The morning dawned and it was no different from any other weekday.But, this day was a milestone in Gy's life-her first day at school.Technically, it is playgroup,but it still marked a significant departure for her- from her routine, her comfort zone and her parents.
Having spoken to a few friends and family, I was prepared for bouts of crying, clinging and morose expressions. Gy was all excited that morning.She woke up early, had a bath, wore her school clothes and even slung her school kit over her shoulder in readiness for the day ahead.
If it had not been for the scores of other new kids crying at the school doorstep, I think she would have waltzed into the playgroup without a backward glance at me. However, the loud cries of the others unnerved her and she did what any other child her age would do-joined in the chorus. It was tough for me to watch her bawl but I steeled myself, gave her a warm hug and kiss and told her to enjoy herself. She looked none too happy and whimpered as the teacher carried her indoors.
The first day I waited outside the school along with 6 other anxious parents. Fortunately I had carried a book along and could tear myself away from the constant nail-biting and frantic glances that the other moms were throwing in the direction of the closed doors.
In fact, I did not even speak to the other moms much that first day, most of whom were too worried to socialize in any case.
In about half-hour the kids were brought down for outdoor play and I peeked around the corner to see if I could spot Gy. To my delight, she was enjoying herself-no tears, a determined look on her face and a sand bucket clutched in one hand. The thrill I felt at her independence was simply overwhelming.
At the end of an hour, the lot of us were summoned by the teacher to take our babies home, this being their very first day. When I saw Gy, she was again in tears and my heart sank. So the sand-pit episode was a fluke, was it? The teacher consoled us and said that it would take the children a week or 10 days to settle in.
Gy began the day with the chant "Kool---Kool---go kool", which roughly translates to "let's go to school". Given her crying bout the previous day I was pleasantly surprised. But who am I to argue with willingness to attend school?
So, the morning routine done, I bundled her into the car and off we went to start the next day at the playhome. This time, I dropped her off at the door and despite her cries, I decided to wait out the hour at a shopping mall next door. My trusty book as my companion and the empty Cafe Coffee Day outlet only served to improve my mood. A Choco-latte by my side almost made me forget about poor Gy's cries as I had left her at school.
I say 'almost', but I did not forget. At exactly 5 minutes to 11am, I walked back to the school to be greeted by the teacher and the tear-streaked face of lil Gy. My heart sank lower than it had the previous day. Looks like she was not going to settle in anytime soon. Sighing, I bid goodbye to the teacher and took Gy home.
The morning began differently. First Gy refused to get ready as she seemed to sense that it was going to be another day at 'school'. A bit of cajoling got her into the bathtub and she enjoyed splashing around.
The dressing-up routine brought her around to the idea of 'school' again and she cheerfully suggested we get ready fast. My hopes rising, I brushed her hair and locked up the house.Once in the car,however, the cheer on her face gave way to a droopy expression and she began saying 'kool,no...home go'.
I valiantly resisted the urge to turn back home and continued on to school. Then, at the school door, she clung to me and cried loudly for the first time in three days.Heartbreaking as it was, I let go and turned away. There are other kids who are louder than Gy,I consoled myself.
Today, I had company.One of the other moms who had seen me there on Tuesday struck up a conversation and we decided to go to the coffee shop together.Anything was better than standing outside the school and trying to figure out if our child's cry could be distinguished from the various others'. This other mom (G) had enrolled her son(Ak) on Tuesday.
There we were, two moms, each secretly wondering how her child was coping without her and each outwardly talking about everything else but the school. In retrospect, it was a good move, as it diverted us from the tension and anxiety that the other new parents must have been facing while still standing outside the school.
At 11.15, we braced ourselves for a fresh bout of crying as we walked in to school to pick up our kids. And, right on schedule, there they both were.Gy and Ak each ran to us ,clinging,crying and whimpering. But I did notice that Gy's tears had reduced in quantity and her sobs in volume. Well, a better day lay ahead,I surmised.
"No Kool"! Gy was very firm this time. But I gently kept asking her about the toys, the nice ladies and the other fun kids at school and she warmed to the concept of meeting them all again.
So, dropped her off.She cried a bit.I met G again. We went back to the coffee place.Sat there and jabbered for an hour-and-a -half this time.Since the mall also had a supermarket, we picked up some groceries while we were there.
When we went back at 11.30, the tacher summoned us to see the kids in action. Not directly,but via the CCTV installed in each of the rooms. As I watched, I found Gy happily playing in one corner of her room, blocks of all shapes in front of her. There were no tears, no looking towards the door for her mom and no sulking. My spirits rose. Ten minutes later, the teacher went in to bring her out.As the teacher called to her and picked up her bag, she set up a howl saying, "Want amma" (I want my mom)!
Walking out with a teary-faced Gy, the teacher handed her over and smiled at me. I smiled back.So, Gy cried only when I dropped her off and picked her up?Interesting!!
It was the last day of the first week and I was tired already. Is this what it's going to be like?
The same routine got covered and in G's company, I downed a Hot Chocolate. We suddenly decided that we would bring the kids out to the mall's food court for lunch. After all, they had survived the week at school:)
Close to noon, when we picked them up, they were still a bit teary-eyed but definitely fitting in, at last. The teacher told me that Gy had for the first time that week, eaten a bit of the daily snack that I had sent from home. My heart sent up a prayer of gratitude to God.
So, after all the tears and the clinging , the sobs and the denials, my baby was actually getting into the school routine. And ten days later, she had made her first friend :)
Not bad for a 2 and a half year old,eh?