Daycare Drama, round infinity

Categories: Hacking Life, Parenting


Our youngest kids started at a new preschool and daycare recently, and the Mama Drama is back. Not my 4-year-old, she of the dramatic yet silent tears. This time, it’s my usually cheerful 2-year-old. And it is killing me.

Week One of “New School” was fine and dandy. Both kids were up and raring to go (way too) early in the morning. My daughter instantly became the Queen Bee of her classroom, fitting in easily and happily among her new friends. My little boy decided his teachers were “Weally awessum, Mama” and was a hit with new friends as well.

Then came Week Two.

All of a sudden, my little guy is saying “But I don’t WAANNNNAAA go to school” from the time he sees me reach for my car keys to the time we pull into the parking lot. Then his wail changes to the infinitely more heartbreaking “Mama, I just wanna hang out with YOUUUUUUU.”

He turns into a baby barnacle, and I lug him up the stairs to his older sister’s classroom. She throws her things in the general direction of her cubby, shrugs out of her coat, and is off to play with her friends before her coat even hits the floor.

Then I lug him to his classroom, back downstairs.

He’s fine for a bit, but as I inch toward he door he dissolves, and my heart does, too. I know I’m probably making things worse by staying for a few minutes — drawing out the good-bye process and all — but from the way he’s clinging, you would never imagine that this child has been in care since he was 6 months old. In fact, his teachers probably think he’s never been out of my sight.

I know it’s not the new daycare. How do I know? Because this round of Mama Drama started while he was still at his old daycare. It’s not the new caregivers. It’s me.

I also know that he’s probably fine three minutes after I leave. I fact, I know that for sure, because yesterday I waited around the corner, at the top of the stairs where he couldn’t see me but where I could still hear him, and I listened and counted while he cried for me.

I know many people will have a field day with this post, but believe me, staying home is not an option for this breadwinner mom, especially not in this economy. It goes against every instinct to not do anything when your child cries for you, even though you know he’s OK. Being a working mom doesn’t change that.

So I stood there and tried not to cry, and counted. It took 210 seconds for him to stop crying. Three and a half minutes, until not only was he not crying, he was laughing.

I wiped my own eyes and went to work.

Anyone else go through this? How did you handle the Mama Drama?

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15 comments so far...

  • Aww…hugs to you. It’s helped us to have a routine for goodbyes. She calls it “hugs and kisses and fuzzy nuzzles.” (The first two are obvious; the last is rubbing our noses together.)

    So before I say goodbye, I say, “Hugs and kisses and fuzzy nuzzles!” We do those, I say goodbye, and then I leave…quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid. Even if I don’t want to. Even if I cry in the car.

    You probably already do something like that already, though. I think your best option is what you’ve already done: counted the seconds until he stopped crying.

    And I’m crossing my fingers on your behalf against mommy drive-by shrapnel…

    Just me  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 9:41 am

  • My first grade son did this right up through preschool and it killed me. Especially since my other son never sheds a tear and thoroughly loves school. You’ll get through it. You know you picked a safe, loving place for your child and he will be fine. Occasionally my older son talks about preschool and he has fond memories. I guess he forgot about all the drama!

    We just discovered Anna Dewdney’s “Llama Llama, Misses Mama”. It’s very sweet.

    Sharon  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 10:37 am

  • i stay and play for 10-15 minutes most mornings until she becomes excited about an activitiy with her “friends” and then i leave and she is happy to see me go! she clings to me until that point…

    sometimes it’s harder for me in the evening - she will cling to me for a good hour after i pick her up which i LOVE but also makes me feel so guilty because I was away so many hours

    emma  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 11:14 am

  • My son went through this for one week since he’s been there. After about 15 months of preschool, he decided one week that he wanted to cling to me. We had to literally pry his fingers off of my tank top. It made me sad but I know how much fun he has so once his fingers were off of me, I kissed him and ran. I had no other solution except to get out of there quickly so that he could get over it faster. The next week, he was back to normal.

    Oceans Mom  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 1:12 pm

  • We went through this at almost exactly the same age, and my kids have also been in daycare their whole lives. It’s not about daycare or even wanting Mommy. It’s about the transition.

    What finally worked for us — but it took a looong time — was to give him more control over that transition. After a hug, we told him to push us out of the room. It’s funny and it’s like he gets to decide that you’re leaving, and that makes it more okay for him. He still gives us a “hug and a push” now at drop-offs and really likes the routine.

    I’m sorry. I know it’s really tough.

    Tricia  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 3:03 pm

  • Girl, I feel your pain. My oldest son went through this for about 2 years…from about age 2 to age 4. He simply didn’t like transitions. It wasn’t just day care. It was everything that was a “change”…even going to see his beloved grandparents. Magically when he was about 4 he just stopped.

    He’s nearly 11 now…no lasting scars.

    Karla E  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  • I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but avoiding Mama Drama is why my husband drops off our son at this Grandma’s house. Other parents I’ve spoken to have commented that Daddy drop-off takes 5 minutes. If the Mamas drop-off it takes an hour and Mama’s crying at the end. Just a thought if it works for your scheduling.

    0.Penelope  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 7:36 am

  • I get the “I just want to hang out with you” from my five year old daughter. How do I handle it? Badly!

    Mama Zen  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 9:38 am

  • Thanks for all of your wonderful advice and support, everyone! Today, my husband dropped the little one off — and was in and out in less than 5 minutes. Guess that’s why it’s called “Mama Drama” and not “Daddy Drama.”

    We’ve tried the good-bye routine idea, but I think it’s time to revamp our routine — I love the idea of him pushing me out the door. I’ll let you know how we fare!

    Lylah  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 10:03 am

  • I have no wisdom to share with you, just wanted to give you a (((hug))) and say that I hope he grows out of this phase soon - for both your sakes, but mostly for yours.

    You certainly don’t need that added stress on top of just trying to live in today’s economy. Hang in there!!

    Heather @ nobody but yourself  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 12:03 pm

  • I was a day care teacher for several years, and I reassured many parents that their kids loved them and missed them but were happy and fine after they left. I know it’s not that easy; kudos to you for keeping to the routine, no matter how much it hurts some days.

    Daisy  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 2:43 pm

  • I agree with the daddy drop off. My husband drops off the kids and there is much less drama. He is in and out pretty quickly. Our older one does a shy routine, but generally the teachers help get him interested in something. I think dad’s are less guilty about leaving and can just go without looking back. The advice from our teachers is to just go once the meltdown starts. The longer you stay the longer it lasts. You can always call 10 minutes later to make sure things are OK.

    Shelly  |  April 4th, 2009 at 8:09 pm

  • I have no suggestions-I just wanted to give some support. My husband does drop offs and he is in and out in 5 minutes. I feel guilty for working-I am not sure I would survive drop offs. You are a great mama and you will get through it! Hugs!

    ramseyquipp  |  April 6th, 2009 at 8:39 am

  • I can’t even imagine. I do not have kids yet, but I have many friends that are going through this. I’m sure it breaks your heart. Hang in there.

    This story reminds me of a Darrius Rucker song title “It won’t be like this for long.” It’s a beautiful song.

    Best wishes.

    Betsy  |  April 6th, 2009 at 9:30 am

  • This happens with us every so often. With me, too. Sometimes don’t you just wake up in the morning and really really NOT want to go to work? You just want to stay home and veg or sleep or whatever. I think it’s the same with kids. Of all ages. But, we have to drag ourselves out and take care of the business of life. So do they. It’s just the way it is.

    This, too, shall pass. (((Lylah)))

    Robyn  |  April 6th, 2009 at 12:15 pm