Monday, February 14, 2011

Mamma I Will Not Go Back To School

We have all faced it….those first few days and weeks, when our little ones leave the nest and head out there, to the first school or playschool ever, when the time first comes for our darlings to leave us for atleast some time, and spend an important part of their day with another, or more people, other than you, and get affected by it.

I, as a mother, have faced the very same experience. And suddenly, after a year of going to school, my daughter now seems terrified all over again of going to school.

It was all fine, the mornings were a rush-hour of cuddling up to little baby to wake her up, to kiss that tilted head of soft tresses lying on that Minnie mouse pillow, to nudge those soft cotton hands and tickle that cute pudgy tummy, telling her it was morning again and time again for her to go to her favourite place – school. Mornings were the time to hurry and run behind her to get her to finish her bowl of breakfast, to make her ready, to tie those cute ponytails with the matching ribbons, getting those tiny feet into the tiny little school shoes…mornings were fun…to take her in my arms and get her seated in the school bus….it was so much fun to see her wave back at me with that smile on her face and to hear her say ‘Mamma don’t be sad, I will come in the afternoon and play with you….’ Mornings were fun….

How did all this change? How did I not see those signs that were bothering her? That grew so big that all these mornings changed?

It started with her gradually telling me she did not want to go to school….now this was something! My daughter had always been the ideal student, even though she is just three-n-half, she always wanted to go to school, even on the weekends….coming from her, this statement of ‘don’t want to go to school’ was quite a shock…

I noticed the clinginess, the stress in that little three-year-old head and heart, that worry that morning would mean going back to school…

Of course as all parents do, we too had done enough of reading and understanding the tricks and tips of parenting…being the editor of a parenting magazine means that I get to interact with and talk about most things related to parenting, but it does not mean that I am a know-all on parenting – being a mum sure does!

I wondered if she was being bullied or, worse still, if she was the bully – whether a victim or a bully is a question that most parents face sometime or the other and trust me, both have the same scare for a parent…

Talking to your child is the key to help them ease their worries, but talking to a three-year-old about their fears can sometimes be really directionless – if these little ones are scared or confused, many times they will not be able to word their concern, and a parent has to constantly work his/her way around different topics and play around with words to know where the problem lies. I talked to my baby about many things – what happened in school, who came to class, who was her friend, who did she like in class, who she did not like in class at all, what did the teacher say, did she cry in school, why did she cry…so many things that were aimed at reaching that one point – to know where her fears lay…and trust me, it was quite difficult.. But yes, we did keep talking and trying, and some key words did spill out…

The worst thing for a parent is to keep a straight face when your child is going to school scared and crying…you cannot let them see the tears, yet they are so difficult to hide. You need to be strong and assure your child that all will be well, that mummy is right here, waiting for baby to be back, that after school is always mummy-time, but keeping yourself calm and in control while your baby is screaming and begging you to not let go is an achievement, something that you absolutely need to become a master of.

Next step was to have a word with the class teacher, to know what was going on there, was someone scaring her, was someone bullying her, or was she the one who was bothering others and losing friends? Appointments were taken and we soon found ourselves seated at the school reception, waiting anxiously to know what the teacher said….
We were told there were tantrums in class, that there was unnatural behaviour, that our baby was crying and hitting out to whoever tried to be near her, pushing away all friends and preferring to be on her own…this was so unlike the baby we knew at home, a loving, playful, cheerful and full-of-life baby, a baby who loves to dance and sing and make friends….the teacher soon confirmed our worst fears, that baby was taking out her scare and confusion on others, that we would all have to keep trying to ease her worries..

We decided to give her all our time, not that we were not giving her our full attention earlier, but now it would really be ALL our time…we had always prided ourselves on being full-time parents, of course we are both working, but I make it a point to keep a balance between work and home. When I have my meetings, I try and do most of them while she is in school, so that I can pick her up and then spend the rest of the day with her, while she plays and draws, I do my writing and working. But this would have to change. So out went the work hours while she was home, the laptop was now only a creature of the dark, surfacing only when little baby was fast asleep in mamma’s embrace, when mamma had tucked that little doll under the sheets and kissed that sleeping head goodnight, the laptop came out only then, set to welcome the dawn…I realised I would not be taking away any more of her baby-mamma time with my work, so this was a conscious effort on my part.

I began accompanying her to school, to help her ease the fear a bit
, to make her understand that mamma would be there for her right outside school, that she would be safe and with her best friend – her mamma. Of course it is difficult, especially if you are a working mother, to drop and pick up your child each day from school, but some things are really more important than anything else in the world – isn’t it? And we as parents are smart enough to manage our hours in ways that will not really affect the work. It’s okay if you cannot personally do this each day, I know I am lucky to be able to do this personally. If you really don’t have that option, why not take the help of a family member or a close friend who baby is comfortable with? A few days of dropping at school and picking up from school can ease the worries a lot….

Some ‘self-proclaimed’ ‘I-know-it-all’ people have told me they know the perfect solution to our predicament – have a second baby…For all you parents and people out there, this is THE WORST and most stinking piece of advice you can ever get or give! And please, no matter how convincing or sure they may sound, please do not listen to them if you really wish to be fair to your baby. Having a second child at a time when your first-born is already insecure will only add up to your baby’s worries. You need to first make your baby be confident and know that you are always there for baby, that your attention and time is undivided…Imagine, bringing home another baby when your already scared baby is pining for you all the time! There is nothing worse you could do to both the children…..

I know it sounds harsh, but sometimes, we really need to be firm with our babies. I know it’s difficult when you see those two eyes grow wide and fill up with tears, but a little firmness in your voice will let baby know that sometimes, they really need to listen to mamma papa about certain things. Don’t scold or shout, talk to them gently but firmly, tell them they have to go to school to grow big like mamma papa, and then they can go to office, just the way they want (I think ALL babies want to go to office). Talk about all the positive things about going to school.

In the initial scare-stage, when baby is absolutely refusing to go to school, plan a few surprises…’don’t cry at school, be a good girl, and we will go for a movie’, ‘you have been a good girl at school this whole week, so I want to take you out for a treat for your favourite food’, ‘see, you have been such a grown up baby, did not cry in school at all, so here is a big mommy bag for you’……it’s really okay to once-in-a-while bribe your child for going to school and not crying the whole day. Once they start settling in, they will begin to enjoy their day..the key is to convince them to be in school.

Of course keep an eye on the school, know your child’s teachers and make it a point to interact with them, who your baby interacts with on a daily basis, keep an eye on the driver and conductor of the bus in which your baby travels, talk to them, talk to other parents and see if they have faced the same situations.

Sometimes, a parent may do everything and baby may still not agree to go back…think about talking to your child’s school counselor. Almost all schools have a school counselor these days, so it is really best to have a session with your child and the counselor. I know you may have a lot of apprehensions in your mind, many people think of too much baggage with the term ‘counsellor’, but trust me, sometimes, a counselor may just talk the very same things with your baby that you did; its just that, sometimes, babies tend to tell others a completely different version of things than they may have told you….that could be the first key to bringing back your baby’s smile and to ease those fears…..
Trust me, sometimes, its really required for you to go ALL THE WAY to help baby. You may fear that people will talk when they hear a three-year-old was required to go to a counselor, forget about all that, what others may think is the last thing that should come to your mind while trying to help your baby…

We are still working on it…..It will take time, that is for sure, but don’t lose hope, don’t give up, and most important, DON’T LOSE YOUR COOL…REMAIN PATIENT…your baby will gradually ease out of this fear, and trust me, that lovely smile will be back, waving at you and heading to a great day at school.

And like I always believe in and say:
'Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children' - MJ

Happy Parenting!!!!

- Debolina Raja Gupta

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