My world is about to get FRIGGIN. ROCKED. Little man is starting preschool. I’m sweating in the trenches picturing the good-bye. Huge chunks of his life are about to happen behind my back.
“Good, Mama. Let’s play trains” – that’s what I’ll get when I comb for clues about his day. I’ll email the teachers (poorly veiling my mistrust, desperate to know HOW IS MY SON WHEN I LEAVE?!) I’ll be dissatisfied with the neatly packaged “Adjusting well!” and “Liked by his peers!” I’m told I may spend his first day enjoying the Keurig and free WiFi downstairs. I’d prefer a one-way mirror and a Valium.
Here’s my fear: in three school hours, my three years of work will disintegrate into the compostable, recyclable, sustainable fucking preschool garden. My authentic, confident kiddo will somehow enter the Boysenberry class a soft scarecrow, hatched from a cheap, drugstore pantyhose egg, vulnerable to the ravenous vultures. Lay it on me, Teacher: Who hurt his feelings? Excluded him? Shoved him? Did he feel unseen? Unheard? Unwanted? I want an itemized list of the offenders. Addresses, phones, and the colleges to which they may one day apply. I’ll curse nasty voodoo on their negligible parents, too. What long-term marks might stain my baby’s soul from their transgressions? And when my boy is the offender, I must soak in my own contradiction, nauseous from the fumy smell of hypocrisy.
OH MY GOD, WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD LEAVE HER KID AT PRESCHOOL? Report me to the services, for I am guilty of raising him to leave me.
How did Mom survive this business? I was 19 — a Hunter College student, living in Times Square with a Village Voice roommate. I’d bartend until the crack of ass, then subway home. When did Mom begin coloring her hair from my bullshit antics?
In 2.75 hours (I plan to linger 15 extra minutes), my thick, red hair will turn grey, then white. Everyone will get whiplash. It won’t stop there. What color hair belongs to a mother steeped in grief? A deep shade of eggplant? A dingy blue like the murky bottom of an abandoned well? Or the garbage truck floor where the gnarly juices spring from holes in their cheap, plastic bags, draining together in a sludgy pool? This will be my hair, depicting the depths of my mourning.
And I am a RIE mom. I do not hover, helicopter, or help. (Fine, minimally.) He finds his way up the slide if he wants to come down. How I bite my tongue instead of praising unnecessarily – all the “Good Jobs!” I swallowed to foster genuine confidence from within instead of seeking empty praise from others.
What happens to his mind and heart in 180 minutes of Boysenberry blur? And you who warned, “Boys are easier but you later lose them to a woman.” Fuck you for planting this seed. It’s starting already? Now he begins to forget the oceans of tears I cried when he had his heart surgery at three months old, my innards turned to thinly cut Swiss, riddled with agony over handing my baby to a gloved man with a blue mask covering his nose and mouth, a one-inch visibility strip of surgeon eyes for me to envision for five plus torturous hours, operating on a heart the size of a walnut.
And what of the three to five sleepless nights for Every!Single!Tooth! clawing its way up? The nasty parasite he caught from I-don’t-fucking-know so he nursed, puked and shat in such a tight rotation I didn’t emerge for two months? The broken arm at 15 months? The three yoga balls we busted, bouncing him to sleep when instructed not to let him cry over 45 seconds until his heart could handle it at six months. Countless colds, sore throats, fevers and crib-jumping — all which overturned sleep-training progress. HOLY GOD – are you telling me he won’t stay mine regardless of how gently I sleep-trained him!? Two to three minute increments, loving mantras coming out my ass. I’ll stand at his wedding altar barking, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY MIND-NUMBING SLEEP BOOKS I READ TO PREPARE THE PERFECT METHOD AND NOW YOU JUST PRANCE INTO YOUR LIFE?” OH WHAT THEY SAY, THE POWER OF PUSSY IS SO TRUE, AND I WILL FOREVER BE A BLUE-HAIRED, GARBAGE-JUICE-SMELLING MONSTER WEARING A BLACK-MATERNITY-YOGA-PANT-UNIFORM!!!
What will my boy retain as he enters this institution?
Promise me the feeling of safety. That home is wherever my available chest awaits his salty, stained face. Honey, I’m the mama who bought you the pink pacifiers during your fuchsia phase. I never forced hugs, encouraging you to listen to your body no matter how many relatives you offended. I still change your diapers as your legs curl over your dresser, awaiting signs of potty readiness. Who gives a rat’s ass if you blew out three candles on your cupcake last week? Throw another case of size-six Huggies on the Amazon Prime – I love that boy.
Yet here I am DRIVING you, willingly DROPPING YOU for virtual strangers to neglect for 2.25 hours (I’m sticking around the Boysen-butt-fucking-berries today!) No one understands how my boy needs me!
Or maybe I need to believe he does…
Or maybe he’ll be just fine…
Or maybe a mash-up pouch of the above.
After all, haven’t my stumbles made me who I am? Is this just the business of being a parent? The capable staff will do what they are trained to do. Let’s be real – we picked the best preschool in town. He’ll get through whatever comes his way. That is what we do.
Fine. Someone said separation is harder on parents. How does it feel to sit there being 98.6% right, Smuggy Smug? Rub it in my gaping wound. Offer me a tissue, for I’ll be the mama waiting downstairs, as I’ve decided I won’t be leaving this week. I promise to put the “gradual” in “gradual, gentle separation,” inspiring you to reword your handbook yet.