La Tela di Carlotta
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Overcoming separation and tears on the first days of school (your kid is not the only one crying)

Sep 13, 2018

I thought Emily would rock starting nursery. Apart rare times, she’s always been so happy with any nanny she’s had, she’d always kiss me goodbye and go on playing; in Canada I left her in a new place with quite a few different (and lovely) girls that she had never met before, and she never had a problem. But I didn’t take one factor into account: all those times, she was with Oliver.

So history repeats itself, and the first day of nursery it was clear to me that I’ll have to go through another hard, emotionally heartbreaking and exhausting adaptation process.

The second day, when I left her at school, even though insecure, she marched in with Oliver and her guide Philippa; I said goodbye, she saw me walk away, and she went in anyway (she’s a little warrior like her mommy). Great start! She probably held it together till Oliver wasn’t in her sight anymore, but when she realised that she was in a room full of strangers and no Oliver, she had a meltdown, and kept crying on and off for the whole time. I don’t blame her.

Actually, I don’t blame anybody.

My first thought was, ”If only they were more engaging singing songs out loud and mocking around to distract her; if only they redirected her attention to food; if only they took her in their arms; if only they knew her as well as I do” and all the non-sense that an emotional mother goes through when she knows her child is struggling.

My second thought was, “Maybe she’s not ready yet, maybe this is her way of telling me that she needs more time at home with me, maybe I should listen to who told me to delay nursery as much as possible”, and all the non-sense that an emotional mother goes through when she knows her child is struggling.

My third thought was, “I’m being selfish, I can find other times and ways to work without having to put her through this suffering, my blog is not nearly as important as my kids’ happiness so I can sacrifice it for a bit longer”, and all the non-sense that an emotional mother goes through when she knows her child is struggling.

My next thought was, “Carlotta, listen to yourself! What on earth are you saying? You made a decision because in your heart you feel it’s the right one, and deep inside you knew that this was going to happen: that’s why you have a cold sore and have been sleeping badly for a few nights now. So cut the bullshit:

  • There’s nothing the teachers could do or say to make it easier for Emily, she’ll have to go through it like Oliver did. Change is always hard, but always for the better; 2. She IS ready and she’s actually been begging for new stimuli for months. This healthy and necessary separation will also help her obsession with you and the boobie; and 3. You are not selfish, your me-time is as valuable as their happiness, and you’re 100% entitled to it”, and all the sense that an emotional mother can make when rationality kicks in.

Some say you should start your kid in nursery as soon as possible if you don’t want a struggle. Others say after the year. Others say definitely not between 12 and 18 months. Others say if you haven’t started them by the time they’re 18 months, wait until they’re three. Or always wait until they’re three. Or skip nursery, go straight to school.

None of it is true. Truth is, some kids struggle when separating from parents to start nursery or school, others don’t. I’ve seen and heard it all, no matter how small or big the kids were, how used they were to be apart from their mom and dad, and how extrovert or introvert they were. I’ve heard of babies and toddlers go in happy from day one and never shed a tear—yep, they do exist! But more often, I’ve heard of babies as young as four months cry for weeks before settling. I’ve heard of kids as old as four years old take months to go without crying. And everything in between.

When it comes to separation, there are no rules. No ideal age. No tricks or tips to make it easier. No one to point fingers at. No blame to assign. You just have to pick a school you trust, man up, hand your crying baby to a stranger and know in your heart that they’ll do anything in their power to make the process less hard.

Say your quick goodbye, turn your back, walk away, go through thought number 1, thought number 2 and thought number 3. Then take a deep breath and patiently wait until rationality kicks in.

This, too, shall pass.

PS. Good luck if, like me, you have a little one starting nursery/school right now and struggling.

Some "tricks" that are helping us overcome separation and tears:

  • Talking about school A LOT at home. I find this works well for us especially before going to sleep, when Emily is relaxing on the boobie.
  • In the morning, while going to school, remind her what's going to happen (we'll walk to the gate, mommy will say bye-bye, you'll give a big hug and kiss to mommy, and then you walk in, go play in the patio with the other kids [names]…).
  • Ask the school for pictures and show her at home, naming all the children and the teachers, and getting her interested about what we see in the environment.

Tell me what you think

Did you like it? Do you agree or disagree? I'd love to hear from you.

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The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Mums, dads & kids
We don't know how to be parents, we learn it everyday as we go. This is my way of motherhood, the small victories and the bitter defeats, my inconvenient truths and the endless life lessons. And also all the baby products and toys we love the most.
How to leave the playground without power struggles
This is life
Audiobooks of real-life stories for kids
Let's not project our insecurities onto our kids
Question authorities
Parents need to be constructively selfish
One more step towards self-acceptance
When you think your marriage is over after kids.
Alex
We forgot our 10-year wedding anniversary!
Montessori
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
Montessori express: change the sentences into positive
Montessori express: everything is NOT fine
My baby cries desperately in the car (15 months)
Take care of the mother behind the woman
Montessori express: ask instead of correcting
Montessori express: describe instead of criticising
An example of how I practice empathy with my kids
How I show empathy to my children
Happy 4th birthday, Emily
Montessori New Year's tradition
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
Clean up your planet, please!
Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.

Travel

We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.

Books

In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.

Instagram

I update Instagram almost every day to be "close" to my family far away.

Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.