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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Separation Anxiety

There is no hiding it. Starting preschool was a huge deal for me as a mom. I often think back to that first day of school and get all anxious again. That then causes me to think about having to leave them in the NICU which makes me get all "reminiscey." Which then leads me to recall the ridiculous emotions I felt when we were able to bring Ethan and Hunter home together, but had to leave  Colton behind for another week. Almost 4 years later. I can still feel the suffocating lump that camped out in my throat that entire week.

Obviously, there are plenty of occasions when the kids are separated and do things individually. (When one of them goes shopping or runs an errand with one of us, for instance.) And those moments cause me no angst whatsoever. Probably because it's by choice...

There is no denying however, the comfort I get in knowing that they have each other. Always.

It made letting them 'cry it out' as infants easy because we never had that guilt that comes with imagining your child alone in a dark room, screaming for someone to come and love on them.

It makes leaving them with a babysitter easier because they have each other.

It made the church daycare easier because they were together.

And it sure as heckfire made preschool survivable because I knew that in a sea of little faces, there would always be at least 2 familiar ones for each of my 'babies.'

It's a blessing, but maybe a crutch as well.

Over my Fall Break, my friend Heather and I decided to send our kids to a Harvest Day at Church. (A drop off type event). There was to be crafts, snacks, a petting zoo, etc. Sounded like fun. As it drew closer though, I started having anxiety again about dropping them off at a place that is not familiar to them. (I mean come on, I JUST got used to preschool!) But once again, I rationalized the situation by reminding myself that they would be together. That, and it was only 3 hours.

So we got dressed, (in our matching '3' shirts). Again, this is a comfort thing for me, not them. In my irrational mind, I think it will help others remember to 'keep them together' or at least realize why maybe they want to be near one another, etc. (My rational self knows that they probably don't even care and others may not even notice.)

So as we drove to the church, my anxieties were realized when Ethan started getting nervous too, reminding me every few miles that 'we not going to school today, mommy.' "I know, buddy. We're going to a fun day with pumpkins and animals!" (Weak attempts to make it sound super fun.)

 We parked and got out and I hoped that Ethan would magically be at ease. (He was not.) Wanting to be held as we walked the distance to the check in area, his anxiety had not lessened one bit. I approached the table, surrounded by TONS of people and signed them all in. The woman checking us in said, "Okay, let me write down where they go."

"Um, okay" I think to myself, pretty sure I could've just remembered one number. But hey, it IS a big church, so I figure it's just a helpful thing they do. So I watch her scribble a bunch of stuff on a little piece of paper and then she says, "Okay, Colton & Hunter go to room 4 and Ethan goes to room 5."


I don't immediately show this woman my panic, but I calmly say to her, "I'm sorry, but is there any way they can please be together?" 

She responds, "Well, it's going to be kind of difficult right now. Why don't you just check them into their assigned rooms and then once everyone's here, we'll see if we can switch him."  (I know that this will not happen because no will care as much as I do to remember to actually follow through. It's the truth.) Furthermore, I know that it will be a non-issue because there is no way on God's green earth, that Ethan will leave me at this moment,  especially when he realizes that he does not get to be with his brother and sister.)

But, being the big girl that I am, and despite that familiar lump in my throat and pain in my heart, I momentarily consider how I might accomplish this...Questions I pondered: Would it be easier if I dropped Ethan off first? No..he'd never let me walk away from him,  taking his brother and sister with me. Would it would be easier to take Colton and Hunter first? No...he'd wonder why he can't stay in their room with them. Could I switch Colton and Ethan, no one would really know... and Colton might be okay with being alone. No...they have their names on their shirts. It was just bad and I knew that it was already a lost cause. He already didn't want to stay and he didn't even know that he would have to be alone yet.

I stand just behind the check in desk trying to rationalize all of this with the kids and talk Ethan out of his crying fit when the woman who checked us in hears me and or sees me.

"Are they triplets?" she asks me.

(I squelched the sarcastic response that had been brewing...Something that might've sounded like..."Gee, what was your first clue? The 3-3-3- shirts? The fact that they are listed one after another after another, after another on your sign in sheet? The fact that their birth dates and last names are also the same?)

And instead, responded with a much nicer, "Yes, they are. And there's no way I can drop two off together and leave one by himself." 

"Oh my gosh, I didn't even realize they were triplets. You know what? Just go ahead and bring Ethan with the other two and tell them we said it's fine."

"Thank you!!!" I respond, knowing full well that it was probably already a lost cause.

I checked the other two in and they went pretty willingly. Ethan, not so much. He cried and cried and clung to my leg in a way that said 'I'm going wherever YOU'RE going.

So I kissed Hunter and Colton goodbye and quickly said to Hunter, "Ethan is going to come with me because he's sad, okay?" And then I turned and left before really giving her a moment to process that.

I walked all around the premises with Ethan, trying to coerce him into staying. I showed him the animals....pumpkins....nothing was going to change that little mind.

Does this look like the face of happiness or what? 

"Nope. Not gonna do it, mom." 

So, we left and he came on a Starbucks date with me and my friend, Heather. To be totally honest, I was kind of excited to spend a few alone hours with my littlest boy. It's rare...Hunter always goes shopping with me, but Ethan rarely gets to go out alone. We went to SB and Target and before we knew it, 3 hours had passed and we were on our way to get our brother and sister! We met Nicole in the parking lot and she showed us how to get onto the big playground while we waited for about 15 more minutes.
 Happy as a clam now! 

 Two things that made him smile at this moment...playing alone on a really fun playground, and knowing that he was going to see C and H. (Aww..)

So we went to pick them up and as usual, they were THRILLED to see us. We gathered their belongings, (a backpack, a scarecrow craft and a pumpkin for each of them). And we headed for the car.

This is no exaggeration. The moment I buckled her in, Hunter had a total and complete meltdown. It was as though she had stayed strong while I was away and just needed to release her pent up fears and anxieties.

Through her constant sobs, I was able to decipher this.

"Mommy, I just didn't want to stay there."
"I was sad too."
"I didn't want you to leave me there."
"I told my new teacher, Miss Jelly (Julie) that I wanted to go with you, but she said you'd come back for me soon."


Me: But Hunter, did you have a little bit of fun?"
H: Yes, mom, I had a little bit of fun, but not a lot. I wanted to be with you.
Me: But didn't you have fun petting all the animals?
H: Well I saw the animals mom, but I was afraid of them. I just wanted to be with you and Ethan.

All in all, let's just say it was another growing experience. Another opportunity for them to experience these feelings and these new situations and work through them. But a total success, it was not. Live and learn, right?

I learned that when they start kindergarten, they will either all have to be together, or they will all be separate. (more likely, this one.) I will NOT be able to go through something like this again.

At least their pumpkins look happy! 


The Alexanders said...

Oh my goodness...my stomach was turning reading this! It's kind of funny because in situations like these it is Luc, our youngest who always wants to be carried too :)

Courtney said...

Oh my gosh where did you get those "3" shirts? We leave for Disney very, very soon, so I guess I don't have time to get one for my 2 yr old but he LOVES Mickey so it could always be a Christmas gift. So so cute.

Ami said...

Courtney, I just made them with some iron on transfer paper. I bought at Michael's. I still have the template saved on my computer. If you want, tell me the name you want and then I will change the 3 to a 2 and email you the PDF right away. You'd just need to print it out onto some transfer and iron it onto an itty bitty T-shirt! :) Just email me at kaoami@aol.com or leave another comment with your email address if you want it! :)

J said...

We had this moment yesterday at MOPS. Last year, the babies were together but this year, Danielle was in the 1-2 year old room and Reagan in the infant room. These two might as well be twins...they do everything together including sharing a room. I refused to separate them and I'm so glad I didn't because when it was time to pick them up, I saw Reagan crying and his "little mommy" soothing him.

What camera do you use for all your pictures?

Courtney said...

Hey Ami! Just wanted to make sure you got my email yesterday about the tshirt template. Please let me know; I'm planning to go to Michael's tomorrow to get some iron on transfer paper. :)

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