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Well that was too easy. Tuesday afternoon when I picked Simon up from the first day of school, he took one look at me and began to sob.

“Was he like this all day?” I asked Ms. Judy.

“Oh no. He had his moments, but he did fine today. This just started when I told him you were here” she answered.

OK, that’s not so bad. Then Wednesday he walked to school ok, gave Ms. Shary a subdued high-five at the door… and then fell apart in the classroom. I did the only thing I knew to do: I kissed him and left, leaving him to the professionals.

I have no idea how he did Wednesday because I didn’t see his teachers when I picked him up. But Ms. Laura, an Itsy teacher from last year, told me that he got scared in the hall when the school lawn mowers showed up. They are loud, and Simon is going through a fear of loud noises phase. She comforted him as best she could, and he was fine when I picked him up.

Thursday morning the water-works began the minute Matt said the word “school.”

“I don’t want to go to school,” he cried. “I want to stay home with Mommy.”

Just like Chester the raccoon, only no Kissing Hand was going to make him feel better right away. Yesterday I walked into the class to chat with his teacher Ms. Jill and find out how bad it really was. Was it as bad as last year?

The answer, so familiar,  made me ruefully smile. Simon is doing OK. He participates, and he enjoys things, but he’s having a hard time with transitions. Any time the class moves from one activity to another, he gets a little teary. He also has problems when it’s too loud or chaotic. And he likes/insists on sitting at the same chair at the same table he did on the very first day. In other words, he’s the same change-resistant, super-sensitive kid I realized he was a year ago and my Aunt Linda recognized nearly from birth.

The difference is that last year he had five women and a head teacher in his class to comfort him. And this year he has two who are committed to Simon’s developing self-calming skills. When he cries during transitions, no one is picking him up, pinching his cheeks, or cuddling him. Instead, they are telling him that he might scare the new kids who aren’t used to school like him and seeing if that gets him to calm down. (It usually does.) Independence is so stressed in the twos that when Ms. Fira, an Itsy Bitsy teacher lending Simon’s class an extra hand for a week or so, went to pick Simon up when he started to cry yesterday, head teacher Ms. Jill told her not to.

“He’s very smart” she told me. “He understands how everything works and knows how to get attention. If I ask him to be the big boy and help the younger and less experienced ones, he’s better right away. My son, now eight, is also sensitive to loud noises. But he’s had to learn how to cope, and so does Simon. He can do this; we just have to give him a push.”

So there it is. The end of the Era of Coddling. Last year’s teachers truly were in loco parentis; this year’s teachers are complementing parenting. It’s probably for the best, but it’s also something for which I lack the intestinal fortitude. My nature is to comfort, comfort, comfort, probably because I need a fair bit of reinforcement and reassurance myself.

This morning we were both resigned to our fates. Simon cried about going to school, but didn’t physically protest. I wanted to take him in my arms and make everything OK, but instead calmly told him that he’d learn to love his new class just like he did last year. And most of the drama and protesting took place at the breakfast table, where I sat with no breakfast, stress having killed my appetite. And next to me sat Simon, totally ignoring the food in front of him. I had to laugh at the parallel.

Now it’s Friday, this first and most difficult week is behind us, and if history repeats itself next week will be much better and it will be nothing but blue skies from there on out.

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