So we missed posting first day of school pics this year, because the first day of school was unexpectedly hard.

Ellis goes to a great outdoor program. He went last year and loved it. I first wrote about it here.

This year he gets to go two days a week. He has one of the same teachers and most of the same kids in his class. It never occurred to me that drop off might be challenging, until I found myself still sitting with him at school an hour and 15 minutes into the first day. There were tears and protests and finally I just had to leave and he had a huge meltdown.

It was brutal. It is so hard to watch your kid have a hard time. It is even harder to do that in front of kids who are not having a hard time. It is additionally hard to not be able to reassure or help your kid through their rough patch. It was pretty much just hard.

So it has been over a month now and we have finally achieved tear-free enthusiastic drop offs.

Here is what we did to cope over the past month:

  • First we checked in with our local superstar children’s librarian. Ms. Beth is the book concierge of most of the growth moments in our family. She has supplied us with a fine tuned reading list for everything from potty training to getting a new sibling. (One time she even had a book for convincing Ellis to get dressed to go to the library, when he informed me that he would not do clothes because “tigers don’t wear pants” The book was Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and it perfectly addressed the wild animal clothing problem). So she gave us a stack of books about school and we worked them into our reading routine.
  • My sister in law, Stacy, suggested two episodes of Daniel Tiger (a PBS show) that deal with separation. We watched those and learned the song “Grown ups come back”
  • I took a cue from a fellow parent who packs school snack with her kid the night before as a way to get excited (thanks Erika). And I remembered something from our dog’s puppy training class about using “high value treats” for the best results. I took Ellis on a special trip to the grocery store to pick out any school snack he wanted. Since snack is the first thing they do at school it seemed to help his transition to have something really special that he was looking forward to eating right at the start of school.
  • I checked in with the two experts I know. My first grade teacher friend, Maggie, suggested I send a family picture in Ellis’ backpack and let him feel what he was feeling while being supportive and firm. I butt dialed my education professor friend and ended up getting very sage advice from a very knowledgeable source. Not only is she an education professor, but my friend, Ranji, has also been working through rough transitions with her kindergartner. She reassured me that separation anxiety is the sign of healthy attachment and she told me that what worked best for them was taking mom out of the equation.
  • So enter grandparents and dad who have taken over drop off and finally four weeks in Ellis is happily going to school once again.

Thank you village for helping us thorough our rough start to the school year.

With all of your help we finally got back our smiley happy first day of school boy (this photo was taken 2 hours pre meltdown).


And now Ellis’ school day is filled with adventures and exploration instead of anxiety and tears.


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