Saturday, November 21, 2015

Eight Little Words That Crushed Me

My youngest, Little L, who is two-years-nine-months old, has always been strong willed. She is incredibly independent and vocal about what she wants. I recently went back to work meaning she had to go to preschool full time. 

Little L had gone through a bit of a rough phase, behavior-wise, that started six or eight months ago. She was in the 18-month to 3-year-old class at preschool and she was screaming a lot, hitting from time to time, and just showing general bad behavior. We kept chalking it up to the "terrible two's". I didn't get it because my other two never went through that phase. 

Towards the end of the summer Little L's preschool director reached out to me and asked if I would be alright with moving her up to the three-year-old class. She said even though Little L was only two-and-a-half, she felt she would do very well as she was completely potty trained and was getting bored in the baby class. They needed the room in the younger class as they had new kids enrolling, so we agreed that would be fine.

Little L's first day in the "big kid class" was also the first day back at school for her siblings. She was so proud of herself. We started to notice positive behavior changes almost instantly. She was flourishing. She loved all the art projects that she was doing, and she loved being able to play on the big playground and on the swings. When she went full time, I didn't think it would be that much of an adjustment as she was already there three days a week.

Apparently I was wrong. Over the last couple of weeks since I started work, Little L's behavior has started to slip again.

We used to have two days a week together, just the two of us. We would go to the park, or go grocery shopping, or just hang out at the house together. Whatever it was we were doing, it was just us. Sometimes we would nap together. I loved that. It was like when she was a little baby all over again. She didn't have to share my attention with any of her older siblings or her dad.

Last night hubs, Little L and two of our other kids went out to dinner. I thought it would be a nice treat to kick off the Thanksgiving vacation. That was a big mistake. Apparently Little L hadn't napped at school and she was a nightmare. She wouldn't sit in her seat and she kept screaming every time we told her to do something. Eventually I told everyone I was going to sit in the car with her, told them to eat and just get my food to go when they finally brought it all out. 

So off we went to the car. 

"Why are we leaving, mommy?" She asked, big brown eyes staring up at me.

"Because you wouldn't sit nicely and you kept yelling and screaming. There are lots of other people trying to eat dinner who don't want to listen to you scream." I responded.

She climbed up into the car, I buckled her into her car seat and then I went and sat in the front.

"Can I watch one wittle tiny Paw Patwol?" 

"Yes, but first you need to listen to me. You can't behave like that when we go out places. You have to listen to mommy and daddy when we talk to you. If we ask you to sit nicely, you have to do it. Do you understand?" I asked.

"Yes, mama. I'm sowwy I didn't listen."

And then she said eight words that I never imagined I would hear; "I just miss you every day at work."

Soul. Crushed.

She was holding my hand, rubbing my thumb with one of her fingers and then she turned back to the DVD player and kept watching Paw Patrol.  

I'm not sure how I didn't cry. Maybe I would have if my two older children hadn't come crashing into the car at that very moment.

It was that moment that it hit me. I had been excited to start back at work. I had dreaded it for so long, but once I was out there working again, I was feeling really good. My anxiety had lessened and I was no longer taking antidepressants. I had a reason to get up and dressed every day, and although I was still surrounded by kids all day, I was also having adult interaction with someone other than my husband.

I had just assumed that everything was fine with Little L as well. I sent a text to her teacher to ask if she had napped that day and tell her that lately, she had been very grumpy at night. Her teacher told me Little L hadn't napped today and that she had "been a little stinker at school lately too."

I suddenly felt very guilty that I hadn't even thought about how this transition was affecting her. Not only do we not have our alone time anymore, but her dad is now dropping her off at school every morning. Every afternoon when I pick her up she runs to me screaming "MOMMY" as though she hasn't seen me in weeks.

I know she will be fine, she will adjust, and life will go on, but I still don't like that a decision I made - to go back to work - is affecting her negatively. It is really hard for me to discipline her for misbehaving when the root of the behavior is my fault, and added to that is her exhaustion from a long day with no nap. 

How do I handle that? How do I be firm and consistent with my expectations of her, yet understanding and not overreact when she's simply just tired and cranky?

I guess I will have to spend as much one-on-one time with her as I can and have lots of snuggles and naps with her whenever I can.


  1. Such a difficult balance between what we need to be the best person and mom that we can be, what our kids need (each of then) and what the family needs as a whole.
    Little L will adjust. In the meantime I know that the love you feel for her and show to her will help her get there faster.

    1. Thank you Karen! I kept her out of school for the week after Christmas and I think it helped!