Well, we've done it! Bethany has survived her first session at nursery. And her second, third and fourth! Equally as impressive: I survived them too!
|Heading into nursery|
Her first session was only an hour long and my Mum and I, who I had took along as Foz had to work, were able to stay. Bee was able to play with the nursery assistants while I did a lot of form-filling and boring stuff like that. Every so often Bee would come scooting over with her walker, just to check I was still about then she'd scoot off again, eager to find the next new toy! It was a lovely session, the nursery introduce one child at a time so we had the full attentions of the staff while we were there. They were able to start getting to know Bee and we were able to get to know them, very important for a parent like me who's never left her child with a stranger.
The nursery is wonderful. It's a long, low building split into 3 sections. At one end is the private nursery, in the middle is the mainstream nursery and at the other end is the special needs provision nursery. Bee's nursery is split into two rooms: a carpeted room with the main bulk of toys plus a kiddie play kitchen, reading corner and such. There there's the craft room with lino floors, tables and chairs plus my favourite part: an interactive projection on the floor that responds to the childrens touch. There's also a dedicated sensory room that the children have free rein of and an outdoor area that is completely covered from the elements and has sand & water tables, ride-ons etc. Each of the three connected nurseries has a similar garden of their own and all three open out on to the main garden, which runs the length of the entire building. It's a massive expanse of grass with winding pathways marked out like roads and, in the middle, a giant sand pit with a huge play structure. In the back corner is a small, innocuous-looking shed which turns out is the 'den-building shed', full of chairs, sheets, brooms and other vital den-building supplies. What more reasons do I need to love this place!?
Our hour seemed to pass very quickly and by the time it was up Bee was not ready to leave, I had to bribe her out to the car with promises of Mr Tumble when she got home!
The second visit was scheduled to be a longer one, an hour & a half in length and this time there were other children there. I was supposed to leave her for a short time during the session but only as far as the staff room for a cuppa, just far enough that she couldn't see me but I was still on hand incase she got hysterical. There's one-way mirrors so I was able to watch what Bee was up to without her being able to see me. Turns out she had a blast and barely noticed I was missing. I was so proud of my confident little girl although a small treacherous part of me felt a little disappointed that she hadn't cried and clung like a limpet around my neck.
That second session went so well that I was actually quite looking forward to the third, her first full 3 hour session when I would bite the bullet and go home. Although her behaviour so far showed all the signs that I wasn't going to have any problems. So I was surprised when we pulled into the carpark and Bee started to cry and say "no" over and over. Here was what I had dreaded: guilt-inducing hysterics on nursery drop-offs. She wouldn't walk into nursery, wouldn't take her coat off, wouldn't allow me to put her down, wouldn't look at any of the toys.... here was my disappointment about not feeling wanted the week before coming back to bite me in the ass. After a few minutes of crying and telling me "no, home" I managed to encourage Bee to sit next to me by some toys. One of her teachers came over to play with us and as Bee's attention turned slowly from me to her I managed to sneak away. By 'away' I mean outside of the room to sit and watch her through the one-way mirrors. It took all of 20 seconds for her to notice I was gone and the hysterical crying resumed. This time interspersed with "mama home". Oh the guilt.
I've never felt anything like it, like I was abandoning her. Even though I would only be in the next room I kept thinking how it must appear to Bee: like I'd just left her with complete strangers and not coming back. What a bewildering experience it must for children when their parents drop them off and walk away.
Thankfully Bee's teacher managed to calm her down with a variety of distraction techniques and I went to sit in the staff room with a fortifying cup of tea. Every so often someone would come in and let me know that she was ok and play with this toy or that toy or, at one point, in the sensory room. Occassionally I would sneak a peep through the one-way mirrors at what she was up to but I tried to keep this to a minumum. Bee had settled and was playing happily, I needed to do my own version of the same. It was decided between myself and the staff that we would shorten Bee's time at nursery for that session, give her the chance to realise I would come back and not leave her there. She was all smiles when I appeared, shouting "mama" and showing me the doll she'd found to play with. What a wonderful feeling when your little one is so full of excitement from their day, makes all those tears worth it. So although not a completely sucessful third session it finshed better than it began.
The day of session four dawned and I tried to prepare Bee early, so when we started getting ready for nursery it wasn't a shock. "We're going to nursery today honey, going to play with all the toys..." etc etc. Each time I mentioned it I got a very firm "no", not a good sign. Still, it had to be done. So 12:30 found us pulling into the nursery carpark. There was no tears this time although a lot of "no" in a distinctly wobbly voice and she wouldn't walk either, had to be carried in. We had the same battle over getting her coat off, by the time I succeeded you'd have thought hanging a coat on a peg was the most exciting game ever!
Bee's teacher took her hand and led her into the room, moaning though she was at least it wasn't outright hysterics. I followed them in as Bee kept checking I was behind her, I wanted her to settle before I left. It wasn't long before she was engrossed in the toys so again I snuck away. She began to cry when she noticed I'd gone but it only took a matter of a minute for the staff to settle her and she was happy again. This time I felt secure enough to leave her, so I came home for a cup of tea. The staff had assured me that they would ring if Bee became too upset and we agreed I would return after an hour to check on her and see if it was suitable to leave her for the remainder of the 3 hour session. When I popped back I could see though the one-way mirror that Bee was quite happily playing with the toys and chattering to herself so, without letting her see me, I snuck away again and returned home for the remaining hour, comfortable that she was being looked after and not distressed at all.
Our next session is tomorrow and I'm hoping that Bee continues to improve on the drop-off. I know she loves the time at nursery - this past saturday she specifically asked to go, she just needs to get over that initial separation anxiety. I think her nursery is going to be a wonderful place for Bee to grow and develop. Their facilities are second-to-none and the staff are so supportive and inclusive. The children from all three nurseries get to spend time together through the sessions so Bee will get to mix with children of different ages and abilities. I'm so excited about the next two years she will spend there.