Motherhood Update: How Sloan's Doing with School

The roller coaster of emotions that comes with mothering a preschooler.
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The roller coaster of emotions that comes with mothering a preschooler.
Motherhood Update School2

It's hard to believe that it's been almost exactly a month since Sloan started preschool, but I guess it's official now! For the past month, she's been attending school five days a week for full days—and, to my enormous relief, loving it. In the months leading up to it, I was a nervous wreck. I debated whether to bring her home for lunch, how to best approach nap time, and whether to send her to school at all before deciding it was ultimately in her best interest (not to mention inevitable), and I couldn't let my own anxieties rob her of the experience. To celebrate the last month, and answer the outpouring of support and questions I've received, Leslie compiled a list of your top questions for me to answer about my experience as the mother of a now-preschooler:

1. First of all, I know you were incredibly nervous the week preceding Sloan going to school. How are you feeling now?
I'm feeling great! I really was a mess leading up to her first day of school, so I'm happy to report that we're both doing really well. I remember how difficult it was for me when I was dropped off at preschool (if I'm being totally honest, I was even a mess when my parents left me at college), so I think I was projecting a lot of that anxiety onto Sloan. But I was wrong to assume she's exactly like me, and to my utter delight, she's taken to it so beautifully and is absolutely loving school.

2. How has Geoffrey been?
G never doubted that she'd transition easily (aside from some tears the first few days) and had the utmost confidence in her, which was nice to see. 

3. What were Sloan's feelings about school in the weeks and days leading up to it? (And did she understand the concept of it?)
I think part of the problem was just how much Sloan understood about the concept of school and that we'd eventually be leaving her there. We'd done a "Parent And Me" class there for nearly a year, during which she never had any issues. But the first time they asked the parents to leave the room to test out whether the kids could be alone with the teachers, Sloan was the only kid who truly freaked out. I knew that she loved the school, but because she didn't have a ton of experience being watched by anyone but G, our nanny, my parents, and me, I worried that it would be a hard transition for her. But they encouraged us to talk about school before her first day and do so in a really positive, fun way. It definitely felt silly at moments, "Hey G! What's YOUR favorite part about school? I love the swing sets, when we do art, and all the really nice teachers!" At times, I didn't think Sloan was buying it, but now I think that positive reinforcement helped remind her that school was a place where she'd be really happy.

4. What did you do to help prepare Sloan for school?
We talked about it a lot, we showed her things we were buying especially for school (i.e. her new lunch box, backpack, special snacks, etc) and came up with a little slogan, per se, in which we would ask her, "What do mommy and daddy always do?" and she answers, "Come back." It's reassuring to her to repeat things, so we tried to remind her that even though she was going to school, that we would always be there to pick her up.

5. What was Sloan's first day like, for you and for her?
It was emotional. She knew it was coming and so that morning was tough because she'd be happy one second and then remember where she was going and would start crying about not going to school. We tried to keep things light and kept talking about all of the fun things she was going to do and that we'd be there to pick her up after her nap to go out for ice cream. I didn't cry that morning until we'd dropped her off, at which point I lost it. I was a mess. Since she was so sad when we left, I was scared that she was going to be scared and sobbing in a corner the entire day. But about 20 minutes after we left, I received a photograph from one of the teachers of her on the swing, with a timid smile on her face. She wasn't grinning, but I could tell she wasn't scared or sad and that she was enjoying herself. As soon as I saw that, I felt a flood of relief and then just began counting down the minutes until we got to pick her up. That first moment when she ran into my arms at the end of the day was so, so special. We'd been waiting outside the classroom and I remember just shaking with excitement—I was just so proud of her (and me, ha!). Once we were walking back to the car, she was talking a mile a minute about everything she'd done that day. 

6. Was there any advice you were given about her first day of school you found particularly useful?
I received so much wonderful advice from readers, friends, and teachers that helped make our first day as smooth as possible. The first was to be as organized as possible that morning so that we weren't rushing around in a panic packing her lunch and getting her dressed. I did a lot the night before: I set aside her outfit, cut up her fruit for lunch, squeezed her orange juice, and put everything we'd need by the door. That way, we could focus on just spending time with her and putting out good energy. Secondly, we made our goodbye short and sweet. Multiple people urged us not to slip away without letting her know so that she wouldn't lose faith in us that we might just leave at any given time. So we said we'd be coming back, gave her a kiss, told her we loved her, handed her off to a teacher, and left. It felt rather abrupt, but the next morning, it was infinitely easier and I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that she understood the routine wasn't expecting us to stay.  

7. How is she doing now with it?
She's fantastic. On the fourth morning, she was galloping down the hall asking to go to school.

8. What do mornings and school nights look like for you now? Have they changed at all?
Our mornings are very different from before, and that wasn't something I had anticipated because I think I was just so nervous about her transition. Before, we had very leisurely mornings. Whoever was watching Sloan (G and I trade mornings so that one of us can either sleep in or work out, etc.) would get up with her and we'd all stay in our pajamas, eat breakfast, sip our coffee, and when our nanny arrived at 8:30 a.m., I'd then get ready for work. But now there's so much more to do. We feed her breakfast, make her lunch, get her dressed, brush her teeth, put on sunscreen, pack her bag... the list goes on. But the one nice thing is that our weekends feel much more indulgent now. The first Saturday after she started, she got up realllly early, so I grabbed her out of her room, put her in between us in bed, and we let her watch cartoons while we fell back asleep for a few minutes. It means that our weekends feel markedly different from the week days, which is a good change of pace. And even though we don't sleep in, getting to hang out in our pajamas while sipping coffee on the floor now feels like a treat. Our nights are pretty much identical.

9. How has your life changed most dramatically since Sloan started attending school?
The biggest difference has simply been adjusting the ways in which I see her in my mind. I incorrectly assumed she would struggle as much as I did when I first went to school and now I realize that she's just SO much more capable, independent, and resilient than I ever realized. And because of that, I worry less simply because I know she can handle whatever comes at her.

10. What has been the most exciting part about her attending school?
Seeing the little changes on a daily basis. Whether it's a new song she comes home singing or phrases we've never heard before, she is always surprising us. 

11. Now that she's in school, only sixteen years to go! Any ages or years you're most looking forward to? How about dreading?
Ha we literally said that to each other on the second day of school. We had been so focused on that first day that we'd kind of failed to realize that for the next sixteen years, our mornings will be very different and a little more chaotic. I'm absolutely loving this age and would be happy to skip right on over the angsty teenage years ;)