Gosh, it's so hard.
If I could sum up how I feel about parenting in one phrase, it would be the quote: "Parenting is like walking around all the time with your heart beating outside your body."
So, so true.
And it's even more apparent and applicable for preschool for Cole.
Don't get me wrong, I've been totally excited for Cole to go to school. He needed more stimulation than I have time to give him. He needed more time around other little friends. It's a great experience for him to be away from me for a few hours every week.
But there's always that niggling little concern: I love Cole so, so much. I want to keep him protected and safe from any harm. I never want him to get hurt and I'm not there to hug him if he needs it. I never want him to feel left out or embarrassed. I never want him scolded by a teacher. I never want his spirit broken in any way.
I know I'm biased, but he's SUCH an amazing kid. He's bright and sweet and generous. If he understands why the rules are there, he'll follow them. He's polite and kind and an AMAZING listener. He has lovely manners and a great easygoing attitude.
Earlier this week, three things happened that totally reinforced this feeling for me:
1. Cole's been playing a lot with our little neighborhood kiddos. An eight year old girl, a seven year old boy, and four year old girl, and Cole are pretty tight during these long summer evenings. But a few days ago, we pulled into our driveway from doing an errand and Cole spotted his friends out playing - he eagerly asked if he could play, and the seven year old boy immediately said "NO!". Cole handled it really well, but I was ready to go a little crazy on that kid.
2. After his first full day of preschool, I asked Cole how his day went. "Something sad happened today, Mom." he said. "I asked some boys if I could help them dig their hole and they said, 'NO! You can't help us dig! Go away!'" My heart just about broke when I saw the tears in his eyes. Nothing like has ever happened before to my sweet, sensitive little guy. All he knows are loving, kind words and being included with lots of friends. I asked what he did in response, and he told me, "I just went over to a different spot and dug my own hole." A perfect response, exactly what I would have suggested and guided him to do. But how do I guide him through those sad and hurt feelings?
3. The next full day of preschool, Cole didn't want me to leave. He clung to me and burst into tears when I gave him a five-minute warning that I was leaving. The teachers had to literally hold him so he wouldn't run after me in a screaming, crying panic.
It was the worst - the WORST - I have ever felt as a parent. It was absolutely heartbreaking. I was sobbing just as hard as Cole was as I walked out to my car. I was totally unprepared - the first couple days had gone so well. It was all I could do to leave my poor screaming child. I trust his teachers. I know he stopped crying within ten minutes (because I called to check on him). But it was still the longest two and half hours of my life.
Undoubtedly, this is the most difficult by FAR part of parenting for me. I just want to protect my child from ever feeling this heartbroken. Yet, I have to prepare him for life. And unfortunately, in life, people are going to leave him out of things. People are going to ignore him or not allow him to join in. He has to practice.
But - oh my heart. All I want to do is keep him home and safe and loved for all time. I hope our love is enough to counteract all the nasty things that happen out there in the big, bad world.