From preschool of course. Now, I hope you all LOVE preschool pick up, but if some of you struggle with it here’s a little guide that might come in handy. Well, it’s more of my story of woe and redemption in picking up my #2, than an actual guide, but The Ultimate Pick Up Guide made for a way better title sooooo here it is.
At my son's preschool the kids are released one by one into the hallway at the end of the class. For every child this is a ritual where they step out into the hallway, search out their caregiver, meet their eyes and run gleefully into their arms. All of them except my son. My son steps out into the hallway looking down and scowling. The teacher has to give him a little nudge to get him out the door. He shuffles slowly to me, keeps his distance and then resists and protests loudly all the way to the car. I gotta be honest, this hurts my mommy heart. And not for noble reasons like I’m worried that he’s struggling (he’s not, I’ve checked with the teachers) but because it hurts my feelings and my pride a little bit too. I want the embrace, the running and the smile. I want it real bad. It’s not his fault, or his intention, but I feel rejected. I can’t stop the thought of, I really suck at this and now all the preschool teachers and parents know it too.
Now in the evenings, when the kids are asleep, I can put on my responsible, rational, reader of parent books persona and I understand then that his scowl is not personal. His behaviour is more about transitions being hard for him, and a reaction to the over stimulating environment of preschool, than it is a rejection of me. From the comfort of my own couch, with wine in hand, I could even reach to say that he trusts me so much, and our connection is so deep, that he can feel free to express his insides when he sees me and that’s a good thing. But all my heart hears is...yadda yadda yadda, blah, blah, blah, fffffttttttttt. Where is my hug? My smile? The running into arms? That is the good stuff of parenting and I WANT it. Waaaaaaaaaaaa!
And so I decided, after one particularly bad day, to throw out everything I’ve ever read about parenting, and to just find a way to get my mommy heart what it wants! I stopped thinking and rationalizing and looking for ways to see things through his eyes…just. this. one. time. Noble parenting methods and strategies just leave me alone, you are too much work.
Okay, so how will I do it? Hmmmmm, how can I entice the smiles and the hugs and the running? It came in a flash of inspiration…food, of course! You can call it bribery if you want, but I’m going to call it connecting through food. That sounds way better.
I decided to leave tasty little special snacks in his car seat to discover when he gets to the car. When he is released out of that door the first and only thing I will say is "I have a special snack waiting in your seat." I will give clues about what it might be (it’s round or its orange or its crunchy, etc) but he won’t know what it is until we get there. After only a few days of this new system a new pick up regime was formed.
The kids are released one by one. My son walks through the doorway, his head is up and our eyes lock (yes eye contact!).
He has a glimmer in his eye that says "what special snack is waiting for me" but I choose to see it as "Oh yay, mommy is here!"
He has a half smile that means "I'm hoping there is a fruit bar today" but I misinterpret it as “seeing Mommy fills my heart with joy."
There is a lean in, that is almost like a half hug, that means “I better stay close to Mom so I'm sure to make it to the food" but I relish it as “I’m leaning into Mom to feel her touch and smell her mommy smell".
He skips to the car to "get to the food faster" but I see it as "let's get home to spend time together".
In the car with food in hand I say "What was your favourite part of preschool today?" He says "nothing." Well ok, it's not perfect but I'll take it!
My most valuable parenting advice? Food and self delusion go a long way in getting you where you want to be. Worked for me.
Photo by Michele Mateus Photography
Karen Barré is an accomplished mom of 3 that can make snacks ALL day long and still find the time to make light-sabers out of paper and duct tape. As long as the conditions are perfect. And everyone slept the night. And we have groceries in the house. Or paper. Okay, I did it once, it was a highlight.