Pardon my foul language, but oh my lord this morning's drop-off was a total clusterfuck.
It's not news to anyone who knows me in real life, follows me on twitter or reads my blog that separation been hard for Iris, and by extension, me. This morning when we got to school we were told that Iris's teacher had called in sick and the sub would be coming. Not terrible news in and of itself as Iris loves and trusts this sub because she is a mainstay in the school. But the sub wasn't coming for a while and the art teacher would fill in until she got there. I walked in to the classroom with Iris and there was no adult there, just parents filing in and out, overlapping enough when kids were dropped off to always have somewhat of an eye on things. I quickly realized there would be no quick drop-off for Iris like that-- she needs to attach to her teacher, or very occasionally to her best friend at school, so that I can leave every day. So I waited. Then the art teacher came about ten minutes later. Iris begged me to stay until either her best friend was there or the sub was there. I didn't know what to do because the art teacher had launched right in to circle time and I knew if I tried to leave Iris would flip out and completely disrupt class. I sat down and decided to wait some more.
The best friend never showed up. Shit. Once the circle time was done and the morning chapter of a book was read to the class the art teacher directed the kids to start on individual work. It was about 40 mins in to class at this point and I overhear the art teacher say to a student that the sub won't be there for over another hour. Whoops. I lean down and cheerfully say "okay Iris! It's time for me to go!" (inside going "please please please just be okay with me leaving!") and of course she started crying and begging me to stay. I try to reason with her, which never, ever works, but I was stuck and frustrated and sad. I looked around, the art teacher was working with some kids. I was standing with a sobbing Iris. Shit.
I had no idea what to do. Should I just leave her? She would run out after me. Should I take her home? That would pretty much solidify her refusing to ever come to school again. I decided to walk out of the classroom with her and take her to the director's office and ask for help. I sat out on the chairs outside of her office with Iris on my lap telling myself "don't cry when you open your mouth to talk" over and over (I later learned a better self-soothing phrase would have been "I'm calm and collected and I can handle this"). I asked the director to help me with Iris and she put her arms around her and shuffled her off to class while Iris screamed "mommy!". I walked out of school with my head down to keep everyone from bearing witness to the stream of tears running down my face. I was sad. And freaked out. And dejected. I wanted to run back and grab Iris and I knew I couldn't, or shouldn't.
A sobbing mess, I immediately grab my phone and called my dear friend, who also happens to be going to school to become a family therapist. She listened. Offered great advice. Comforted me. I hung up and left a message for Iris's therapist. I eventually calmed down and later heard from the school's director that Iris had, as well.
It felt like one of those situations where every single piece was wrong and there was nothing there for Iris to hold on to and feel comforted by at school. Even on the very best of days she has a difficult time separating from me, and this was like, 100 times harder. It was all a matter of chance and bad luck-- certainly no one is to blame, it was a stressful morning for everyone involved, but Iris, nor I, had the tools to deal with it effectively. We were both lost and floundering with the upheaval of the routine we usually face at school drop-off.
I'll be meeting with Iris's therapist on Wednesday to brainstorm ideas for what to do should this ever happen again and just how to make a game plan in general. I am hoping to eventually have a sit down with Iris's teacher and the school director to talk about what's going on with Iris's separation anxiety and make sure we're all a unified time in helping her with it.
As I sat having coffee with my therapist student friend today, I said "I'm not a confident parent" and I'm just not. I'm never convinced I'm making the right choices for my kids. I struggle knowing that some of Iris's anxiety comes from me not having the strength and conviction that she needs to feel safe in the world.
I later posted on my Facebook status: Motherhood isn't for wimps.