Separation and its Discontents

When we first started going to playgroup, Petra just charged off to play with the toys and left me to my own devices.  All I had to do was collect her at the end of the visit and persuade her to go home.  The only tears we ever had were tears of disappointment when we had to leave.

Something changed late last year just about the time she turned two.  She insisted on playing near me and was reluctant to go out of my sight.  But she still seemed to be enjoying herself.

Now, however, she seems terrified to be left alone and cries great frightened tears if she can't see me, or one of the dads gets too close, or one of the babies uses her as a prop against which to hoist themselves to their feet.  The last two visits have ended early with a weeping Petra clinging to me and needing to go home right now.

I'm not sure what's happening for Petra and I'm finding it disconcerting.  It's distressing to see her being so scared in an environment she used to enjoy.  I don't know if it's a separation anxiety phase that will pass, or if something happened to freak her out.  I do know that a little girl did something (I didn't see what – a pinch, a bite, a hair pull, something of that sort I imagine) to her just before she got nervous last year and I thought that might have been the initial reason for her worry.  But I don't know why she's so stressed right now.

Because I'm concerned about her jumpiness and because I want her to be comfortable spending time with other kids, I took her off to visit a kindy on Tuesday .  She thought it was fabulous and we stayed for the whole two-hour session.  She played in the sand, painted, swung on the swings, lined up all the dolls in tidy rows, and generally had a fine old time.  She mostly stayed away from the other kids, but she didn't seem panicked by their presence the way she is at playgroup. 

I enrolled her on the spot and we start officially on Monday.  It's 6 hours a week, spread over three days, so nothing too onerous.  I'll stay with her at first but the idea is that I'll eventually be able to drop her off and pick her up two hours later.

I'm pleased that Petra enjoyed her first taste of kindy and am hopeful that it will help her feel more at ease.  But I'm ambivalent about it as well.  I caught myself thinking "am I ready for this?" as I watched her playing.  It's a big step sending my baby out into the world without me there running interference.

Separation anxiety is a bitch for all concerned!

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