You can do hard things
My little girl has experienced her first week of kindergarten. She has never been in an institution before, so it is a big deal. I think we have done well. I am so glad that I did not skimp on her lunch boxes and school bag. I mean, I have to look at them every single day! I made sure that the colours go well together, and that the illustrations are cute but not too cute. But even the perfect lunch box would not solve the pains of separation, would it?
I have to go to the bank again. Hopefully they will make me a bank account by the end of today. I am nervous. It will be my first time leaving Hannah at her kindergarten to run an actual, important errand. But I am a lot less anxious about the whole kindergarten situation now. My therapist, Jane, walked me through how to witness Hannah's pain on Tuesday. 'I see that you are scared. It's all new to you. It's okay to be scared. Mummy is coming back.'
Lene is one of the ladies that have tons of experience working in a kindergarten. She walked me through how to explain to Hannah why she has to go to kindergarten. Being able to word things in a clear and purposeful manner - that really helped. When Hannah protested against my meetings yesterday, I told her that I don't have meetings that day (because I didn't). I told her that I have to do my breathing exercise (i.e. meditation) and some cleaning. I explained that it will be boring for her to stick around. Much more fun if she enjoys some fresh air and sunshine while playing in the sandpit with her friend, M.
'Who else is going to eat all the meat and strawberries in your lunchboxes, if you are not in kindergarten?', I asked. Another appealing reason to stay.
I know that I cannot keep staying with her at kindergarten. But Hannah got really upset when I told her that Mummy doesn’t go to kindergarten, only Hannah does. ‘But I want to play with Mummy in the sandpit!’. One of the teachers at kindergarten recommended that I leave quickly instead of prolonging her pain. I followed her advice a few times last week. But now I realise that it’s wrong. It’s wrong to just leave like that.
I was so stretched last week. I was burnt out, having stayed with her at kindergarten everyday, all week. When we got back home, it was time to make and serve dinner. Then to get her ready for bed. Then to prepare her three lunch boxes for the next day. I began asking myself, is this going to be my life from here on? It can't be right.
I wrote in my journal the other day: How crazy it is that my two-year-old can not only understand everything that I say, but she can also reply to what is said in full sentences. Communication is vital. My daughter needs to know that Mummy is not abandoning her.
Nobody taught me to say this, but it is so powerful and it just blurted out of nowhere. 'You can do hard things, Hannah, just like Mummy can do hard things. I can see that coming here and being away from me is hard for you. But you can do hard things.' I felt the gravity of my words to her in the depths of my stomach.
I saw that glint in her eyes, thinking about what I just said. Fully believing in it. She was ready for our temporary goodbye. She asked for M, her four-year-old friend from the women's shelter. She wanted M to sit beside her while she ate from her lunch box made with love.
It is a huge challenge, separating from my daughter. She has known nothing else apart from being by my side, for almost three years of her life. I was proud when she walked into the eating area by herself at the end. It made me feel so good too, because I did not have to abandon her at kindergarten. I did not have to walk away, because another adult/educator/person that knows better told me so.
I was not equipped with the words last week when we started, but that I am now. And each time I tell Hannah 'you can do hard things', it is like I am whispering it to myself too. Moving into a new place is hard. Finding the right job is hard. Raising a kid all by yourself, in a foreign land is hard. But you can do hard things, Vivian. If little Hannah can do it, so can you.