Trepidatious. Now that's an understatement to describe how I felt this morning as I dropped off Little Nabi, 2 and 1/2 months shy of 3 years of age, at her preschool.
For the first time.
Due to her dad's night work schedule and my day work schedule, we have been (un)fortunate enough to not need daycare. We also never used a babysitter. For two occasions, my sister took care of LN for 2 and 1/2 hours each time - long enough for a movie. Both times, she missed her mommy and cried.
I did my best to prepare her and myself. I told her that Mommy always comes back, a trick that seemed to have worked for Daddy in a Strange Land and his family. It's been our mantra for a few days... Mommy always comes back, Mommy does what? She comes back! Meanwhile, I practiced the football handoff style - hand LN to a comforting teacher, swivel on one heel, take long strides down the hall, don't run but firmly speed up to quickly disappear rather than linger.
And then cry later in the car. No matter what, do not show tears to LN.
Well, we got there 10 minutes early. I showed her where her coat hook is. I took her to her classroom. It was empty except for one Asian woman. At first I took her to be one of the moms. Then she introduced herself as one of the staff - [Miss M]? I asked. No, she replied, she's [S-J], a new staff who just transferred from the other location. It's her first day, she said.
I recognized her name as Korean. And felt that familiar surge of relief... the kind you feel when you are lost in a big building and you see a sign or a face that you recognize. I could tell that LN felt comfortable with her as well. She initially refused to leave my side until I told her that Miss SJ is a friend of mine, just like Mommy's other Korean friends, HW and JR.
Miracle! The uber-shy child of mine reached for Miss SJ. I did my well-practiced handoff and swiveled out of there, tears streaming down my cheeks. I vaguely acknowledged that I didn't even hear a whimper out of LN. Half a minute later, I hid behind a wall and peeked down the hallway. There was LN, still not crying, in Miss SJ's arms. I had half expected to hear her wailing for her mommy back.
It took all of my self-control to wait 2 full hours before I called to check on her. I was reassured that LN was doing very well, still haven't cried at all, and playing very well, not leaving Miss SJ's side.
This is definitely a good piece of luck, I told my mom later when she called to find out how LN did on her first day of school. One, a new teacher is unfamiliar to the other kids as well. Two, LN can hog Miss SJ today because Miss SJ is not yet anyone else's favorite teacher. And three, she's Korean.
No, I don't have more confidence in her because she's Korean. Au contraire. I think I probably have more confidence in Miss M or the other staff I've met since they obviously have more experience. I especially picked Miss M's classroom because, well, Miss M is a Filipina and I thought it'd be easier on LN who tends to reach out to Asian women - probably because her mommy is one.
It's more something I think I picked up from my own parents as we travelled internationally. Wherever we went, every Korean we met was our long lost friend. When we lived in Bangladesh, every Korean ship that docked at a nearby seaport were met by us. The entire crew would be invited to a makeshift Korean dinner at our house since there were no Korean restaurants back when we lived there. I think I grew up thinking every Korean face would light up when he/she realized that mine, too, is Korean. Well, every Korean face except for the North Korean ones... we'd have North Korean ships come through our town now and then and my parents made sure that we did not approach any of the North Korean crew lest they wanted to kidnap us!
I digress... for whatever reasons, the fact that there was a new Korean staff on the same day LN started preschool offered great comfort. The huge cloud that hung over my head for the past few days suddenly dissipated into smaller clumps. Perhaps it was also because Miss SJ, too, seemed to gravitate toward LN.
And I am grateful for whatever piece of luck that brought Miss SJ to LN's preschool today of all days. It may not mean anything technically but it sure gave this mama a sense of comfort she needed on
her LN's first day of school.