My husband and I took our sons to Tokyo. We stayed with my mother and had the boys go to a Japanese preschool for three-and-a-half weeks. It was a great language and cultural immersion and bonding time for the family. But it was a rough start, especially for my younger son, who was almost three.
On the first day my sons went to school, my younger son was very proud despite the fact that he had jet lag and it was the longest time he’d spent away from us. He walked from preschool back home proudly chanting, “I am not a baby. I am not little. I am big.”
The next several days, however, he didn’t want to go to preschool anymore. He was crying over small things; he cried when I asked him to put on his sock (usually, he is quick to dress). He had a big cry and tantrum when I stopped him from bothering his brother. He couldn’t put on his school uniform without crying. He couldn’t change into indoor shoes at school without crying. He would cry that he wanted me when his preschool teacher took him inside.
I worked to offer connection through Special Time every morning when he was still in his PJs. Funny thing — for one Special Time, he chose to dress himself in school uniform! Something he had been refusing to do for days!
I used my Listening Partnership for this emotional project, and talked with the preschool teachers about my son’s need to work through some feelings about separation. We arranged to come to school 15 minutes early to start the good-bye process, leaving room for us to listen to his feelings. We were even considering pulling him out of school entirely, as it was so hard.
On the third morning, his dad set a limit when he threw food on the floor, and my son started struggling long and hard. He was totally upset. My husband harnessed him in his arms and, after crying and fighting awhile, my son fell asleep.
After a two-hour nap, I went to him and I still remember him looking up at me in the eye. He told me, “I am ready to go.” I asked where. He said, “To school.”
The school had only an hour left by then, but we decided to go. I was expecting resistance when we tried to change his clothes, so I stood up to get myself ready. To my surprise, he got ready quickly, by himself, and we went out of the door.
He almost ran to school (it’s a good 20 minute walk for a child), waved goodbye to us and used the bathroom, which had been very challenging. He finished the day well, and was still talking proudly about his day at school as he fell asleep that night.
My son did fine in his preschool in Tokyo for the rest of our three-week stay.
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—Keiko Sato-Perry, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor