Master of Manipulation

My 3-year-old started a new pre-school five days a week last month. He “gets” to ride on the school bus as part of the program in which he’s enrolled. It may sound like bliss to have about 3 hours a day without a tantrum-prone toddler whose favorite word is “No,” but the drama surrounding getting him on that bus each day is exhausting.



He enthusiastically gets dressed and helps me pack his backpack and snack for the day. He eagerly wants to wait outside and watch for the bus with me. Then, the bus comes into sight and the game begins. Some days, his feet form roots. He freezes and I have to pull him to the doors of the bus. Other days he runs right up to the open doors and then stops dead in his tracks. He rarely will walk up the steps himself so I must lift and hand him over to the aide as he whimpers, “Mama, Mama.”

Everyday. Every. Single. Day.

And yet, I remind myself this is an improvement. He had been going to a preschool 2 days a week for 2 ½ hours that required I drop him off at the classroom. It was a similar experience: he’d happily get dressed for school, get in the car, carry his book bag into the school building and as soon as the classroom door opened, he froze. After six months he still cried or clung to me as I would say goodbye. He literally went from my arms to the teacher’s on many occasions.

I’ve asked my son why he does this and he always says, “I miss Mama.” While the cuteness of his response is endearing, it’s not lost on me that he’s probably just saying that.

His former teacher said it wasn’t separation anxiety and reassured me that he stopped crying within 30 seconds of my departure. The bus aide also has relayed to me that he calms down quickly and after the first couple of weeks he no longer even cries. Upon drop-off I’m told each day “he had a great day,” and the teacher has written me to say he is a “delight” to have in class. So the performance I suppose is really just for Mama.

I’m glad to hear that, of course, but it doesn’t make me feel better to know that I am being played by my toddler.

Everyday. Every. Single. Day.


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