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No More Long Goodbyes

Laszlo practicing his academic look

At the preschool where Laszlo went last year, many kids were still crying about separating from their parents for weeks after the first day. Some were still crying after months.

This year, he’s going to a new preschool. It started last week, but we were on vacation. NONE of the kids were crying (after only having been there for one week!) when I dropped Laszlo off on his first day this week. The kids were all calm and happy.

So how is it that the new preschool has no crying kids after only a week of school and the old preschool had crying kids for weeks (and even months, in a couple of cases)?

No, the new preschool hasn’t hand-picked calm kids. This school has a first-come, first-serve policy. A blind waiting list. They don’t choose which kids will attend. They accept anyone.

And no, I don’t think they’re beating the kids into submission.

I do think that part of it is that the new school has a few returning students in Laszlo’s class. The kids are of mixed ages, so I’m sure that the older, seasoned kids help to create a general feeling of stability.

Adding to the pleasant vibe in his classroom is the fact that the teachers aren’t desperately kowtowing to the kids. When Laszlo started to cry as I left, the teacher didn’t talk to him in a coddling voice or frantically try to entertain him. There was an air of calm about her and she talked to him as an adult would talk to another adult. Usually, I see grown-ups try to calm a freaking-out kid by basically acting like a monkey: They try to entertain the kid with a puppet or distract the kid or desperately plead that “you’re okay” (when clearly, the kid is NOT okay.) There was none of that bullshit going on at the new preschool.

But I wonder if a major factor in the fact that none of the kids are crying at drop-off is that Laszlo’s new preschool has a no-lingering policy. They ask that the parents say goodbye and leave. As quickly as possible. Rip the Band-Aid off quickly.

Laszlo’s old preschool had a policy that the parent must linger in the classroom if the child was crying and didn’t want the parent to leave: A ripping the Band-Aid off slowly policy. Pretty much every kid there cried when their parent attempted to drop him or her off. (I can’t decide which is worse: listening to your kid cry like his life is over because you’re dropping him off at preschool, or having a kid who pretty much smiles and waves good-bye to you as if to say, “I finally got rid of that crazy bitch.”) So, pretty much every parent was sitting in the classroom in a circle around the kids on those tiny kid chairs, waiting to be dismissed when our kids were deemed to be okay on their own for the remaining couple of hours of class.

At the old preschool, I waited like a participant in a game of “Duck Duck Goose” for a teacher to tap me and let me know that Laszlo might be ready for me to leave the room. Usually, I was relieved from the classroom after about a half hour and directed to a holding pen nearby (where I could be found and retrieved in case Laszlo seemed like he was really freaking out.) A couple of unfortunate moms were held hostage in the preschool classroom for the entire class because their children were apparently never ready to separate. These poor moms never even made it to the holding pen.

Many weeks (and sometimes even months) into school, some of the parents were still hanging around for the first ten minutes or so of class. And their kids were still crying during separation, so I have to wonder what the point of it all was. The ripping the Band-Aid off slowly policy doesn’t seem to work. It just seems to drag the whole separation process out.

Today was day four of dropping Laszlo off at the new preschool and he didn’t cry at all. In fact, as we were walking up to the gate, he said “I’m not going to cry today.” And he didn’t.

Some people say, “It’s just preschool,” but I can’t tell you how much better it feels to drop a kid off in a classroom that is calm and peaceful (only a week into the term!) than it is to drop a kid off in a chaotic classroom with a cacophony of crying, screaming kids.

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More on More Stories About Some Kid:

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