Guest Post from Laura… “The Drop Off”
The first minute of any of my daughter’s new activities – whether a pre-kinder program or another youth program – typically goes rather well. It’s the following minutes and seconds when everything falls apart…
The days prior to launch are full of anticipation. Excitement. Eagerness. Curiosity.
Five minutes into the first day is full of anxiety. Clinginess. Shyness. Fear.
You see, my daughter suffers from separation anxiety. At an excessive level. I first noticed the extreme nature of her anxiety when she was 9 months old and I needed to transfer her to a new, different daycare. She is now 5 years old and it is still a struggle. I (secretly) dread introducing her to new activities as much as she dreads attending them.
This summer my daughter was, for the first time, age-eligible to join the summer program at the Boys and Girls Club. As usual, she eagerly awaited her opportunity to join “the club.” Just the words “the club” tickled her pink. She envisioned a place as magical as the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Day 1, 8:00 a.m.: She proudly scanned her membership card, gaining her entry.
Day 1, 8:01 a.m.: She clung to me. Looking around, she did not recognize any of the other children.
Unit Director Lee Miller comforted my daughter and ushered her into the new world of the Boys and Girls Club. And the door closed behind them. I left for work. And wondered…
Day 1, 5:20 p.m.: I waited with other parents in the club lobby. The kindergarteners go swimming on Mondays, and we were waiting for the bus to bring them back from the pool. The bus arrived. Child after child filed out.
Finally. One last straggler. My daughter. My eyes searched her face for clues for how her day went.
Lee Miller had been watching for my daughter too. “Did you have fun?” Lee asked. My daughter gave a resounding, “Yes!” And broke into a wide grin.
It was a start.
Day 2, 8:00 a.m.: My daughter clung to me. Lee Miller approached, just like she had the prior morning.
“Remember me?” Lee asked. “I’m your friend.” Just the words my daughter needed to hear. I left for work. Comforted.
In the days following, even the other children recognized my daughter’s need for reassurance.
“Come play with us,” they would say at drop off. And take my daughter’s hands in theirs. They huddled around her. And twittered and giggled. Just like little girls do. I was able to escape. To work.
And so the summer went. Each day getting easier. It isn’t always smooth. But it’s no longer as rough.
From experience, not every place has been so accepting of my daughter’s reluctance to let go of mommy. But without my saying a word, the Boys and Girls Club staff – and even the children – seemed to understand. And know what to do.
On the last day of the summer program, Mary, the receptionist, remarked on my daughter’s progress. “She’s come a long way,” Mary said. “I’m glad you stuck with it.”
So am I.
For me. And for my daughter.
The Boys and Girls Club has been a daily dose of comfort. Compassion. Friendliness. Acceptance. As it turns out, the Boys and Girls Club really is as magical a place as the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.