My middle son just turned five. He has been going to preschool since he was three. I admit that it wasn’t the easiest for him to start school but we only went through a few weeks of transition before he happily kissed me goodbye and ran off to play with his friends.
So why does a child that normally goes to school without a struggle, suddenly begin to regress to separation anxiety?
It began about two weeks ago. At the time in the morning where kisses and hugs are exchanged, my son started to cling to my leg. Each day I began to dread drop-off. Some days would be okay, while others were difficult. As I tried to hug him goodbye, he put such a tight grip on my neck that I almost felt my windpipe close up.
He has two very good teachers, in addition to parents that are frequently volunteering in class. I asked them if they noticed any usual behavior from him in school. I wanted to find out if he was having any conflicts with other students or adults at school. There was nothing. I asked him if something at school made him feel sad. His honest and innocent answer was, “No, but I just want you with me. My heart is lonesome for you when you are not here.” With those words, my heart ached.
The first time it happened, I allowed a personal day and took him home from school with the reasoning that maybe he was not feeling well. Not the best approach. Both his brother and Dad were at home sick that day and I thought he was having an off day. That taught him quickly that he had a lot of control. The next time, I did not offer to take him home.
Three days a week, as we walk into school, my little boy that laughs and says good morning to his friends, begins to hold my hand tighter and tighter the closer we get to the classroom. As we put his things away and he writes his name on the sign in sheet, he does not leave my side. From the time I position the baby’s stroller towards the door to leave; my son grabs my leg and holds on. I bend down to start the painful process of saying goodbye and his grip transfers to my neck and he starts to cry. His crying is heavy as if he was preparing for it and holding it in.