The story of Alfie Aldridge, the British tot who ran away from preschool on his very first day, mere hours after his mom dropped him off, strikes fear and dread into the hearts of mothers across the globe. (Alfie, who is only 3, scaled a 3-foot-wall and crossed a busy street before showing up on his own doorstep, giving his mom the shock of her life.)
But the icy grip we moms feel stretching across our insides is not concern only for Alfie's safety. (He's fine, after all, and enrolled in another school.) It's also concern for our own kids. This story challenges so much of what we parents work hard to convince ourselves when we release our children to the care of others.
Here are six lies we tell ourselves each day before we drop our toddlers off at preschool or daycare:
1. He'll be totally safe: Probably, sure, but of course, we cannot know that. Anything could happen: He could run out of the building, like Alfie. He could get left behind on a field trip. There could be a fire. A teacher could have a psychopathic ex-boyfriend. Unlikely, but who knows?
2. He won't miss us: He will miss us, terribly, even if he's not the type to cry about it. Perhaps especially if he's not the type to cry about it.
3. We won't miss him: We will miss him, terribly, even if we're not the type to cry about it. Perhaps especially if we're not the type to cry about it.
4. He's happier at preschool than he is with us: Possible, but unlikely. Most kids prefer to be with their moms (or dads), no matter how bedraggled, sleep-deprived and short-tempered she (or he) may be on any given day. Then again, it is probably a fair rationale to remind yourself about the benefits of socialization.
5. The teacher will treat him as if he were her own: She may be good to him, very, very good. But she's got a whole room of kids to look after. She may not take the time to remove the crusts of his sandwich for him the way he likes it. Then again, that may not be such a bad thing. (See socialization, above.)
6. There really is no other option: There is always another option – though giving up your day job and falling behind on your mortgage may not be a terribly appealing one. But perhaps by acknowledging that we all must make the choices that work for our lives – and that those choices inevitably involve tradeoffs – can help us forgive ourselves for making them.
So even if these are lies, they are the sort of necessary lies that allow us to function as women, as workers, as wives, as mothers, even in a very uncertain world, even in a world where an Alfie can be allowed to run away from a place his mom thought he was safe. Ultimately, Alfie was safe. So maybe we can add one more lie to the list:
7. And if he were to run away, probably it would be OK anyway. That, at least, is the reassuring part of a very scary story.
Do you feel uneasy dropping your son or daughter off at day care or nursery school?
Image via GraceFamily/Flickr