May 17, 2012

Separation Anxiety

I know I said I was going to go all Domestic Diva on y'all for the rest of the week, but I actually need some advice/moral support/a pep talk. All of the above.

I take Andrew to our on post CDC (not center for disease, but child development center) once or twice a week. We've been doing this for a while now.. probably since he was 7 months old or so. It's really a great service that you can find at any post. While they do regular day care and preschool, at the same facility they also have hourly care. As long as I make a reservation for him, I can drop him off for as long as I need to. Usually it's for a 2 or 3 hour period.

While it's always upset him when I drop him off, he usually calms down fairly well. He's ALWAYS had trouble with it. He's a little shy I think, when not around me. So whenever I go to pick him up, I usually hear something along the lines of, "he did OKAYYYY, mama." Or, "he cried on and off, but he seemed to have an OKAYYY day". Which has always made me sad.
A lot of my friends use the same service, and they don't seem to have any problems. They play really well there and don't seem to mind when their parents drop them off. I know that all kids are different, and I'm already very aware that Andrew has a certain level of anxiety. (I apologize, future Andrew, I'm afraid you got some these issues from your mama)  But, I would love to see him running around, playing, having a great time. Instead, he cries for me, and clings to one of the caregivers there for the majority of the time. 

The last two times I've dropped him off, they've had to call me because they never could get him to calm down.  They call if a child has been inconsolable for an hour. And I'm glad they call. But, I don't know what's going on. I'm at a complete loss as to what to do, really.

I bring him there for multiple reasons. I guess, first of all, are selfish reasons. I'm involved in things that require me to be childless from time to time. They aren't necessary things, but things I enjoy doing. I'm a member of OCSA (our posts' officer's wives club) and we have monthly luncheons. I really enjoy going to those and don't want to give that up. This is just one example. And sometimes, you just need a few hours to yourself when you have a toddler, right? I know being burnt out sometimes comes with the territory, but I also can't count on my husband to come home at 5 every night to give me a break. So this is the only chance I get.
Also, though, he's going to have to leave the nest at some point. I don't want him to be going through this in Kindergarten! Right?!

With all of that being said, if I thought they were not treating him right or that this was absolutely the wrong thing to be doing, I would take him out in a heartbeat and give up my activities and means of sanity. But that's the problem, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing.

Do I keep at it and hopefully he'll get used to it and his anxiety will lessen? I asked his caregivers for any suggestions or advice and they said to keep bringing him in. That he needs to get used to it. But am I traumatizing him? Is this just making it worse in the long run? Maybe he's too young?
All I know is it's starting to cause me so much anxiety as well, that my stomach is turning to knots the night before. Which I'm sure he is picking up on and isn't helping him a bit.

What do you think mamas? Feel free to give me your thoughts. I need others' advice from time to time!


Mel said...

I'm not a mom (obviously) but I am your friend. Listen to me when I say that you should never, EVER feel bad for wanting a little time to yourself. How can you be expected to be a happy, healthy momma and wife without a little alone time? Seriously. You take care of Andrew, the home, keeping your husband happy, etc... you deserve some "me time" every once in a while. It's not like you're taking him to CDC so you can go to the spa all day every day!!

Second, my experience (when my sister was little and refused to attend summer art classes unless I went with, even though I was too old for those classes...) is that the earlier he can learn some self-reliance and independence, the better. That said, perhaps you could try to talk to him about it. I know, it sounds crazy since he's young. But you would be surprised (or not, you know how smart your little man is) what he can understand at his age. Explain that this is something he needs to do for you and that you will reward him with a certain toy or his favorite show. It's a simple way for him to understand responsibility and positive reinforcement. :)

Hope this helps and that I'm not overstepping by giving advice when I'm not a mother...just another perspective, hopefully. Oh, and big hug for you!

Heather Fox said...

I had a similar problem with the gym daycare when my daughter was 2. She had never been left with anyone, and had meltdown after meltdown. I went 3 days in a row with out actually getting a workout in and then gave up for a week. Then I went back with an agenda. I took her in and formally introduced ger to each "teacher" and child there. She then warmed right up and hasn't had a problem since. I also think you should do a few more days a week to get him used to it and more familiar with it. He may just realize that once he gets comfortable it's time to go and avoid it for another week. Hopefully you can find something that works for him because that is a terrible feeling to have. Best of luck!

Charla Welch said...

I was reading this while on the phone with my mom, so I asked her. She said try leaving him more often but for shorter times. And always explain why you're leaving him and "mommy will be back to come get you." She said it is part of the age. If you can plan to leave him at the same time as a friend he likes to play with (distraction) it can make it easier. But keep at it, and it will get better.

I even go through this with Remy. He cries if I leave him with anyone but his daddy. Or Grandpa. He loves his grandpa.

Sharon said...

Jess~~I've worked in pre-school now for 16 years for both 2 and 4-year olds. We have separation problems with both age groups-for some just at the beginning of the year-ometimes occasionally throughout the year and even in a rare case, every day all year. I always tell the mothers to come in with a smile, say bye and LEAVE! When they hang around, it makes it so much worse. Most often, the child calms down and is having fun very quickly. In the two class, we always have snack at the end of class and can tell the child "Mommy comes back after snack". Having that routine seems to help. When they ask for mom, I ask back "when does Mommy come?" and they tell me after snack. They get the hang of it quickly. In all my years, only 4 or 5 times have we told the mom that the child just isn't ready. Don't give up! This is good for both of you!

Brianna Renee said...

That must be so stressful for you.

I can't imagine watching one of my children cry repeatedly when I leave them. I understand the NEED to have some time for yourself. The things you do in that time may not be necessities but the time to breathe is a necessity. I just question if now is the right time for your son to be in the CDC. If it really is the best option for you both. It's just my opinion and I hope you know that whatever you decide to do or not do, I by no means am judging you or any other parent. I think there's a thousand healthy and productive ways to raise a child and you have to find out what situation works best for you and your children but I think we, as a society push mother's day out, daycare, CDCs...potty training...independence in all forms, too early. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the kind of mother who is so devoted to her children that I will fall apart when they leave...quite the contrary, I'm very much looking forward to being an empty nester one day.

That said, I'm a parent who strongly believes in attachment parenting (and it's not all what stupid Time magazine portrays it as). It works for us. In the last 4 years, we've had two children, one 6 month training separation, one 13 month deployment, a total of 22 months of exclusive nursing (wasn't by choice...neither of our children would or in the case of our 10 month old daughter will take a sippy or bottle...they throw it back at me!-it's ridiculous). I cannot emphasize enough how much I understand the necessity of you having YOU time. But for me, I've found that my children are more secure, more likely to be independent after they've had the time that they need from me. And when they're more secure and content, I can relax and really have "me" time knowing that they're not struggling with anxiety.

Your son sounds a lot like our daughter. She's a mommy's girl. She wants me and needs me more than our son did. She's clingy and it can be hard but the more attention I give her, the more I've noticed she's willing to go beyond the be in another room, to allow a new person to hold her. That sort of thing. I have no doubt that she's going to be a strong-willed (already is) independent person as she grows up. I just don't see the necessity of pushing that independence now.

JG said...

Obviously I don't have any sage parenting advice, and I didn't say anything this afternoon because A) I didn't want to bombard you with even more someplace NOT on the computer :) and B) I wanted to reread your post and the other comments to make sure it was fresh in my mind. All I want to add is, you've been talking about this almost since you first started taking Andrew to CDC, and from what it sounds like, not much has changed between then and now, nearly a year later, for either you or Andrew. I think the bottom line is, it sounds like your heart/gut/mommy instinct is trying to tell you something. We've had the conversation before that, no matter what you do as a mother, there will always be someone ready and willing to tell you that you are doing it wrong and you should do something differently. If you believe this routine is in both his and your best interests, then be confident in that decision and stick with it. If you continue to have doubts, then don't ignore that, because there's probably a very good reason. Before you take anyone else's advice, listen to that mommy instinct first, and others second. Don't doubt yourself. You are a great mother and no matter what, you'll find the situation that works best for your family, whether that's tweaking what you're already doing or trying something completely different. I have total confidence in you :)

Kristy said...

Unfortunately I have no wise words to share as B hasn't been as bad as Drew was. But I'm with JG, you should trust your Momma gut first and know that you are being the best mom you can be! I am proud of what you have done in these last 20 months and know you will continue to be awesome!!! Hugs!!!