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The preschool room
If you've had a child start nursery you will no doubt have had parents telling you not to worry because 'they'll settle in no time'. Maybe you heard another child had a few tears to start with and perhaps yours did too, but before long they loved nursery, because that's how it usually goes isn't it? I mean, you don't normally see a nursery filled with unhappy children do you? Lots of small unhappy faces waiting for parents to come to the door. Of course not.
On the whole they are happy places full of children learning, playing, making friends, otherwise why would so many people send their children there?
However, while the majority of children and their families happily settle into new routines, there are families who question what they have done. Families who have mornings of tears, evenings of tears, sessions of screaming, debates about whether they are doing the right thing, all because of nursery. Families like us who struggle day after day because their little person just doesn't settle into their new environment, doesn't talk to the other children, doesn't do all of the things their loving parents thought they would, even after weeks of trying.
I know it might sound a bit dramatic, but some days it felt dramatic and I'd spend mornings, nights and every time in between feeling upset. I know you might think I could have just taken my boy out of nursery with me at home, but we needed to find a way to get him socialising with children and trusting other adults. I know you might wonder why we didn't find another setting but believe me, we looked and my boy was adamant he wasn't going to go anywhere else and it didn't feel right to argue.
With few options left I clung onto the memories of the odd day or week that he actually did settle and put all of my hopes into the preschool room. The next stage up in the nursery journey and the room we'd signed up to nursery for. A quieter room where the focus was school preparation, independence and learning.
When it came to moving up though, in some ways the move broke my biggest. Any bit of confidence he found in the previous room slowly disappeared. He struggled with every staff change (there were quite a few), he stopped joining in and learning and eventually the tears increased.
It broke me too. Every tear felt far more personal this time around because I hadn't managed to fix things. Every other parent effortlessly dropping their child off with barely even a step into the room, while I had my child pulled off of me, felt like a kick. Every other child running around happily making friends and playing games made me feel like I had failed.
Times were tough but thankfully this isn't where our story ends, because although we had months and months of struggles, eventually some positives started to pop up. A chat with the nursery manager and he landed himself the most amazing key worker. A chance to use a laptop and suddenly he was really good at numbers. Another nursery session added (yep, I know this sounds crazy) and he started to find things he did enjoy. Then, the part where I started to give myself a bit of a break, the SEN specialist got involved.
The SEN specialist certainly isn't the point of my story, that's another story all to itself, but while the process felt daunting it taught me something. It taught me that I wasn't actually in this nursery battle with my child alone. There really were other parents going through exactly the same, I just hadn't met them. It taught me that while I so wish things had been different, I'd done what I could. It taught me that the nursery really did want to support my biggest and it was ok for me to ask them for help.
With a few changes made at nursery, letting myself off the hook a bit and my oldest keen for school, things changed. Everything just started to slot into place. A bit of time off and out of nowhere, he was happy heading back into his preschool room and joining in with P.E. By the time of his graduation and summer holidays almost starting we'd been hearing about other children, those who he'd played a game with or spoken to. Another week or two and he was using all of the facilities in his room without a worry, from toilets to the sun lotion station. Then, something I never thought would happen, I walked into his preschool room to bring him home and he walked straight past me. Straight past me and right into asking his keyworker about something.
Suddenly I was in a new territory, a place where I'd cry happy tears seeing my biggest flourish. A place where my biggest finally had some confidence, some friends. We'd done it, he'd done it. It might have come really late in the day, but hey, it's better late than never.
Now as I write this with my biggest having had his last nursery session, I can honestly say that sending him to nursery was the best thing we did. Yes, it was far from a smooth ride, but I don't know where we'd be without this journey. I don't know if he'd be ready for school, whether I'd know how to support him or get support. I don't know if we'd be strong enough for the next step, but here we are, getting ready for it while we hold back the tears as we say farewell to all of the staff who've supported him. We're really going to miss the preschool room, in fact we already are.
So, if you are feeling like you are in a never ending cycle of upsetting nursery drop offs, talk to your nursery team, the room leader, the manager. They are there to support you. If you are feeling alone, or like your child is the only one struggling, know that you aren't. There are other families right there with you. The struggles, especially when it comes to our children, are often the stories we don't like to share but we all have our struggles, our bad days between the good and we can get through it.