As a mom, I've learned how essential it is to trust my instincts. There have been countless times that I've removed Sloan from balancing atop dangerous heights or grabbed something off the ground before she would have put it in her mouth. So a few months ago, when we were talking about sending Sloan to preschool, I almost pulled out. As much as I love the school (we'd been taking her to a Parent & Me class there once a week for the past year), I couldn't shake how uncomfortable the idea of leaving her there five days a week made me feel.
I worried about everything - from whether she'd be able to open her (slightly complicated) lunch box by herself, if she'd make friends, and if she'd question if we'd abandoned her. This was compounded by the fact that she hadn't spent any time away without either G and me, our nanny, or my parents, let alone new teachers and kids she didn't know. The whole thing felt wrong and kept me up nights. It wasn't until I had a meeting with the people who run the school that I realized that sometimes the right choice doesn't always feel that way. The below analogy helped me understand that a little better.
In NASCAR, one of the first things they teach you is what to do when you see a crash occur in front of you. Imagine you're the driver. At that speed, braking isn't really an option and swerving to avoid the crash will result in a wreck of your own. The answer is to go against all survival instincts and aim directly for the middle of the crash. The theory is that by the time you get there, the cars will have bounced off of each other, leaving the site of the crash open to cruise through, unhurt. Sometimes, what makes the most sense is to do the opposite of what you think makes the most sense.
In keeping Sloan out of school, we actually would have been doing her a disservice, by not allowing her to find her own coping mechanisms and then realizing she’ll be okay.
That isn't to say we jumped straight into things without any preparation. In the weeks leading up, we discovered that one of her teachers babysits, and had her to spend a few hours at our home, watching Sloan. The first time we left, Sloan cried so hard that I completely broke down as soon as I stepped out of the house. But within five minutes, I received a photo of Sloan in her Simba lion ears and tail, grinning and holding a book up for the teacher to read. In the time I'd spent crying and fretting, she had learned to cope with her separation and anxiety, and bond with the teacher. At this point, Sloan's been in school for a few weeks and is loving every second of it. She gets so much joy from spending the entire day with her friends and teachers, that it's hard to imagine I nearly robbed her of that experience because of my own worries.
Even when your gut tells you one thing—to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, to put off a trip, to stay in a safe job—sometimes heading straight towards the crash is the safest, and ultimately most rewarding, option.