S has always got on really well at nursery. When she first started there it was a massive decision for me to leave her while I went to work. The way that she settled in there helped me to realise I’d made the best possible choice of nursery. She has always really enjoyed her time there, and I have never once questioned my decision to send her there. Aside from the odd hiccup here and there, she’s done really well at settling in and coping with changes.
By the time she moved to the next room when she turned 2, I was working from home. More than one friend had recently experienced terrible trouble with their toddler moving rooms (at different nurseries), and I was terrified. I told myself that it would be fine; now that I worked from home, if S did not cope well with moving rooms, I could always just remove her from nursery and entertain her at home while I worked. Thankfully, that never happened – and I was so pleased to see how quickly and happily she settled into her new room. My kisses goodbye quickly became an afterthought, with S eager to get into the play dough or sand or fire engines as soon as she was through the door.
The last couple of weeks have been different, though. S has become more and more clingy at nursery. She’s fine getting ready and leaving the house; we have a lovely walk to nursery, pointing out all the things we see and talking about who she’ll see when she’s there… but once we get through the door, it’s a different matter.
S is no longer happy to go off and play with her friends; she wants to cling to me. I can’t even turn around to put her coat on a peg without her grabbing hold of me. One day last week, one of the other mums miraculously managed to persuade S to come with her to the other side of the room to have a teddy bears’ picnic with her, and I made a swift escape. Sometimes she can be persuaded to say goodbye to me with the promise that one of the staff will hold her up to the window to wave goodbye to me. Sometimes I can sneak out and she doesn’t seem too bothered that I’ve gone. On every other morning though, we’ve descended into the sort of coaxing, whining and inevitable wailing I have never experienced with S before.
On Friday, it was just plain awful. When we got up in the morning I said “shall we get dressed and go to nursery” and her response was, “no. I don’t like nursery.” Eventually I managed to get her dressed and fed, and she was fine on the walk to nursery. She seemed perfectly happy as we walked down the street, and after that first we walked in the door and removed her coat… and then I spent 20 minutes on my knees, with S doing that annoying thing toddlers do where they just lean on you and refuse to stand. Any time I took even a step away from her, she got upset. Eventually I almost managed to sneak out of the door, but she spotted me just as I closed the safety gate behind me and we ended up spending several minutes with her trying to drag me back into the room, wailing and screaming “no Mummy, no!” while I knelt on the other side of the gate reassuring her that I would be back later and everything would be fine (whilst trying desperately not to cry).
S’s keyworker called me a little while later to reassure me that S was fine; she’d quickly settled into playing, and after a little while had looked up and said “all better now!” with a smile. I was relieved she wasn’t still screaming the place down, but it didn’t stop me from feeling awful that my child has suddenly un-settled herself from nursery.
I know she loves nursery; she has a fantastic time, and when I go to pick her up she’s always playing happily. We talk about all the things she’s done during the day, and she’s always keen to come back the next day. On Friday when I collected her, she was happily playing
Aside from the not settling at nursery, she seems to have become more clingy at home too. Last weekend I ended up taking my laptop upstairs and spending the entire evening on the bed with her because she didn’t want me to leave her alone. It’s nice that she wants more cuddles, but worrying that she’s suddenly decided she doesn’t want to be on her own, or stay at nursery without me. Apparently she’s been having weepy moments throughout the day at nursery too, which is not like her.
Nursery think she’s become a little unsettled because they’ve just had several children leave the room to move to the preschool room, and new children have come downstairs. It’s not the first time that’s happened since she started in that room though, and it will have happened while she was in her old room too. It could be that the people she was used to playing with have gone, but there are still 3 children who are there most mornings and have been in that room since September I think. It is a relatively small room though, and usually only has around 8 children in it on any given day, if that. One child missing from there would be much more noticeable than from any of the other rooms which have a lot more children in them.
They think perhaps over the course of the last couple of weeks, S has fallen into a sort of habit, where she wants me to stick around and gets upset if I leave but for no real reason. They suggest that when we go back tomorrow, I should try and leave as quickly as possible. I’m not sure I can bear to do that, though. I can’t deliberately make her cry.
I woke up at 3am the other morning, convinced there must be something wrong with her; perhaps she’s ill and just can’t tell me which bit hurts, so is whiney and clingy instead. She’s got a bit of a cold at the moment; perhaps she has ear ache or a headache or something, and here I am trying to force her to spend the day in a room of screaming toddlers!
S’s keyworker was very helpful, and has said they will make sure there are activities out waiting for her when she arrives in the mornings. I’ve said we’ll leave for nursery later so that she’s not the first one in; perhaps if she arrives to a room full of children already happily playing she’ll want to join in. I’m thinking about maybe enlisting my sister’s help to drop her to nursery a couple of times, to see if she has any more luck. Perhaps if it is a habit then a couple of days of someone else dropping her off will help to break it. When I collected her on Friday the other lady who works in S’s room thought maybe her clinginess and weepiness was to do with her being constipated – which is something she’s had trouble with for a long while, but I thought was improving. She’s had some medicine over the weekend to try and help with that.
It’s fair to say I’m very apprehensive about Monday morning’s trip to nursery.
I can’t help but feel I’m missing something. Perhaps something I’ve said or done has caused this. I know I’ve been busy since Christmas, and thought that might have caused it but I’ve made extra effort over the last couple of weeks to spend more time with S and pay her more attention… and meanwhile the nursery drop off has grown worse. Perhaps she’s ill, and I’m being the world’s worst mother by not taking her to the doctor, and forcing her to go to nursery instead, where she’s distracted enough to ignore whatever is wrong for a few hours at a time. I feel like as her mother, and the only person she has to rely on for such things, I should be able to tell what the problem is and fix it for her.
Part of me feels like this is the sort of thing I was worried about happening when S was first born – that there would be something wrong, and I would be unable to help her, clueless as to what the problem even was. I suppose I’m just lucky I made it this far before it happened.