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I’m Unhappy My Daughter’s Happy

Photograph by Getty Images

I’m in a state of emergency. My daughter’s just started preschool. The transition hasn’t been easy—for me, not her. She’s fine. It’s me who’s not happy.

My first kid was easy. A “Slow down the car, mom, so I can get out” kind of a kid, he was ready for preschool at age 2. Prior to school, he’d stand at the door every morning screaming, “Out!” If I didn’t do something soon, I realized, he’d stand at the door screaming, “Attica!” and try to break free.

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So I put him in preschool not knowing about the dreaded “transition” where anxious parents pretend not to be in the classroom while their kid makes “new attachments” to the teachers. I’d heard rumors of moms having to sit in the room for weeks, waiting for the day her kid didn’t scream bloody murder the minute she left the room.

Thankfully, my son’s transition lasted about a half hour. Once he spotted all the new toys, trucks and blocks, he forgot about me. And that was perfect. He didn’t shed a tear, nor did I. But while he didn’t cry going to school, he was polite enough to tell me he missed me and tried to negotiate me into staying.

Then came time for my littlest one to go to school. Sometimes those younger children are tricky. They seem so easy and independent, but they’re also wiser. My girl’s been picking her brother up at preschool her whole life. She understands what happens there: Moms leave. Maybe her wisdom will freak her out, I think.

This is when I realized my kid’s love of school had clearly replaced her love of me.

But if her brother’s transition lasted a half hour, my daughter’s was all of 10 minutes. She walked into class for the first time, looked around the room, asked if I was going to pick her up, then kissed me goodbye and never looked back. Ever.

On day two, I braced myself for my little girl’s tears. Instead, she had the gall to stand at our front door for two hours waiting for school to start. The next day was the same. Except she woke up at 5 a.m. and said “backpack” before racing to the door, waiting for the time when she could go.

This is when I realized I was in a state of emergency. This is when I realized my kid’s love of school had clearly replaced her love of me.

Sure, it seems horrible when a kid is snot-crying her way into school as if entering a torture chamber. But what if she’s not actually sad? What if she’s just trying to let her mom know she still loves her, even though she’s going to spend her days doing cool stuff like finger-painting, eating snacks and poking other kids in the eye. The transition to preschool isn’t for the kid, it’s for the mom. And my kid clearly doesn’t care enough about me to throw the occasional tantrum before school or fake illness just to stay by my side.

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So next time you think it’s cute when one of your kid’s classmates will only refer to her parents by her teachers' names or requires all meals out of a lunchbox, just remember that child isn’t well-adjusted—she’s selfish. If she really loved her mom, she’d be crying. I know I am.

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