitting while you are in the house, and eventually you can decrease time you are in room, so when you do go to their nursery they see that caretaker and feel more soothed?

Their reaction is natural and normal. That other kids/babies don't get upset at the start is, well, weird to me. You know I have loads of experience in attachment via Lil Pumpkin, including nervous attachment and the anxiety a new place or person can bring. Go gentle on yourself, Mama Bear.

Have another diet coke, on me ;o)

Anonymous said...

don't feel bad and claire advice is great =) but don't worry to much my now 8yo gabby (born at 30wg) was the same way lol but at 4 went to pre-school with no issues =) so they do grow out of this when "they" are ready so don't push if ur not ready cuz im the same way about leaving them where they don't want to be just follow ur instincts and if u want to make it work i would really do what claire said <3

Sophie said...

Aww Michelle. I've been there. And I know it makes you feel like crap, but pretty soon, they will love it. They will adore it. I would suggest going in early and spending 10-15 minutes in there with them... when they feel secure they will get up and play... and then leave... They will cry the first couple of times but its amazing how quickly they stop once you're gone and they've made a few friends.

But yeah, maybe give it a little time just to recover. :( I remember how it broke my heart with Caelan too...

schnitzelbank said...

When we moved across the country, my son was almost 2, and we didn't have any family nearby anymore. My son had never been away from me, and when I joined the gym, he was going to have to get used to being away from me in the "kid care."

I stayed with him the first time, just sort of sat on the side and let him go/come back to me a few times. We only stayed for about 15 min. Actually, all the other kids were getting upset, "Where's my mommy? Why isn't my mommy here?" Anyways, the next day, we went back and on the way in the car, we talked about, "Mommy always comes back." I gave him a big hug and a kiss, dropped him off and said, "Mommy always comes back." He got hysterical as I was leaving. I heard it. I just went to the gym for a few minutes. Not a workout. I think I got a cup of coffee in the snack area. And then I came back. He was crying, but not hysterical. Repeat, repeat, repeat, spreading out the time to 30 min, then 45, then 60... suddenly, I was able to go workout for 90 and he didn't care. The whole process probably took me 2 weeks (going three or four times per week).

When he was almost 3, he started preschool. He had NO problems. He was a little nervous on Day 1, but didn't freak out. The teachers were surprised. I think getting him used to that, "Mommy always comes back" refrain sort of helped him.

Hang in there, it can be done.

Jenni said...

(Having now read the other comments)

I just want to echo what others have said about making sure they know they can trust you. That's why I don't sneak out, even though a lot of teachers will suggest that (get them busy with a toy then slip out when they're not looking). I *always* am honest that I need to go to ____ BUT I will be back. I agree with leaving for shorter times then longer and longer. And, in conjunction, stay with them for shorter and shorter times. I've seen other moms tell kids that they will stay, and then slip out... I can't lie to my kid. I may get him distracted with a toy for actually getting out the door, but I have told him before that I will be going. He knows. When he looks up and I'm gone, he may be a bit upset, but he's not shocked and he doesn't feel abandoned, you know?

And ditto ditto ditto what others have said about preparing. Talk about what is coming, be frank about the upsides and downsides. Yes, there are new toys/friends to play with. Maybe there's a fun snack! Yes, mommy won't be there, because mommy needs to go to ____, but mommy always comes back... I think books are a great learning tool, and so is role playing.

Let us all know how it goes. :)