Thursday, September 10, 2015

Little Wings

Dear Nook Parents, this is not a typical TLN post, but I really want to share this with you.

As a child, I went to a summer camp in North Carolina for years, thirteen to be exact. I was six years old when I started and my parents walked me to the gate on a July Sunday morning at the Atlanta airport and waved as I boarded the plane {this was back in the day when you could walk to a gate}. I went for a MONTH, A WHOLE MONTH! I never really thought about it until I had my own children and realized what a huge decision that must have been for my parents. Imagine your babes leaving you for a whole month and being on the water and sailing , skiing, "motorboating", canoeing, water water water, scary scary scary. No way, right? Last year when I was faced with the decision to send my five year old I looked at my parents and said "how did you let me go away for a month at the age of six"? My dad replied with "it was three-and-a-half weeks" and I remind him that a Sunday to a Friday is a month in anyones book, and then I immediately follow that with "thank you so much, it was the best gift you could have given me". 

What was the gift? Learning to sail?

"No", I replied, "my independence". 

Of course my husband and I want to share that camp experience with our children, but in a more controlled environment. Water, water, water, scary, scary, scary, safety, so little, too young, no way...So, last year we took them to camp for Alumni weekend instead of sending our oldest off on his own. Camp is exactly the same, but even better with our own children there. This year, we went for Labor Day weekend, family camp, and stayed in the cabin that I started in in 1984. Crazy. We could not have asked for a better weekend as a family.

Monday night after we landed back in Atlanta, we were sitting at dinner and my six-year-old son said "so mom, it's sort of like the zip line isn't it? I mean, I am a little afraid to go to camp by myself next year, just like I was afraid to take a step off of that zip-line tower, but once I did, I wanted to go again and again and again". 

"It's exactly like that", I said.

The gift my parents gave me at a very young age by sending me to camp was the ability to walk into any situation and navigate peers, relationships, social dynamics, authority, rules, responsibilities all on my own. A child learns who they are and who they want to be very early on if you give them the opportunity. They gave me confidence in myself and independence by stepping back, which ultimately, is what parents are supposed to do.

This was our first week of school at The Little Nook and it was very hard for some of our parents. I could see it in your faces in carpool as you pulled around the circle or came to get your little ones early because they were really struggling with the separation. Your children have spent their first days, months, years learning the rules and routines of family life. They walked into The Little Nook with other children and unfamiliar faces and rooms and routines, and they are just scared. It is the fear of the unknown, the leap off of the zip-line tower. Oh how I know how that horrible pit in your stomach feels because I have walked in your shoes, I have had my children peeled off of my chest in tears reaching out for me. I think for us, parents, the main source of anxiety is worrying that our children will feel abandoned or someone might not love on them when they are crying. Parents go shopping for new school clothes and bags and lunch boxes and we think oh this is going to be so much fun! It is such a let-down when there are tears and we start to wonder if we made the right decision or if they are ready. The truth is, you have such an incredible and loving bond with your child, they want you. That's an amazing thing. It is so hard to give them their little wings.

Here are some tips to help all of our new Little Nookers adjust to their new school home:

- Be Consistent: Don't keep them home because they started to show signs of worry as they saw their book bag come out in the morning. Keep up your routine. Goodbyes should be really short and sweet and when you pick them up, reinforce that you came back just like you said you would. 

- Write us notes: The more we know about what your child likes/dislikes and family routines, the faster they will let us in their little world and learn that they can trust us too!

- Comfort: If you need to send pacifiers or loveys, please do. This is not the time to break those. Please label them so we don't misplace precious objects.

- Don't sneak away: Develop a goodbye ritual. It can typically take anywhere between 6-10 weeks for tears to subside and sometimes they go away for months and then pop back up. We are all growing and changing.

- They can hear you: Please resist talking about their separation in front of them. They can hear everything you say and they understand most of it. Stay very positive in front of them or distract and change the subject, redirect. The worst thing you can do is look at your husband and say "oh my goodness, she was crying so hard when I went to get her today, it made me so sad". This will only elevate his or her separation anxiety.

- Pep talk! Give yourself a good pep talk in the morning and stay smiling.  Talk about the Enchanted Tree in the Reading Room. Tell them that we will keep them safe and give them hugs if they need one. Call us anytime! Stay strong. We are loving on your sweet children.