Raising Elves

As wild as nature. Myself, parenting and natural remedies blog.

Separation and pre-school: Why I regret telling her not to cry


The Elf started Montessori two mornings a week after the Christmas break.

I planted the seed a couple of months ago and she has been all for it, saying that she was starting school after Christmas.

Even on the days when I would express my concern about whether I should leave her until September or not, she would pipe in; informing me that she was definitely going to school after Christmas.

I assumed she was ready.

My thinking was that if she went to Montessori before the baby was born in April then she wouldn’t feel pushed out in September.

I know she will need it in September- she needs a lot of mental stimulation and it’s only realistic to see that I won’t be able to fulfill all these needs once the baby is born.

On her first day she was grand. No tears. She was a little distressed and emotional, as expected, but she bucked it up and got on with it.

This is easy, I thought.

I was in bits, of course. Like a deer in headlights.

I was lucky to have my sisters distract me on the first day. I have clung desperately onto my eldest sister every morning since. Codependent is an understatement.

She has been a great distraction and helped pep talk me away from what felt like a broken heart. Especially when The Elf realised that Montessori isn’t just one day.

That is right. She was so eager to go because she thought it was just one day.

Two days later I brought her back and she had an absolute conniption and kept screaming “I don’t want to leave my Mammy”.

Oh that was hard. That was so hard.

Especially because she doesn’t really need to go. I only sent her because she kept at me.

I had already decided to just put her in part time in September anyway so she will get two years of Montessori education before starting school at five.

So, she really doesn’t need to be there now.

Of course the three hours alone are great (if I got productive with them) and I know once the baby is born I will take four out of the total six hours to catch up on sleep (essential, as I am a grizzly bear with lack of sleep) but I swear to you it is so hard seeing her tense the minute we reach the stairs that leads to her classroom.

At the start she would come out happy- which is where my confusion starts. She would let me know that she cried a little. I would reply that I cried too because I miss her and that is normal and OK. Thinking that that would give her the impression of empathy and that I was with her all the way.

I recently realised that that is not a good idea because then she started verbalising about how Mammy was crying and becoming concerned about me.

So I had to start telling her that Mammy isn’t going to cry the next day.

I started coaching her in the days leading up to the next session. ‘Maybe you can try to be brave and not cry’ and the likes.

Big Mistake.

See, it was selfish of me. I just didn’t want to have to cope with leaving her while she was crying so I was sub-consciously hoping that a little pep talk could magic the separation stress away.

But it doesn’t take away the feelings- just the expression of feelings. The feelings are still there. She just learned to keep them from me.

So today, instead of crying and telling me she didn’t want me to leave, she…

This is so hard to write because I am devastated.

Today… deep-breaths-in-between-pregnancy-sobs… she pretended to be brave and then had her cry when she thought I left the room.

I could see her side profile as I got on my knee to tell her I was going downstairs for a coffee.

She was trying to keep her back to me. Head down and lip quivering but under control.

I could see the emotion on her face. I could see her holding it all back (away from me!).

I could see it because she looked exactly as I looked all my childhood- conscientiously pretending to be OK so not to upset my own Mam.

And that moment broke me.

I had told her I was upset to leave her- what a weight on her tiny 2.5 year old shoulders!

I had told her to try and be brave and not cry- so she hid it from me and cried once I left the room.

Oh God I am devastated.

There is so much projection in this post, though. And a lot of projection in my own anxiety regarding her going to school.

I hated playschool- I was pushed around by a couple of kids and the noise! I couldn’t cope with the noise.

For some reason I can’t explain, I could never tell my Mam my true feelings. I always pretended to be brave. Mam never instigated it, by the way. I am just a hyper sensitive person so would have sensed if my Mam was anxious or stressed which, lets be honest, especially  having four kids, stress is part and parcel of motherhood. I never wanted to weigh her down.

Putting on a brave face- I still do it.

Don’t get me wrong, please. This post isn’t a sad one (even though I am sad writing it).

It is an essential moment.

It is a critical moment.

This is the moment in my daughters life where she, for the first time, is putting on a brave face and suffering her emotional distress alone.

I see this as an opportunity to intervene.

To be there with her instead of looking after my own emotions and trying to get her to stop crying.

I need to check myself before I respond to her in future.

Sometimes, there are no words. Sometimes, the kid is just upset. So let her be.

Be there with her and for her. Let her cry, scream, whinge or whatever it is that she does to express herself.

For the day she realises that if she hides it from you that you will be ‘happy’ is that day when the relationship switches places. She becomes the mother.

Motherhood is about giving. I learned that from my own Mam who, even to this day, still mothers the four of us, equally, in any way she can.

Taking from my child just doesn’t sit right with me.

Today, I took her ability to trust her vulnerability with me. She put my feelings ahead of hers.

My heart weighs heavily but I am just glad I have caught it on time so I can check myself in future.

Of course, this could be a part of her personality- holding her emotions close. But I just want to make sure that no matter how devastated or upset she is that I will put my own desires aside and just be there for her.

For what will happen when the worse emotions come along? Shame, embarrassment, loneliness… Imagine she couldn’t lean on me and have to experience these on her own?

What are your thoughts?  Is this something that is part and parcel of parenting? That one day we have to let them go it alone?

As always, thanks for reading.

Laura x





10 thoughts on “Separation and pre-school: Why I regret telling her not to cry

  1. You poor love! It’s just so hard isn’t it? I think every mother has this experience, just at different stages. My little man was 11 months when he went to creche first and it hurt my heart. I’d say others find the first day of school really difficult too if their little ones haven’t been to creche, playschool or montessori. I’ve no advice, I just hear you. xxxxx

  2. My baby had a hard time adjusting to playgroup too. You are such a caring mammy! Yes, giving and putting their needs first is par for the course. But you’re human too, and busy growing another human at the same time. Go easy on yourself; I believe that our children seeing us make mistakes and have flaws is important. We are imperfect and are allowed to be, just as they are. Moments of self-centered thinking are perfectly okay. Hope you have a lovely weekend together, and best of luck with the next crèche outing 🙂

  3. I am heartbroken for you reading this, it is so hard to get it right, is there any such thing as getting it right? Your reaction is so normal, it is awful to leave your precious child upset and yet as you say she needs to be able to express how she really feels. I guess part of learning is learning how to get control of our emotions, and that starts early in life, so maybe encouraging her to try control her upset, for her own benefit, as opposed to protecting you. This will allow her to talk freely with you about how she feels but allows you to encourage her to feel the emotion without being overwhelmed by it. Hope this helps and hope it becomes easier for both of you x

  4. My heart goes out to you on this one. I have been exactly there. Both my babies were with me pretty much day in, day out until they started nursery school at 2 and a half for the first and 2 and 10 months for the second. They both took their time settling in, in different ways. BUT they did settle in and after a few weeks they were just fine and it was absolutely a good thing to do. I agree with your reasoning on starting now – I started my son before the baby was born for the same reason, and so that he’d feel like he was a big kid with a big kid thing.

    The thing is that even though you don’t HAVE to do it now, you do have to do it at some stage, and it would be hard even if you waited till she was five and had to go to school. Maybe worse then. Moving to big school is enough of a change anyway (assuming it’s a different place, teachers, etc) without it being the first time they’ve been in any sort of school/away from mammy setting. She’s growing and learning and she’s a strong girl and you trust her teachers to be kind and understand. You’re giving her the space to do it, and it’s hard but it will be okay.

    Hang in there. Big hugs. I know how it is.

    • Thanks for the hugs. It’s always good to hear from those with kids a little older. I think you’re right- it would be harder waiting until she’s five, especially us being at home all day together. X

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