Every morning, my husband tiptoes into my daughter’s room around seven a.m. He softly whispers to her that it’s time to wake up as he brushes the hair off of her forehead. Then he comes back into the living room and sets up a nest of pillows and blankets and stuffed animals to cradle her in while she wakes up and eats breakfast. But before she can even get out of bed, often before she has opened her eyes, my daughter starts whining. “I don’t want to go to school!!!”
The next hour and a half is filled with debate and argument. My daughter cries over and over that she wants to stay home, that she doesn’t like school or daycare. My husband and I explain that staying home is not an option, that school is her job right now and how important education is. We goad her into action. We dismiss her pleas. We push and pressure her out the door and into her car seat with a blanket and a teddy bear to keep her company on the trip.
It’s not that my daughter has school issues. It’s not that she has a hard time learning or getting along with her friends. Her teacher says that she is consistently happy, well-mannered and excited to be in the classroom. She is a good student and a good friend. The moment we drop her off, she stops wanting to stay home all day, she stops all the drama.
So what gives on all the morning battle? Honestly, it’s hard to say.
I spoke with teachers, who say that every year they have multiple children who do wonderful in the classroom but claim to hate school when they get home at night. My daughter’s teacher says that our little girl isn’t even the only one in the class who has problems getting into the building, but excels once she gets there.
I spoke with a school guidance counselor who backs up the teachers, agreeing that plenty of young children have a hard time leaving home but no significant problems with school itself. “It’s more likely,” the counselor explains, “that this is just a part of separation anxiety that your child is dealing with. You just need to reassure her that you’ll always be there to pick her up at the end of the day. That it’s temporary.”
It’s comforting to think that this is normal, that it’s just a phase that some kids take longer to get out of. That doesn’t make the morning arguments any easier. We try to remember just how important it is that my daughter doesn’t see whining or stubbornness as effective means of achieving her goals. We try to perfectly balance calmness and firmness. And, I try to comfort her with specific, detailed explanations of when she can expect me and what we’re going to do when we get back home.
So far, it hasn’t worked. But I guess summer vacation is getting closer every day, right?