Motherhood

Overcoming your kid’s first days of school

Not only the kids but also the parents struggle in the first few days of school especially if this is your child’s first time to experience it. You’ve been with your child since he was born and it’s just difficult to see him feel uncomfortable when you send him off to his first day. In our case, I think, us, being in a foreign land has made it more worrisome. I must admit that I nearly cried (a lot) on his first day. LOL. I had this tons of what ifs and until now I still have them. I think it’s part of being a mother, you’ll just never stop worrying.

Now that school has just started for some or will soon start for others, parents’ worries can be overflowing especially for new parents like me. In this blog, I will talk about the struggles we faced and how we went through it.

Looking for a daycare

The system is quite different here in Finland compared to the Philippines but I think the experience can be a little the same for every parent because we all leave our children at school or daycare at some point. Before going here, Nico and I already talked about sending Skyler to a daycare because we are both working. Of course, it was so heart breaking to do this but it was clear to us that at that point, it was our only option. We all need to adjust, even Skyler, when we migrated here so even though I think it’s too early to send him to a daycare, we still did. My colleagues had also assured us that it’s okay and everything will soon be stable and so we pushed through with it.

Even though we are new here and to their system, it was not very difficult to find a daycare that could take care of Skyler during the day. On our first month, since Nico was still working at home by then, he looked after Skyler while I was also looking for a daycare online if I have time in the office. I called some daycare centers near our apartment but since we arrived here past the start of the school year, they were all full already. Good thing, we found one quite near our office. The people from other centers helped Skyler to get accepted and he started the next month.

Some Preparations

We were all excited, of course. I set aside my worries at this time and focused on something positive, like Skyler unlocking another milestone, learning to be independent and socializing. We kept talking to him, telling him that he’d soon go to school and he’d meet his classmates and that they’d play and eat and learn together. He was also so happy whenever we tell him these things especially he’s watching these scenarios on TV. We tried to let him understand that children, at some point, have to go through this change when they grow up and it’s okay to be scared at first because he will soon get over it. Of course, I’m not sure if he understood all of these but I like him listening to these words of encouragement. I believe one day he’ll hear them again and by then he’ll fully understand it and it will be easier for him to accept things. 

As part of the preparation, we bought him the things he needs at the daycare. The daycare sent us a list of the things he’d be needing everyday like a bag where we can put in his water, diapers, extra clothes and indoor shoes. If it’s winter he needs some winter clothes and a winter hat aside from extra shirts, if it’s rainy season like spring or autumn, he needs a raincoat and a cap. Since Skyler is always hungry, we always keep a small pack of his favorite biscuits in his bag even though they also have something to eat at school. We took him with us when we bought his stuff and we let him choose what he wants to bring to school. He chose this bag with a red fox, his water container, etc. We always want his choices to be counted and if not possible, we tell him why we can’t always give him what he wants. I want him to feel that he’s part of everything this small family of us has and that he can talk about whatever he wants. 

Introducing To Daycare

He used to watch Peppa Pig back in the Philippines and then it stopped when we arrived here. He became too busy with other stuff and more curious about the new things around him. But I must admit that him watching these shows has helped me explain to him what a daycare or school is all about. When I tell him that this is a place where the kids play and learn, he could relate right away since he sees it on tv then he’ll start telling stories about what he watched that goes around going and playing in school and learning. Don’t get me wrong. This is not to tell you that you can let your kid watch cartoons, etc. Nico and I, also don’t tolerate him watching for more than an hour but I also don’t want to take this experience away from him. It’s a matter of how much you let him watch tv. You are your child’s parent, you guide them and introduce things to them but you also have the control over these things.

On his first day, Nico and I were both there. At first, we let Skyler “feel” it first, with us around. In each class, there should be 1 teacher and 2-3 nurses (people who help the teacher look after every kid). Each class has around 13 little kids with ages from 1-3. This is not the same with the rest of the daycare centers here but I think this is the standard. His teacher told us we could stay for 2 hours at first so we can all see how the kids do at school. It was morning and during this time they’re outside and playing with other kids from other classes. Skyler was so happy playing. We could see him from where we were standing. It was like a big play ground with a lot of kids and some nurses and we were standing near his classroom which is also in the same playground so he knew we were there. He would smile at us like he was saying it’s okay and he’s happy. What a great view! 

And I thought it was all of it.

First Few Weeks

For the first 2 days, Nico and I would stay in the daycare to look after him for 2 hours and then I’d go to work after that. Nico and Skyler would go back home before lunch time. The 3rd day was like his first day of school without us hanging around. We couldn’t stay this time because we had to let Skyler do his stuff on his own. He’s still excited and I could see that he’s getting along really well with other kids and his teacher and nurses. They would first talk to him in English because that’s how he can understand them but we let them talk to him in Finnish so he won’t be scared and confused when he hears it from other people or from his classmates. After seeing him okay with the others, Nico and I went on our way out while waving him goodbye.

And on this 3rd day, I cried.

Well, at least not on the first day, right? LOL. I think this is because I was happy, too. I mean, I was worried but happy. It’s a mixed of feelings. To be honest, I didn’t know how to feel by then. If we were in the Philippines, we could stay outside the classroom while waiting for him to finish his day at school. But here it is different. They want the parents to accept it and be okay with it as early as possible so kids can move on and be comfortable faster. I remember they would tell Nico to go right away after sending Skyler to school in the morning so Skyler wouldn’t feel like his Dad will always be there during his time at school. Then Nico would just take a peek from the outside. He would then tell me that Skyler was doing okay, he was eating okay and even talking with his other classmates through gestures. How cute! I was so happy and my worries started to go away little by little for these first 2 weeks.

And I thought it was all of it.

The Real First Day

So I was proud I kept telling my mom, who’s in the Philippines, whenever we videocall them that Skyler was really doing good at school. I would tell her he’s so independent already and it’s so fast for him to really get comfortable. My mom was so happy, too, of course. But then, just right before all my worries and doubts go away completely, there’s this one day after a 5-day vacation (including Saturday and Sunday), when we took Skyler to his daycare, he started crying and didn’t want to be left there. I think this was the time it all started to dawn on him. He, now, knew that when we arrived at school, I would leave him there after and he wouldn’t see me around anymore until the afternoon. Maybe he wondered why I was doing that and where I’d go and why he couldn’t find his mom or dad like how he usually did during normal days. He would start pulling my shirt while crying but he’s not crying loud. His cry was like a little baby asking for help. It was so soft, so quiet like he’s trying to keep it but he couldn’t so it just bursted out. He kept wiping his eyes while telling me, “no school mommy”. 

This time, I cried with him. But I managed to keep it well so he wouldn’t notice it.

Nico was busy that morning so he couldn’t go with us. I called him and let him talk to Skyler because I didn’t know what to do. During emotional moments like this, I always let him interfere, not because he’s not emotional (he’s more emotional than me LOL) but because Skyler believes him more when he tries to comfort him than me doing it. Maybe it’s a father thing, they sound like they have more authority in the family and when you face them, you have to look like you’re strong. That’s my personal take for this situation. It didn’t completely stop him from crying, though, but he looked like he’s more calm after talking to his Dad. His teacher then went out and took him from me. She was so calm and all smiling. She talked to her in Finnish like she was comforting her. Then she turned to me, the teary eyed mom, and said it’s okay and he’ll be okay soon. I went on my way to work with a heavy heart contemplating if that was the right thing to do. Was it?

Is this all of it now?

The Real First Few Weeks

Yes. This kept happening for a week or two. There were days where he’d wake up crying because he knew he’d go to school that morning. I would talk to him before getting up, while we’re still lying on the bed hugging each other. I would explain to him that it’s okay, he doesn’t have to be scared because he’s with his classmates and teacher and he will eat his favorite chicken and blueberry. He would stop crying but I could feel that he’s still uneasy. His face was sad on our way to school. On the bus, he would still say “mommy, don’t go to work, baby don’t go to school”, then he’d start to cry. During these “first real weeks”, Nico and I both wanted to be there for him. After sending him to school, I’d go to work then he’d stay for 30mins more to see if Skyler is adjusting okay. In the afternoon, when we take him from school before going home, Skyler would still cry seeing us, looking like he’s asking us why we left him there then he’ll hug us so tight and ask us to go home right away.

I couldn’t stand going to work everyday with this scenario. I asked one of my closest friends and some of my colleagues if this is normal. Just like what I expected, they said yes and I don’t have to worry because it will soon change. I knew this already. Of course, it will change. What I didn’t know was that it’s still different if you’re already in this situation. It’s like you know what to do but you’ll still worry. My friends, my parents and in law’s words have become my reassurance that everything is really okay and I will be okay, too. Sometimes, it really takes time. They said for some, it took 5 months for her daughter to stop crying whenever they send her to school, for some it only took 3 weeks, 1 week, a month and so on. Because of this, I just let it. I tried to keep my worries to myself and let Skyler feel everyday that I’m excited so he’d feel the same. Every morning, I still ask him to wake up early because it’s time to eat breakfast and go to school.

Worth the wait

So I learned that this all takes time and you couldn’t force it to be okay right away. We, as parents, really need to go through it together with our children. It can be challenging at first. You’ll worry, you’ll get annoyed, you’ll be scared for him, too. You’ll even overthink. For us, we used to think at first that maybe Skyler was scared of someone at his school or maybe he’s being bullied, or maybe being ignored, etc. But no. This is not the case. We made sure of it. Nico would even stay for the whole day to look after Skyler without being noticed. Then he’d update me of what Skyler was doing. To our surprise, he’d stop crying minutes after we sent him off to school and start playing already like nothing happened. LOL. This boy… 

The activities at school makes him feel belonged and comfortable. Once in a while, they’d go to a park and play. The kids would go hand in hand to make sure no one will go missing. They’d wear these neon-colored little vests so people with vehicles would see them while they’re crossing the streets. The teachers send us a text message whenever they have to go somewhere so w would know and we could prepare the things he would need like a fruit juice, bread, extra more shirt, cap, etc. Skyler loves this and he’d start telling us how they went there and what they did. They also have art activities, obstacle course activities, etc. During some special occasions, they will make cards for parents with the help of their teacher and what’s cute is that they even have a report card by the end of the school days before summer. It takes time but it’s worth the wait.

But then I thought it was all of it.

The rest of the days

By now, I can say we overcame it. We passed through it. Skyler is now always and everyday happy and excited to go to school. In the morning when he wakes up, I’d ask him if he wants to go to school and he’d nod and smile even though his eyes are still close. During weekends, he’d ask me why he can’t go to school. He’s always happy talking about what he did for the day like how he played in the slide with his classmates, how they ate bread and had milk, how they slept in the sleeping room, etc. He’s also close to his new teachers as we could see how he’d run towards them and hug them when we take him to the daycare in the morning.

But even though we’re able to overcome the struggles of the first days, it’s not always happy days at school. Some days he’d tell us that a kid “fight” with him. It’s his term when someone is bothering him. He’d say some kid pushed him and that his cap fell down down because of it and then he’d start to cry and go to his teacher. We’d ask him what his teacher would do when this happens and he’d say teacher would get “angry” but I think it’s not really the right term, it’s just how he describes it when someone seems like scolding or showing frustration towards others. So, you see it’s never ending.

It can never be all of it.

Now, we’ll see how this goes and if this causes us to worry more. My mom is also a teacher and I grew up surrounded by her students. She’d usually take me to her school before so I know this scenario is “normal” and really happens inside a school and as a teacher, it’s your everyday duty to make sure there’s peace and order among your students. For this, I give full trust to his teacher but as parents, we can’t just sit down and listen to your child’s story of struggles. You, somehow, need to do something like maybe ask the teacher how they usually handle situations like this and maybe suggest some ways you think is right to prevent it from happening again. No parent wants their child to be in trouble so they’ll understand. 

If you’d think of it, this is just a very small part of your child’s growth. But I always believe that every big thing starts from a small step and everything that happens to your child when they’re young would somehow contribute to what they would be in the future. This is all part of it, part of your child and part of us, as parents. One day, I’ll retell this story to him when he’s a grown up already and we’ll laugh at it like it just happened yesterday.

To the first time parents, like me, this is just a start of every first day you’ll have with your child so be calm, ask help if needed and stay strong. 

To more first days as parents, cheers! 

 

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