I didn’t send my kids to preschool, daycare, or anything of the sort. It was the best decision for my kids and me; it felt right, and I loved our alone time together. And if I had to do it over again, I would do the same, with all three of my kids. While they were young, we traveled around like a school of fish and played, went for walks, attended lots of playdates, and occasionally ventured out to lunch or a store.
Looking back, though, I realize that I missed the boat on some important things. There was a downside to being with them every moment of every day. I didn’t allow them to have any independence at all, something I didn’t even realize at the time.
So when I sent my first child off to kindergarten, I discovered my mistake pretty quickly. Because he had never really been away from me, there were things he was scared to do, and he didn’t say anything to anyone about it.
Going to the bathroom on his own was a big fear. I had always taken him and his siblings in with me. Sending him in solo was an idea that was never on my radar, but I wish it had been because he was petrified to do something as simple as go into a bathroom alone, lock the door, and pee.
Something that is second nature to adults can be scary for our children. He had been with me — his mother — nonstop, and then I just sent him off to a full day of kindergarten where he was doing so many things on his own. While he loved school, there was a lot that scared him, and I could have prevented some of that fear by giving him some age-appropriate independence.
It wasn’t until a few weeks into school that he was able to tell me how afraid he was to go to the bathroom alone. He was scared someone was going to walk in on him and see him standing over the toilet.
It was a wakeup call for me, and I quickly realized I needed my two younger kids to do some things alone before they headed off to school, and using a public restroom alone was a huge one. Of course, I was right outside the door, but I realized how important it was for them to feel confident doing something they would need to do alone every single day.
I started doing other things that gave them confidence as well, like ordering for themselves at a restaurant when we ate out. They were all so shy at first and hated it, but after a short time, it got easier for them, and honestly, it was so much easier on me because instead of remembering what four people wanted to eat, I only had to remember what I wanted.
Talking to other kids about how they were feeling was something else I had neglected with my older son. If he was upset, having problems, or felt uncomfortable around another child, I just took care of it for him. No one wants to see their child uncomfortable, and before we know it, our mama bear instinct stands at attention and we try to relieve any pressure for them.
It was hard to do at first — almost impossible, really — but I tried to encourage my kids to speak up if someone was making them uncomfortable and only come to me if they, or someone else, was in real trouble. Sure, I caved a few times, but I knew if I stayed strong and let them handle it, they would be better off in the long run and more confident when they were away from me.
We have a protective instinct when it comes to our kids — it’s just what moms do. It was hard for me to give up control and let my kids figure a few things out, but it was something I had to do, especially since I didn’t send them to preschool before they had to head out for a full day of school. I learned my lesson after watching my son struggle, and fortunately, it was a much smoother first year of school for my other two children.
They were more prepared, and I didn’t have to worry whether they were holding their pee all day because they were too scared of the bathroom.