Holding Back the Tears

As parents the ultimate job is to raise our babes, all helpless and needy to be practical and very much not needy individuals who can cope without us. Sounds reasonable enough!


Why then is seeing them make those first tentative steps of independence so darn hard?!

Is there anything so heart-wrenching as hearing the cry of ‘Mummmmeeeeee!!!’ as you leave them in the care of strangers? Only the stab of being not needed when they gleefully turn on their heel into the activities of strangers?

Either way, the heart is destroyed, either broken or melted. And a wrecked heart can only result in salt water welling in the eyes, fighting back torrents of tears.

As thus I swallowed the tears away as Noodles started his first day at nursery school. He walks in, so eager, with a loud and proud ‘Heh-woh!’ into the big playroom that he so stubbornly refused to step foot into when we went for his taster session. He immediately starts lining up wooden trains on the play table before running up to the wall to count the numbers to 10.

And it’s not that he seems so small. It’s that everything seems so small. The chairs and tables, the toddler-sized tent with the toddler-sized torches. And the scaled-down cubicles and sinks. And all the little people doing their thing, just pootling and pottering, whilst we adults seem too big and out-of-place. This isn’t a place for parents; it’s the realm of the small people. Who are small for such a tiny fraction of time.


And I try not to think about it being his first day in education. His first step on a journey that will possibly last til he’s 21. Obviously, by making an effort NOT to think about it I did just that.

A surreptitious wipe of the eyes. Like I’m fooling anyone! These teacher’s have seen it all before – including me and my overactive lacrimal glands – and I feel like classic helicopter mum as I try to assess when I should leave. I sidle up to another mum whom I recognise and make small talk to fend off a) my hovering and b) my desire to sob.

And I think I have it nailed and we’re being told to go…but then Noodles decides he doesn’t want to do painting and he clocks that I’m going.


His little face, all plaintive as I head for the door regardless. Oh, hell, it IS worse when they don’t want you to leave. He’s the only kid crying and I’m the only parent with a quivering bottom lip as I hit the exit button. His shrieks have got higher-pitched as the door closes behind me.

I spend the next 2 1/2 hours with the phone within easy reach. I shower and blow-dry my hair. It’s been that long since I had time to sit down and do my hair properly that the drier fuses! I watch Wanted Down Under and count the minutes.

And eventually it’s time to pick him up. And out he comes, all bewildered but happy, bits of paper to pass on, including My First Day. Apparently he settled down quickly once I left (or do they always say that to reassure parents?) and played with the trains and told his key worker his colours and watched the other kids play.


And he at once seems so tiny and yet not as tiny as when I dropped him off first thing. And wearing different trousers (having spilt his drink down himself).

‘Did you have a nice time?’


‘And do you want to go back again tomorrow?’


I suppose it gets easier. For both him and me! At least until the next step.



16 thoughts on “Holding Back the Tears”

  1. Such a big step, isn’t it? Especially when it’s the baby and I think that’s when we mums get more emotional. But they really do settle well when we’re out of sight, and the teachers are fantastic at that.

    But what to do with all that free time*?!

    *as if


    1. Ah, the free time? The first week is spent sat watching kids’ TV on auto-pilot before realising they’re not there. The second week is spent trying to decide what the hell to catch up on first (chores/exercise/paperwork/the ironing mountain). The third week+ the ‘free time’ is abdorbed into not being very free at all. Ho hum.

      1. It doesn’t take long to fill it up. Btw, just found you on Twitter, via my food blog profile. My regular blog is currently on suspension, lol.

  2. Such a hard day for any mama to live through. But you did it! Funny enough, my favorite three-year-old (daughter of friends) started preschool last week and even though I was far removed from that situation, I had a little grieving over it because I won’t get to see her nearly as much now.

    And thanks for the Horton reference. That is a wonderful story. πŸ™‚

  3. Awww. So cute. Little bird taking his first little flight and our GSM is quoting Dr. Seuss to her faithful blog followers……I’m glad you took us along on this first little step….it’s going to be a very interesting ride I think.

    1. Day 2 was worse than Day 1! Knowing what was coming I carried him there whilst he shreiked ‘No! No! No!’ :,-( But he’s coming out happy, so I’m sure it’ll be fine sooner rather than later.

    1. Having time alone in the bathroom is heavenly. Dropping him off in tears is horrific though. Although it always only seems to be MY kid who cries! I can only think that I’m THAT fab a mum they don’t want to leave me (and not that I’ve been THAT much of a helicopter parent that they don’t know how to cope without me). :-/

  4. It took my daughter about a week to settle into pre-school. Her key worker would tell her that mummy had just gone to the shops to buy juice and a magazine and would be back soon. The second week she started her usual wailing as we walked in and then clocked the other children playing and stopped abruptly, turned to me and said ‘mummy you go home’. I think she decided that being at preschool was more fun than just being at home all day! Funnily enough there have been no tears at all about going to school even though she is young for her year (July birthday). I found it harder with her than with my other two as when they went to preschool (and big school) I still had a baby at home and now it’s just me! But you do get used it remarkably quickly! xxx

    1. Thank you for such a great reply!
      It’s hard when it seems like your child is the only one hanging back, but they do mostly have that moment when it all clicks into place. He’s coming out happy at the end of the sessions and hopefully he’ll soon realise it’s what happens now and have things he’ll look forward to. My other three have all been to the same nursery and none of them wanted to leave, despite them all having traumatic starts. I bet the key worker’s relieved that he’s my last!’n

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