Friday, June 10, 2011

First Day of Summer Camp

Back in March, I got a brochure in the mail from the local preschool advertising their summer program for children. They offered a half day program for children ages 2 and up, with the contingency that the child must be potty trained. Some of my friends were planning to put their little ones in the program and I was curious to see how Philip would like it. At that time though, he wasn't potty trained or even near potty trained so I threw out the brochure and the idea entirely and instead focused in on our goal of having him potty trained and ready to go for preschool in the fall. Fast forward two months and our big boy is successfully daytime potty trained. Again the summer program came to my attention and, on a whim, I decided to sign him up for it.

This past Wednesday was Philip's first day of O.A.S.I.S. (Outstanding Activities for Students in the Summer) at St. Luke's Lutheran School. I decided to send him on Wednesday as the theme for Wednesdays was arts and crafts and it seemed like a nice, gentle introduction to being in a group environment with kids and teachers he didn't know, and without mommy and daddy at his side.

In the week preceding the start of OASIS, we did our best to psych him up and get him excited. I tried hard to explain to him that he would be going all by himself and that mommy and daddy would be there to pick him up after lunch. He sort of got it. I thought.

Except not really.

All smiles in the morning with his backpack and Toy Story lunch box, ready to go!
On the car ride over, I could tell he was starting to get nervous. I think the reality that I was going to leave after we got there was starting to settle in, just a little. In the car, he asked me if "baby" was going to stay at school with him (Andrew had stayed him with Phil--it was just me and Philip on the ride over). I reminded him that Andrew was home with daddy and would be taking his nap while Philip was having fun playing at school.

The questioning continued once we arrived, until, that is, we got to the classroom and his teacher, Mrs. O'Neill, greeted him.Once inside he clammed up and wouldn't make eye contact with anyone talking to him. We went into the room and, thankfully,  his buddy Elijah was there. Seeing a familiar face put him more at ease and he warmed up enough to find a toy to play with. Then Mrs. O'Neill brought us into the hall to show him his locker where he could put his backpack and lunch box. Philip loved that. It had his name and everything on it and he liked opening and closing it.

Then we went back into the classroom and Philip got right back into playing. If I'm honest, was reluctant to leave! It was the first time I've ever left one of my children with someone who was not family or a trusted friend. Philip simply is not used to being away from both Phil and I at the same time as one of us is always home with the boys when we're not both home. I had been getting pretty nervous about leaving him in the days leading up to his first day. I was nervous about how he'd react to me not being there; worried that he wouldn't adjust well; afraid that the other kids wouldn't be nice to him. I was concerned that he would have an accident because he would be too afraid to tell the teacher he needed to use the bathroom. Lots of worrying. That's what moms are for, right?

So as Philip was standing at the classroom's play kitchen, pretending to eat a plastic apple, I decided to casually move out to the hallway to talk with some friends who were dropping their children off as well. Philip didn't notice I was gone and all was well for about five minutes. Then I heard the familiar sound of my little boy crying. Cautiously, I peaked back into the classroom to see him in the arms of his new teacher, tears streaming down his face. Mrs. O'Neill was doing her best calm and comfort him, God bless her. I quickly felt at ease leaving him in her care. The woman has twenty five years of experience as a preschool teacher! She also had two assistants to help her. One of those assistants was an older lady named Mrs. Bayne. The second time I peaked into the room to check on him, Philip was sitting on her lap and, even though he was hiccuping and still upset, she was talking to him in a soothing manner and I could tell he felt reasonably safe.

Although it broke my heart a little to do it, I had to tell myself that he was in good hands and it was okay to leave him. That he would warm up and have fun. That this was good for both of us. So I left.

Phil stayed home with Andrew and I headed out to do some work in town. The next few hours passed quickly and before I knew it, it was time to get Philip. Phil and I were both eager to pick him up; excited to see how the rest of his morning had gone; anxious to be reunited with our sweet boy!

When we got to the school, Mrs. Bayne met us in the hallway and let us know that Philip had been her little buddy that day. That he was upset at first but slowly started to feel better. He had even had fun playing outside on the playground and spent the entire time outside swinging. We peaked into the classroom and he was sitting at a table eating his lunch. The last child still eating, he spotted us right away and tears immediately sprung to his eyes. Once reassured that we were there to take him home, a smile returned to his face and he began telling us about his day and showing us the art work he had made. He let us know he had been crying but we told him that that was okay. He said he had fun and that he wanted to come back. Such a relief to hear!

Mrs. O'Neill assured us that he did great and that his experience was perfectly normal for a child who had not had much time away from his parents. She suggested two days a week instead of one in order to keep him more in a routine of going so that it wouldn't be such a shock after a whole week of not being there.We agreed that it would be beneficial for him to be there two mornings a week to help him get used to being in an environment away from us, to make new friends, and to prepare him for preschool. Next week he will only be going once as we will be headed to the beach on Tuesday, but once we return I plan to sign him up for Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

We are so proud of our big boy! All in all, he did better than I had hoped, despite the tears and hesitation. I know as the summer goes on, he will become more comfortable being away from us and come out of his shell more and more. With any luck, there will be no tears on the first day of preschool in the fall!

With his art work outside of St. Luke's after school.


  1. Oh my goodness! He looks like such a big boy with his book bag! Too cute. :)

  2. Awww! So sweet! Philip will be just fine with time! It is one of those bittersweet things for us mamas though! How exciting for Philip!