The scream I heard while sitting at my desk caused my skin to crawl. I knew who it was, but I did not know why I heard the desperate, shrilling call. It was the morning after holiday break when all of our preschoolers were finding their way back to the once familiar classrooms they inhabited two weeks ago.
I soon heard the scream again but louder, much louder. There was a demanding tone that announced, “I don’t want to be here. I want to be with you. Don’t leave me. Take me with you.” Ah, now I understood, it was a five-year old struggling with separation anxiety. As I stared at my door and the hall where the cries came from, I instantly fell into a reverie that pulled me back to the time my mother brought me to Kindergarten on the first day of school. I did not want to be there . . . at all.
The next image that surfaced in my mind was me sitting in the back seat of my neighbor’s woody and my mother sitting in the passenger’s seat looking forward, mad — and I suppose embarrassed — and I am thinking, I feel safe now, but what’s going to happen when I get home?
While demonstrating my separation anxiety in the classroom, I became so distraught and adamant about not wanting to be there. I distinctly remember biting my mother on the leg, and the principal saying to my mother, “Mrs. Peters, you will have to take your son home.” As a child of loving parents and many days in nursery school, I have no idea why that happened back then.
Fortunately, my friend down the hall was comforted by her mother and she adjusted to her once-familiar surroundings; mother slinked away; and normalcy returned to the child, my skin, and getting back to my work . . . away from long-ago images. Obviously shaken by the whole ordeal, the child’s mother scurried past my door, but not before I could catch her and tell her the story of my own five-year old anxiety. Relieved, she said, “And I guess you turned out OK. Thanks for the reassurance.”
Who knows what causes children — and adults for that matter — to feel adrift, needing a lifeline at a particular moment in life. In this case, the mother did the right thing, using the guidance of the teacher, staying strong, and letting familiarity and caring teachers take over.