Natalie started preschool today. I was doing so well. I was so proud of myself. I was organized, I had everything ready. Natalie woke up nicely and she had breakfast.
Dad and I decided that we would take her together on her first day. As soon as we got to the school, she must have remembered being there last week for the tour, because she started to skip and seemed excited.
We walked into the classroom and she immediately became comfortable and started to play with some of the toys. I spoke to the teacher and explained that she likes to drink lots of water and that she is a picky eater and I showed her the snacks I included. I handed over a blanket and small pillow so that she is comfortable during nap time. I was so proud of myself and then I walked over and gave her a kiss and said good-bye. Dad did the same. We started to leave and that is when Natalie quickly started to make her way towards us. We exited and then peaked through the window (without her noticing us). We saw Ms. Diana go down to Natalie's level and take her hand. Natalie was very attentive to Ms. Diana as she spoke. She didn't cry but looked nervous. We walked away and I was okay. In fact, I was a bit nervous for dad who seemed unsure and stopped a few times to look back. He was worried for her and he didn't feel comfortable. But we assured each other that she would adjust and that she would be fine.
Natalie & Mom skipping along towards school
And now...well, now...I am a big mess. I have been crying off and on throughout the day. If you could see me now, you would be scared. I look and feel terrible. I can hardly type these words, my hands are as shaky as a leaf in the autumn breeze.
Natalie's been going to grandma's since she was four months old and loves her Grandma, so I am nervous about how she will react to being placed in a new environment with new faces, expectations and routines.
This is very different than when Austin was in preschool. I picked him up and I asked a hundred questions and he told me about his day and experiences. But I will not hear that from Natalie today. Natalie is a precious and vulnerable child. She is nonverbal, and that will make it hard for me to get any sort of report other than a hard-to-read behavioral change and what the teacher will tell me at dismissal.
I have to keep in mind that research and evaluation data indicates a strong trend toward improved student outcomes (academically, behaviorally, and socially) when they attend school. School is not only a place where children learn reading, writing and math. It is also a place where they learn to get along with others and develop social skills that are needed to interact adaptively in our cultural environment.
But I must also remember, and this is important, it ultimately really is JUST PRESCHOOL! It is supposed to be fun. I must allow her to enjoy making friends, learn new things, and just have FUN!