Post-lockdown: Back to School

Little gosling went back to school two days ago, after almost three months at home. We were all looking forward to school restarting. Ok, little gosling had mixed feelings. He oscillated between sadness over school being closed (“school still closed?”) and complete panic at the thought of going back to school (“school?! No no no, school no!”). He brought the school up regularly and every once in a while we sang “Bateau sur l’eau” with the names of his colleagues. Sometimes he thought he saw one or other of his colleagues on the street.. He was definitely missing it..

Back to that first morning. Closing the door to our apartment behind us and getting into the elevator morning, I felt as nervous as when I went for exams or job interviews. I had been preparing little gosling to the idea of going back to school for almost a week, since we had been informed the nursery would open again. Every day talking about the school and seeing (some of) the kids again and the activities at school: singing, dancing, going down the slide, drawing, playing..  All was going ok until the moment we stopped in front of the nursery door to say goodbye to daddy; only one parent was allowed inside. And then, the suffering began… ohh such a heartbreaking crying.  

He clung to his daddy’s arms crying, showing him to go towards the park and the playground. I took him in my arms and got inside… no way he wanted to go up the stairs, but accepted to go down to the room where we used to leave the pram and his winter shoes and clothes. I managed to distract his attention and we spent around 10 minutes looking at the photos of the baby class; the photos of kids in his class had been removed to be renewed, but next to each of the names there were animal stickers. Little gosling’s one is an elephant. We went through all babies’ names and animals a couple of times. Finally, he agreed to go up and watch the photos of the rooms and from the kids’ activities posted on the staircase’s walls.. We recalled the carnival party and some of the drawing classes; there were photos of him, as well. 

We progressed slowly. I encouraged him to go inside his class and ask the teachers if they had any books. “Circle of life” from The Lion King was playing inside (one of the three videos he gets to see occasionally is the opening of The Lion King). He agreed to knock on the door and in we went. We sat down together, took off his shoes, and off he went. He started looking around, with his doudou in his arms. He once turned suddenly and came back to me. I assured him I would not leave without saying goodbye. I gave him a few more minutes. He explored the place calmly. It looked promising. So, I decided it was a good moment to slip out. I told him I was going away, but would come back to get him in the afternoon, after his nap, and we would go to the playground and play in the sandpit. He waved goodbye. He approached and gave me a kiss, when I asked for one. And I left. 

By the time I was outside, he was crying incosolately and had come to the window. I waved goodbye and sent kisses and played peek-a-boo, but did not seem to make him feel better. I left. It was like the first time at school all over again; the third first time in ten months :(. It’s heartbreaking, leaving him so upset. It makes me doubt each time whether I am doing the right thing; I could keep him at home for some weeks, months longer. But,  I know he likes it at school; it will help him learn French; and the longer he stays at home, the harder it will become the moment I will also have to go back to work. 

When I picked him up in the afternoon, he had been playing outside, on the school’s playground. He told me he had liked it at school (“bebe likes school”). I was relieved; he had had a good day. We said goodbye to the school and when I asked him whether we’d come back the next day he said “yes”. We went towards the playground, as promised. He told me about his day: he had played with the other little girl also going to school (for now, it’s just the two of them), he had eaten “st(r)awbellies” and cake (anything from galettes to biscuits, from corn cakes and real cake qualifies as cake to him). Halfway to the sandpit, little gosling says to me: “bebe sad.. mommy left… mommy came back afte(r)noon pick up bebe”, as if observing I had kept my word. “Bebe and mommy happy” he continued. Ok, it would take a while again, but this looked promising. 

Yesterday morning, on the second day of school, he got dressed, ate his breakfast and then climbed back into my bed, under the covers and said “bebe stay home; bebe no go school, no”. Awww… I tried to convince him, reminding him that he learns songs there that mommy does not know and he can teach me, that he needs to teach me if I am to sing them to him. His face lightened up. So, he put on his shoes and daddy talked to him about saying hello to the pigeons in the park on our way to school. On the way, I kept telling him to ask the teacher for whatever he wanted to do: sing, dance, draw, play outside, read, build.. He nodded… When we stopped in front of the school, the same thing happened… Except that he kept crying, I was unable to calm him down at all. This time, he didn’t want to go in, knock on the door, take his shoes off, or stand on his two feet, only in my arms. I tried for ten minutes to calm him down, but did not succeed. I left. He came again at the window, face red, crying… offff…. 

I felt angry with this virus and the lockdown for interrupting his routine for so long. I wondered how this resumption of school in alternate weeks would work, whether he would suffer longer, whether he’d take longer to get used to school again. 

When I picked him up in the afternoon, he was cheerful. Again, coming in from the playground. He was even wearing his sandals!!! Which he had obstinately refused to put on since the warm weather came back. He showed me what he had been cooking at the toy kitchen. He had found a “red boiler”, just like the one he has at home and uses for making “soup” and “tea”. He pointed to the books he had read, one with an “efetul” (elephant), one with the “ouuuf” (wolf) and another one with eggs (a search and find for Easter eggs). He told me he had painted and built a “turn” (tower) with his colleague. Once again, he told me he had enjoyed himself (“bebe liked school”). 

I asked him where he wanted to go. He pointed to the “other playground”, the one with the (rocking) car. There we went. He happily ran after pigeons, first shoo-ing them, then chasing them to offer “food” he had picked up from the ground. He climbed on all of the rocking cars and animals on the playground. “Bebe wants all”, he said; to be read: at the same time, so he was busily yelling at the kids climbing on the other rocking things. He made new friends. He was his normal, busy, cheerful self. 

He convincingly said we would go to school again today. But….. this morning, he did the crying at home, asking me to let him “stay at home (with) mommy and daddy”. Try explaining to him that this was an extraordinary and temporary situation, that it will all change shortly… In the end, he asked to read one book, after which we would go to school. When I closed the book, he stood up from our reading nook and quietly went to pick up his shoes. He was almost a bit cheerful when he realised he got to wear his rain jacket (he loves it!) and was calm all the way to school. He just refused to go in on his own; he wanted “up” in my arms, no knocking on the door, but silently nodded to change his shoes and finally get down from my arms and go inside the class. But only after I mentioned all the time we would spend together at home, before he’ll have to go back to school again after tomorrow: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday… “Many days”, he said. He went to join his colleague, quickly looked at me when I slipped out and…. that was it. 

We’ll take it one day at a time.. It is so disheartening seeing him so distressed…

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