This week has been a major struggle with our attempt to get Youngest into kindergarten. She is five now and should have one year of kindergarten before starting school next year, though she is on the cusp of the cut-off birthday date and so could wait one more year after that.
She went to another small kindergarten with her big sister for a few months when she was 3 ½ but then suddenly went through a huge separation anxiety phase for several months. (We're not sure what triggered it, though she had been sick that week, and her favourite aunt had been in hospital with pneumonia a month before that).
Last year I tried to start her in the kindergarten of the school where the older children are (the small one having closed), but it was big and noisy and she really didn't seem ready, so I left it till this year, since I'm working from home anyway. She spent her mornings last year quite happily playing elaborate imaginative games, drawing, playing with the rabbit and guinea-pigs, while I was at the computer.
The beginning of this school year found me back in the
Once I got back we decided that I should take her a couple of mornings per week and stay with her, to give her a chance to get used to it all and find her feet. So we've done that for about three weeks now, some days going quite well, other days with hiccups. I've been trying to stay unobtrusively in the background wherever possible, finding sewing jobs to do to stop me going crazy with the tedium! She has got one friend there, so she has been alright as long as she could sit beside this friend, hold hands with this friend at ring time and play with her in outside time. Any unfamiliar activity had her retreating back to the curtains or to me, but I was hoping that we're making progress.
She had a gastric flu bug at the beginning of last week though - not too bad but a fever for a couple of days, which sent her back into cling mode. We missed a day of school and I turned up with her the next day to be told that the teachers had decided that I shouldn't stay any more with her, that it was school policy that parents shouldn't stay and that if a child wasn't ready to leave its mother then it wasn't ready for school. I was first upset then furious. I insisted on staying with her that day, as we'd had no preparation for this next step - the kindergarten teacher said it was fine with her, that it was a decision made at the teachers' meeting and I should discuss it with the other teachers.
I've spent the rest of the week in an emotional turmoil trying to work out the right thing to do - for her. I protested to the teachers and I can write a letter to ask them to reconsider, but that doesn't help for next week. We've had a couple of conversations with Youngest herself to prepare her for going by herself, but this separation thing is still a huge issue for her and so far she is adamant that she isn't going to go without me. This child is by far the most stubborn (or strong-willed if you prefer!) of the three, but also extremely sensitive, so I worry about her being traumatised if we take her in kicking and screaming against her will.
One element in all this is that we are not 100% confident in the kindergarten itself. The previous one was small with 12 children and an experienced teacher. This one has 25 kids, a teacher and assistant, but less experienced. The older two are at this school though and any alternative would mean another half hour drive and complicated school run logistics, so we want to give it a chance.
My husband is deputed to have another talk with her. Right now the emotional washing machine inside me means I can't see straight on it, let alone be detached and convincing about why she should be brave and take a deep breath and go.
Has anyone else had to deal with this level of separation anxiety? She was fine when I went to
Edited to add: I've just looked back at my post from her first leaving kindergarten in 2006 - my blithe confidence that it was going to be a short lived phase has be in growls of sardonic laughter!