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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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I have separation anxiety.

Henry started preschool last week, and it’s been a tough transition.

Not for him. For me.

We’re still in “phase-in” mode--the classes are only half the size and half the length, and the parents are in the next room enjoying bad cake and insanely bad coffee while the children warm up to the idea of school. For the first couple of days, I sat there chatting with the other parents while one kid after another was escorted into the room for a few minutes of reassurance from his or her parent. I dreaded the moment when Henry emerged, weeping, from his classroom.

Then I waited.

Then I was wondered why they were keeping him in there.

When he probably needed me.

Time passed. I couldn’t hear any crying. I had already been admonished by the teacher for entering the classroom, so I held off. I wasn’t happy about it.

“What do you think they’re doing in there?” I asked one of the parents, who looked at me like, what do you think they’re doing? Getting facial tattoos? Being forced to consume the still-quivering brains of a dying rhesus monkey?

The faint strains of “The Wheels on the Bus” could be heard from their room. “I’ll just bet they’re singing,” she said slowly, patting me on the arm. If I had at that moment opened my mouth and drooled coffee cake all over my chin, I don’t think it would have surprised her one bit.

One of the parents had to enter the classroom to deal with her heartbroken child, who apparently loves her mother more than my son loves me. She came back to tell me, “I heard your son telling two girls that he’s a ‘puzzle master’?”

“That’s my boy,” I said.

“It’s great that he’s doing so well in there,” she said.

“Yes,” I agreed, choking down more coffee cake.

By the third day the teacher told me I didn’t have to stick around the school. “He’s doing so well,” she said. “We’ll call you if there’s a problem.”

The school is two blocks from my home. I could have gone there. But I was sure there was going to be a problem—I was so sure! So I went to the library and tried to look at books and wondered why my stomach hurt. I checked my cell phone 27 times or so. It seemed to be working, but it never rang, so I worried. And returned to the school.

“I just can’t get enough of this cake!” I said to the two puzzled babysitters in the room with me.

When he finally came out he seemed so happy that I was of course suspicious. “How’d he do?” I asked the teacher. My eyes pleaded for a full and detailed report of his every move and thought, but she was deftly avoiding eye contact. “He was great!” she said. “See you next time, Henry!”

“Did you have fun?” I asked him, “What did you do? Did you make friends? TELL ME EVERYTHING.”

And he said, “They called Malcolm a rubber boy and he was bouncing and Lizzie said you’re a rubber boy and he was bounced and then the little bear went up into the cave and had a nap without the big bear.”

“Wha--?” I said.

“I want lunch,” he concluded.

Tomorrow he’s going back, and I might go home, maybe. But I’ll have on my running shoes, you know, just in case.



Reader Comments (40)

As someone who volunteered at a preschool; I've had the wailers and I've had the well-adjusted types, and every kid like Henry is a blessing from God--give them toys, they go, and that's it. So I can only feel a little sorry for you, there. Watching a kid who wails for an entire 4-hour span and won't be comforted by anything you can do makes you want to hang yourself with a jump rope.
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee
Hee. Yes, some transitions are much harder for us than they are for the little ones. Who knows, you may experience a delayed reaction next week... it may not involve a meltdown at school, but he may act up more at home, demand more of your time while he's around you.

All I know is this: my kid has a GREAT time when I'm not around. And then when I appear, whining magically commences. I like to think it's because deep deep down, she missed me SO MUCH. ;)
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjenny
We live far enough away from our preschool that my boys get to ride the bus. Both my oldest (now a 1st grader) and my youngest (currently in PreK) ran for the bus and never looked back. Separation anxiety pretty much ended at 9 months of age.

I joked about being the only mom at school doing cartwheels while whistling "Halleluiah" yet when it came for Captain Destructo's first day of school I couldn't stand to be home in an empty house. So much for bravado!
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterwarcrygirl
My son is special needs and just started pre-school that is 5 days a week, 8:30 to 2:30. He has transitioned better than anyone ever expected and I've been a wreck! I knew I would be sad that my little 3 year old (even though he's a total terror and I'm not ashamed to admit I can't wait to get away from him on Date Night) would be gone all day, but I didn't realize it'd be this bad.

The cool thing is that he has a "communication book" that comes home with him and tells me everything he did. Now my son looks at me like I'm a magician when I say "how did you like the story about the doggy and the leaves?" and "so how is Jonathan?". He kinda acts like "mom, that's MY world, stay out of it!".
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterA
It could be worse -- my son is oftentimes found on a Saturday morning hanging off the doorknob begging "Mommy, can't I go to school today?" Gee, thanks for missing me all week, kid!
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMartha
When Bella goes into her preschool, she doesn't give me so much as a glance back over her shoulder. Just "BYE, Mommy!" and she's gone like the wind. I am TOLD this means that I have raised a secure, confident, and independent child, who has been cared for so well that she is sure she will be cared for in any situation.

But it still feels like I'm gettin' dissed.
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda
So, will you be 300 pounds and a coffee cake expert by the time the boy is fully phased in? hahaha Too cute.
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJustLinda
I started my 2nd (the youngest) in SUMMERSCHOOL preschool so that SHE could get comfortable before the regular school year started.

I realized after the first day that it really WAS all about ME getting used to it. I sobbed all the way to work after I dropped her off. Is that pathetic? I like to think it's NORMAL.
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJP
My baby likes preschool but you are making me glad she is too young to share or have friends...once they start getting into their friends, you feel like history. (I remember this from my brother. One day he was begging to brush our hair, the next day he got friends and we were chopped liver.)

Oh, wait. I was trying to cheer you up.
September 29, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermiel
Big hugs to you. It's wonderful that you have instilled such a sense of confidence and security in your boy that he carries it with him everywhere and doesn't actually need to hold your hand. He knows your hand will always be there.

September 30, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterliz
My daughter will start pre-school in a couple of years and I'm already stressing out about it! I feel your pain. I run a daycare out of my home and have for, April 2006 will be 7 years -- I'm getting ready to quit and be a substitute teacher out at school. I do want to be near her, but my reasoning is so that I'll be off when she gets out of school and I'll be off during the summer and won't be confined to the house. LOL!!! That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!!!
September 30, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTonia
I vote for cold turkey. The phasing in process sounds to me like amputating your arm one inch every day.
October 1, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersavtadotty
"Being forced to consume the still-quivering brains of a dying rhesus monkey?"

Oh-my-gosh that was so funny, I'm weeping. I may cross stitch it onto a pillow.
October 1, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterVery Mom
FINALLY someone who understands how awful it is to have preschoolers who cry unceasingly for 3 hours when Mommy drops them off - Most of the children in my classroom (there are 18 of them) do not speak English and have clearly never been off of Mommy's hip. There are several that wail the entire time - it's absolutely DISTRESSING for everyone and I really need HELP because I'm seriously losing it.
October 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterGoing Nuts
Don't let the seperation anxiety bother you. That's a good sign. Soon, you'll find that disappearing and you'll be disappointed on those days that your child isn't in school!
September 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

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