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The Maronite Mum: First Day of School

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A catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd teaches children. Our Lady of Fatima Classical School will integrate the Catechesis in its curriculum. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Sending a child to preschool for the first time can be a daunting task for any parent.  Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Catholic blogger The Maronite Mum‘s heartfelt reflection on sending her eldest daughter to preschool

She was running through the door excited at the fact that she was starting school (preschool actually). She told her sister that she was going to school but that she couldn’t go with her because she was not big yet.

I sighed wondering if she will adapt well since she has never been away from our family by herself before. I was so worried because she is my first daughter and taking her and leaving her in a strange place was also very new to me, but as mums, you just put on a happy face and hope for the best- because we already did our best trying to find the best preschool that suits our family’s needs.

So… this is how it all begins:

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DAY 1: She went in somehow confident and with a shy smile. She was received with happiness and went to play. I stayed for a while watching her but she wasn’t worried about me or anything. So, following advice, I left. The first day was meant to be a short day. I would pick her up in an hour or so.

Later on when I arrived I was told how unsettled she was and when she saw me she ran to me, I carried her like when she was younger and she started crying. I cried a little bit too while I held her. I felt her. I felt her fear of me leaving her with a bunch of strangers. I felt her fear of not having her sister to hang out with.

Oh my dear little kid, don’t you know I’m here with you? Don’t you know that, even if you don’t see me I’m checking up on you? Don’t you know that even though you felt like I abandoned you I was actually trying to make you stronger for your future? I am here now, fear not.

That day and night was really awful. There were desperation tears, reassuring talks about our love to her, a lot of patience, a lot of hugs and kisses, and also a lot of drama at bedtime. But finally, she slept.

Taking off, ready for her first day. Photo: Liza Abouharb

DAY 02: She wanted me to stay with her ALL day while she is there. She even went to find me a chair so I could sit and watch her.  She was still scared. I stayed for almost an hour, but then I approached her and said my goodbyes, assuring her I was going to be there soon. Today she was staying a bit longer so she can get used to it. I left her in tears and followed her wellbeing with a few phone calls afterwards.

It is not easy but slowly and following the advice of her educator and the preschool Director, we tried to make her happy to stay there and help her adjust to this new environment.

A lot of talk from my husband and I was required. I kept reassuring her I will pick her up and that she would have her favourite snack at home. All that not as a means of bargaining, but as a means of her knowing that there was LOVE waiting at home. That going to school was in no way because we, as parents, were upset with her.

I tried so many things, I even colored my wall calendar so she understands which days she goes and marking with an ‘X’ the days that passed already.

Every time she needs to go to Preschool she spends the whole morning repeating: “I don’t want to go to school,” “I’m gonna miss you mummy,” followed by tears. It is not easy for me as a mum to see my daughter begging for something or to not go to a place you know she is afraid of.

She is reluctant to the change, for now. But I have to be patient, I am the one who can control her feelings, not my four-year-old. I am the adult, not her. I am the rock of her fear: she looks up to me for confidence, and I give it to her repeating how much I love her and that I will always pick her up.

“I will ALWAYS pick you up”

This week she turned 4. She has changed so much! She still asks me not to go to school and I still tell her she has to go. She still asks me “are you going to pick me up?” And I still say to her: “Yes, I will. I will ALWAYS pick you up”… then she says: “Are you going only for 5 minutes?” And I say to her patiently, while my heart breaks a little bit at each question: “yes, only 5 mins”… and I dropped her off.

How mentally draining is this! It is taking a toll not only on her, but on me too. It is emotionally exhausting trying to help your kid to go through it all. But, thanks to the support of the preschool too, I’ve noticed a change on my daughter after a month now: she is so much confident at home.

Things that she was scared off, she is not anymore. She comes home and when she plays with her sister she is more helpful to her. She is eating more of her meals and there are so many other changes. She has truly grown in confidence after battling and facing her fears while us, her family and teachers, supported her step by step.

So here I am, cleaning the dishes after dinner when I hear her talking to herself next to me “I am so happy.” I asked her: “Why are you so happy?” And she answers me with a beautiful smile on her face: “because you always pick me up”…

Oh my heart melts! I stopped what I was doing and hugged her telling her: “Of course, I will ALWAYS pick you up!”

Later on I meditated about her words… so true even within us and God. When we are facing the difficulties in our lives we don’t see how God is watching over us. We keep telling Him: “where are you? Why did you left me? I’m scared” but we should know by now that God is always there.

“I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you” Joshua 1:5

“I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you” Joshua 1:5

But we doubt. We always doubt.

So we pray. But we pray until we stop hearing ourselves, until we stop hearing that voice that feeds your fears, your anxieties, your recriminations; we pray until we stop hearing that voice that points out all your sins and that feeds that feeling of being a disappointment to God… we pray until that voice is silent by God’s voice who tells you “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

I cannot be with my daughter all the time while she embarks into her new life in these first baby steps… all I can do is make sure we choose the right places where I am leaving her and support her all the way. But that is only me because I am human… God, on the other hand: He is in Control.

God is everywhere and He loves your child, and He will protect them. But God also loves YOU, even MORE than what you love your own child! That is how great His Love is. So we trust in Him all the time, with baby steps at first, knowing He will ALWAYS “pick you up” when you fall…

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46: 10

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3: 16

God bless you,

Liza, a Maronite Mum.

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