Hugs Open Doors

Last week I worried my heart would break.

Or my toddler would hate me.

Or both.

My 3-year-old was starting a preschool class. There are 3 reasons I dreaded it.

  1. He JUST turned 3. Four days earlier. He’s so innocent. And I don’t want him to lose any of it.
  2. I knew he would cry. We are still not able to leave him at Sunday school. The separation causes unstoppable tears, and we are always called back. We simply help out in class.
  3. It’s never easy. This one means I have to admit he’s not my baby anymore. Sigh.

We had hyped up school all week. Visited his room, met his teacher, packed his backpack, got him an Olaf water bottle, and went over the schedule. First, you wash your hands. Then, you sit at the table for breakfast. Then, you get to play…

He seemed excited. He smiled for his first day picture. He even picked a dandelion for his teacher. Which made her melt, by the way. 🙂

The fateful morning was going so well. Too well. I should have known.

26 - hugs

After he chose the orange plate for breakfast, I gave him a hug and asked, “When do I pick you up?”

“After lunch,” he remembered.

I rushed to the door.

And that’s when things crumbled.

The doorknob had one of those child-proof rubber things on it. Good for safety – keeping the kids in – but I needed out. Child-proof? I beg to differ. Human-proof, maybe. I bet a dog or cat could figure it out. But I couldn’t.

I gotta get out of here, I thought. I don’t want him to see me at the door.

I kept trying to grasp the knob with my sweating fingers just enough to turn it. What’s the trick to those things? I never used one with my kids. I was clueless. Let me out, already!

My eyes pleaded with the teacher as she was occupying my son. I mouthed, I can’t open the door, to her.

She jumped up to help me, and he looked toward me, and… darnit, there went the tears!

After figuring out the doorknob thingy two seconds too late, I left. I could hear his cries getting louder. Don’t think about it, I thought. He’ll be okay. He’ll settle down.

I did not burst into tears like I had expected. My heart was heavy, knowing he was sad, scared, and wanting his Mama. But it didn’t break. I survived. After calling within 20 minutes to find out he was okay. He survived, too.

I know countless mothers and fathers experienced school crises the last several days. But my doorknob episode is not actually the focus of this post.

It’s about what happened the day before.

My toddler was having a crying fit after misbehaving. To calm him (distract him, really), we went to his room to select his shirt for school the next morning. He chose a blue one to match his eyes, and gray shorts. Then, he started to cry again.

At first, I thought he was just continuing his prior outburst. I would normally have given him time to calm down in his room. But I saw that blue shirt out of the corner of my eye. And it nagged at me.

I sat at the end of his bed and motioned for him to join me. I hugged him close and asked what was wrong. It could have been anything. Remembering that his brother took his toy truck. Knowing nap time was coming and not wanting to sleep.

But he answered, “I’m scared.”

Shoot! My heart tightened. You know what we feel for our kids. We never want them sad or scared or hurt. Ever.

  • [Me: What are you scared of?]
  • [Him: I’m scared of my school.]
  • [Me: Oh, I understand. It is a little scary. Because it’s new. It’s normal to feel nervous about something that’s new. But you don’t have to be scared of your school. New things can be fun, too.] I prayed I was saying the right things.
  • [Him: Do you think the other kids will like me?] Oh my goodness.
  • [Me: Of course they will! You’re a sweet boy. As long as you are nice to them, they will see what a good friend you can be.]
  • [Him: I will be nice.]
  • [Me: You ARE a nice boy! Maybe you could teach them some of the songs you know.]
  • [Him: Like Yankee Doodle Dandy?]
  • [Me: Yes, that’s a good one.]

He then told his older brother he was “nervous about his school.” Luckily, his brother caught on and admitted he was nervous his first time. But then he found out how much fun it was. He told his brother he would really like it, too. Bless him.

Here’s the thing. If I had not paused at the difference with his crying, I could have missed the opportunity to discover the reason behind it.

If I had not hugged him close instead of responding normally with time and space, he may not have opened up about his fear.

It might have continued in his mind, growing larger and larger, until it blew up the day of school.

It was not realistic to think he would be dry-eyed on this day, happily waving goodbye to his Mama. But that first drop-off did go better than I expected. He could have been yanking himself away from the teacher, screaming and trying to chase after me out the door. Which I witnessed another mom agonizing over as I left the building. Pray for her, please. 🙂

When I picked him up, he said, “I had a good day, Mama. I cried 3 times, and then I stopped.” My little boy…so BIG.

Bless those teachers who dried his tears when I’d prefer it be me. Actually, when I’d prefer to not have caused those tears.

They consoled, they read him books, they let him cling to them while he was adjusting to a new world – sitting on their laps for coloring – bringing out the playdough – and sitting nearby while he ate lunch.

Bless them for the hugs, too. I know they shared many with him.

Not only can hugs unlock our children’s fears, but they can chase them away, too.

So the next time your child is upset, ask what’s bothering them with a loving hug. It does wonders.

My little one certainly got extra hugs and kisses from me that night.

I hope with every hug, he stores up enough love to get him through Day #2…and #3…and #4…until he is my dry-eyed boy, happy to see his teachers and friends again. That will happen, right?

How did your first day of school experiences turn out? Please share – my heart is with yours!

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