Well, now he doesn't like it quite so much.
This morning he whined, cried, yelled, and screamed at every step that got him closer to school. He didn't want to change his clothes, he didn't want to eat breakfast, and even when I plopped him on the toilet before going, he tried to stop peeing mid-stream to demonstrate that he did not want to do these things. My approach was simply to soldier on, get him ready and out the door by 8:30, whether he'd eaten or not. But I will confess to losing my cool pretty early on when he was screaming. In fact, both J and I got angry when he was doing that, but now upon further reflection, we think that our getting angry wasn't having the effect of laying down the law, but instead was ramping up the tension.
We left the house at 9 am, only half an hour after I'd wanted to. That's not bad, but I was really annoyed and vowed in my head to start getting Squeakles up at least half an hour earlier next week in case he intends to throw a long drawn out fit again. Right before leaving, Squeakles asked for a pacifier "so that I won't scream and cry". I was torn because he never uses a pacifier except when he's sleeping, but at the same time he asked without whining and he seemed aware that he was trying to find a way to keep calm. So we gave him the pacifier.
J stayed at home because he'd suffered the same sudden vomiting the previous night that I'd had two nights prior. When I threw up, we thought that maybe I was actually just that stressed out because we'd eaten all the same food that day and yet he wasn't sick. But when J got sick after eating the leftover spare ribs that we'd had on the day I got sick, I suddenly remembered that I'd bought three packages of individually cut ribs (instead of one package of ribs I would have had to cut myself). Probably J had eaten from the good packages the first time, and then yesterday when he had leftovers, he ate the ribs from came from the package that had made me sick. I had only eaten one rib, so I couldn't have eaten from multiple packages. I guess there must have been something wrong with the ribs to start with, because I don't think they were undercooked - they were cooked at 300 degrees for three hours and the meat looked fully cooked, fell easily off the bone, etc. I'd been nauseous and tired after I'd been sick, and J was the same, so he decided to rest at home. (Fortunately, Squeakles had only eaten a little bit of the ribs on the first night and didn't get sick that night, and then didn't eat any of the leftovers.)
Squeakles was quiet on the way to school, but when we got to the door he started saying again that he didn't want to go to school. I quickly dropped Weeble off at her classroom, giving her a little kiss as she started to cry when she saw me leaving. (She was either crying because I was leaving, or because the teacher had the audacity to try to take off her coat. Maybe it was both.)
Then I got Squeakles out of the stroller and with a bit of cajoling, into the classroom. He immediately pulled me over to the play kitchen and tried to make sure I would stay with him and that we would not go anywhere near the other kids. I talked with the teacher a bit, who completely understood the situation and has been observing the exact same kind of behaviors from Squeakles that we've been seeing at home. In the meantime, across the room, I watched as the other little boy who started in the class on the same day as Squeakles, was bawling and hanging on to his dad. (This poor kid is crying his eyes out almost every time I see him.) I showed Squeakles that this other boy was also sad because he didn't want his daddy to leave, and then pointed out the other kids in the classroom who have been coming to school for a longer time and who are now having fun together. I think Squeakles got the point, but it didn't convince him to drop his guard.
Soon, Squeakles willingly took off his own coat and laughed with me a little bit as we joked about where it was supposed to go - on a chair? in the sink? in the trash? Squeakles brought me over to the hook where the coat went.
It looked like things were going well, but then I suggested that we go over to where the other children were, and his guard went right back up. I picked him up, thinking I would bring him over to the group and he would know that obviously that meant I was coming too, but of course he also realized that he no longer had control over whether he was going over there or not, so he started yelling. I tried to get him to be quiet, and he just yelled louder. At that point, one of the teacher's helpers came over and took him from me, saying that he they would go over to the "library" (some books and pillows in a corner) to calm down. I motioned to ask whether she thought I should go, and she nodded, so I stepped out.
Once in the hallway, I immediately teared up and I headed for the stroller, passing another two other parents on the way, wondering if there was a discrete place I could cry. I only made it the few steps to our stroller before I heard Squeakles' classroom teacher behind me (not the helper who was currently with Squeakles), and in one quick motion she was there, saw my tears, and gave me a hug. It was an extremely sweet gesture and I really appreciated that she'd just known to come out and see how I was doing. She told me that this was all very normal, and I told her that I knew that rationally and knew that they were doing the right thing with Squeakles and with me. After she left, a mom that I had passed in the hallway came over to me and said that she had the same issue with her daughter for the first month. She said she used to come back to the classroom every hour and would look in and see that her daughter was doing fine, and then after a while, school drop off wasn't so hard anymore. That was nice to hear and I thought it was just so nice of her to reach out to me like that.
Tearily, I gathered my things and, before going, stopped back at Weeble's room. I'd said that I would come back after I dropped Squeakles off (because I'd been in a rush), but the lights were now off in the room. I could hear Weeble crying from her crib and I saw the teacher in the room go over to her. I decided that going in there wasn't going to help anyone, so I left.
On my walk to work, I talked with J, and reminded myself that our goal at the moment is to get the kids comfortable with the school. Yes, I can comfort Weeble better than the teachers can. And yes I am the person Squeakles wants to be around, rather than the teachers or the other kids. Of course that's true. But part of growing up and attending school is learning to trust and be comforted by the people at the school, and that will help them learn to be more independent. So although I may want to stick around with Squeakles until he feels comfortable enough for me to leave, that may not be the best approach because then he's not actually trying to get comfortable there - he's just using all of his energy to interact with me and try to keep me there with him.
Shortly after sitting down at my desk at work, I got a call from Squeakles' teacher, telling me that after I'd left, they'd taken Squeakles to another room where she and another teacher (from a different class) gave Squeakles some water and made him laugh and calm down a little. They then brought him back to the classroom where he seemed fine but subdued. A little while later I got a second phone call, from the teacher again saying that Squeakles wanted to talk to me. He told me over the phone that he wanted me to come back and get him, so I told him that I would talk to his teacher about when I would come back. I don't know how he felt about that because suddenly all I heard was "snotty nose! snotty nose!" and then the teacher took a little break to help him wipe his nose. Then Squeakles said bye and I was back on with the teacher, who said she thought that had helped him a little. I said I didn't think he was under the impression that I wouldn't actually be coming back for several hours, and asked her to let me know if he needed me to come get him earlier. If he doesn't need to be picked up earlier, we may stay for a pizza and ice skating party they have tonight, so she will keep reminding him about this as something fun that will be happening later that I will be coming for.
I don't know if we'll actually make the ice skating part of the night. J might not be up for it, Weeble is often tired when I pick her up, and who knows what state Squeakles will be in. But that is still hours away...