The school drop off blues


As soon as the alarm goes off, you take a moment to start the day. It takes about 23 seconds for you to realise it’s a Tuesday. It’s a School day. There’s still 4 more days of this to go. That anxious pit in your stomach starts to grow. You have to get on with it, fake it, and spend the next few hours pretending that everything is OK.

You know from their little faces that they are thinking about it too, processing the events that will unfold over the next few hours, until that moment of separation.

You got through the motions, making lunches, making breakfast, getting uniforms ready a smile and a positive explanation hides the growing knot in your stomach. I don’t want this to be happening you think. Why can’t it be OK? Why does it have to be my kid? How many more mornings will there be like this? All behind a smile and singsongy voice to your little one, and then hot tears when your back is turned to them and you can shed a tear into the toaster.

It’s getting closer, the time to leave. The questions get faster, the underlying tension growing. The building up more and more, being a parent is hard. You get in the car and feel sick, get to the gate and know what’s coming. The tears may have started, and if they haven’t, you know that they are just a few moments away.

The hand over.

The promises of having fun, being there as soon as they finish class, your voice getting higher. Man, this is hard. The tears can get worse, maybe you can get away in a few minutes, some mornings it will take longer, sometimes a determined tantrum will see them peeled off you.

Man, this is hard.

You walk away from the tears or the screams and you know, know in your heart that they will be OK, that as soon as you are gone that things will get better. It always does. You get those sunglasses on and look away from well meaning smiles from other parents, the tears have already started to fall. Once in your car you can let it go. The morning. The whole mess. And the sobs last a few moments before you have to get on with it too.

She will be OK.

And is she. The school will call sometimes 5 minutes later, she’s happy. She’s OK. You know from the afternoon Β reports and smiling, happy kid that she is OK.

Until tomorrow morning, when you get to do it all over again.

But then, you know what?Β One morning, when it won’t happen anymore. Something will click, confidence gained, routines fall into place. You will get through this. I promise.

For all of you out there will little ones struggling with starting school, I get it. I’m here to tell you this though. These weeks are hard. They are awful. And they will get better. Having been there before, I know it won’t last forever. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck, but it will pass. Starting school is hard – for them, for you, so many new things to learn, systems and routines to get your head around. It’s busy, it’s hard and it’s bloody exhausting, you just want to scoop them up into a cafe for baby cinos and trips to the park.

One day soon they will get it. Promise x

Do you have little ones starting school this year?
How’s it going?
If it’s hard and neither of you are enjoying it, I promise you, it gets better. It gets better

It gets better.


  1. Oh Beth. I feel for you.
    I’m one of the lucky ones whose kid bounds into the classroom, but I found myself teary watching the sad faces of little ones who didn’t want to go last week. Poor little darlings. I hope this morning is a bit easier. xx

  2. Except, occasionally, it doesn’t. And you have a 10 year old with anxiety and depression and you have to homeschool. But then they are 15 and ready to go back and you are hoping it stays better. Because the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. Good luck Harper. I hope it does get better xxx

  3. Thinking of you and hoping it gets better soon for you all. It is so hard walking away when they’re crying for you. You know they’re fine in 5 mins but it still makes it hard. I think the lovely thing in your case is the small school. In my primary school there were about 30 children from K-6 and it was so lovely and warm and the teachers were wonderful and caring and able to take the extra step and go the extra mile for you. I hope Big Sis is looking out for her and making sure she’s ok in the playground. Jx

  4. I remember that time very well and you’re right it does pass and soon everything will be ok. One thing that worked for me was getting my husband to drop my son at school. Our good bye happened at home and for some reason the tears didn’t come. Anyway just a thought. Good luck and stay strong. Toni

    • I agree. Sometimes.if a friend can pick them up on the way then the day starts with an adventure and they are leaving you for the company of a friend, not the school gate. I have done this for a friend before and it made the goodbye shorter and a little brighter.
      I have been very lucky that my 6 have walked into school without turning back (now that made me cry!) But I think they got to spend so much time there before it was their turn that it was no big deal. Though I have to say that my baby, Miss5 just started Prep and informs me that she still loves Kindy better because at Kindy you can do what you like. I can understand that. Good luck Beth, I’m sending big Mum Hugs and positive thoughts your way.

    • Thanks Toni, it seems to have the same effect regardless of who the parent is. We’ll get there x

  5. As a teacher, I feel for you. Mostly, they are fine once their parent leaves but that doesn’t make it any easier. Then there are the ones whose anxiety builds towards pick up time. They think that nobody will come for them and they try and hold it together in front of the others. Maybe their mum was late, once. But it’s enough to plant that worry. Kids are complex little creatures.

  6. my twin girls are doing this at daycare! Dreading school. Thought it would be better because at least they have each other, it’s not, I just have those desperate tears in stereo πŸ™

  7. separation anxiety is rife beth! … and they’ve had it so good at home! … freedom!
    honestly, why would they want all of that order! I get them! as I was one of them too! taking myself home on the first day!;0
    … definitely not the only one!
    my sister and husband had to take their granddaughter last Monday! she started screaming and carrying on and wouldn’t let go of grandpa! … has him wrapped around finger!;0
    they were traumatized too! … my sister said it was soo awful and he’s not going to help next time! … more pragmatic!;)
    all the best hun! love m:)X

  8. God it’s so reassuring to hear that other mums/dads go through this. Sending my 5yr old son to Prep had me in fits of anxiety for the whole year beforehand as he was a full timer at home. He blew me away with how he coped for the first 2 weeks but thats exactly what he was doing – Coping.. just.
    Week 3 all wheels blew off the wagon and there were tears and lip trembling, constant reassurance, forced smiles and bawling my guts out as soon as i got outside. He’s been picked on already – physically 3 times… And now he’s been sick for 4 school days with a virus, I am shitting myself about once he’s better and has to go back

  9. You’re making me sad. We didn’t have the problem with school, we had it at child care. My daughter didn’t want to be there. She would be fine until I walked through the first gate with her and then it would be on. I’d pick her up to ensure safe delivery however she would grab the left and right architrave of the entrance door and hang on for dear life. It would take three of us (myself and two teachers) to get her in the door. Honestly, I didn’t have the physical or emotional strength to do it. In the end, my Husband and I changed our work day around so he could do the child care drop off and it went smoothly from then on.
    It does get better however there are are a lot more firsts to come. The night before the first day of work experience……I remember it well!

    • Don’t be sad, she’s OK! Promise! And I know that as soon as we get through this, there will be something else. There is ALWAYS something else πŸ™‚

  10. I can relate to this – my daughter was like this every day for her whole 7 years at Primary School – it was like torture. She never grew out of it. I didn’t matter who took her to school it was the same every day. All suggestions from the school and educational psychologist assistance and nothing worked. I even tried changing schools. I felt like it was just as bad for me as it was for her. She was obviously an extreme case though. She had previously been to day care and kindergarten without any problems – I have no idea how this school refusal all started. Best of luck because I know how heart wrenching it is.

  11. My little kindy is SO SO SO happy to be at school, we wants to learn everything. I am still sad at drop off though! I miss him. When he gets home, he can’t stop doing homework and reading and talking and eating.I am happy he is loving it and relieved and sad he is growing up so fast. My eldest started high school last year and after going to a school of 30 for her primary school years I was so nervous sending her to a “big” big school I felt sick but seeing her bound off the bus after her first day made me cry with happiness she was just thrilled. She is just as happy to return there this year, the novelty hasn’t worn off. Phew!

    • That’s great! Harps is LOVING school…the last thing she says every night is “I can’t wait for tomorrow and school Mum.” That is, until we have to go!

  12. Oh Beth, we are going through this exact thing with preschool at the moment. I could have written this post myself! Right down to the tears in the car park, and the phone confirmation a short while later that she is fine now. It’s awful, and heartbreaking, and man, I really hope it passes soon xx

  13. Oh this made the tears prick.

    Mine are OK when they get there but the getting ready is doing my head in. We have charts and rewards and I do my best to use calm voice but they just stuff around and stuff around til I’m ready to scream… And shamefully I often do.

    Then at pick up time they are just tired and spent and they take it all out on me. The preppie who was bounding around the playground at 3pm loses the use of his legs mysteriously and everything is just too hard and if I suggest anything other than sugary snacks and TV they lose their tiny minds. Every. Damn. Day.

    I’m hoping it’s going to get better. Otherwise I’m going to need medicating.

  14. Sympathetic parent says

    im reading this while sitting in the car sobbing after yet another terrible drop off for my little one. The situation is so incredibly gut wrenching. Our older child has been at school for 3 years with no problems, our next one has been their three weeks and we have had calls about the ‘situation’ already. Off to a psychologist this week in the hope of getting some help as we are all feeing the pain with her and for her.
    Why does it have to be so hard for them πŸ™
    I have everything crossed for both of us that it will get easier very soon. X

  15. Home School!

  16. Thank you.
    This year I have an almost 5 year old who has started kindy and loves it, although gets anxious, clingy and teary when the bell goes. I take her to her teacher and hand her over, and although quiet, she is fine. She comes bouncing out in the afternoon, so happy.
    I have a 3 year old who is doing 2 days of 3 year old preschool. She has been looking forward to this for a long time, always wanting it to be her turn, but now it is here she is not so sure. She has to be peeled off me, she is waking early crying that she doesn’t want to go etc but it is only day 4 and it is a big change from being at home with mum. I know it will be so good for her when she gets used to it.
    I have a 1 year old and I am living in hope that he will be so easy to drop off when it is his turn.
    And to top it all off, I am a teacher, at their school, so I know their teachers, and I know what kids are like, but you know what, it is so different when it is your own kids sad πŸ™

  17. Yep, know how you feel!! How many weeks until the school holidays???? It does get better though, hang in there.

    • Too many weeks! For us with Daisy term 2 was when the trouble began when we went back after the holidays and she was like “haven’t we done school?!”

  18. I just dropped my 3 year old daughter off at preschool and tried to suppress my own tears as I watched her crying as I left. And so I walk home, put the baby girl down for her nap and lie down on my couch feeling anxious and concerned, hoping she will be ok. And I bring up your blog to see what’s going on in the world of someone I’ve never met yet enjoy reading about and voila! You’ve written about my morning exactly. You’ve expressed exactly how I’m feeling. Thank you for writing this! Yes, it gets better. It gets easier. They will be ok. We know this. I hope we both find at pick up time, that they’ve had a great day and the morning tears are a distant memory.
    P.S. Long time reader, first time commenter! Love your blog!

  19. I’m fortunate to have 2\two kids that love going to school and aren’t sad to leave me at all. I just hope it’s three from three come 2017!

  20. Oh Beth I am so thinking of you & hope it all gets better soon!! My daughter is about to start Uni again – studying Law and I too will be seeing her sad, anxious, grumpy face. My tears will come
    (after she leaves) from being exhausted from trying to be positive – I have already told my husband storm Georgia will be on its way, so to be nice Ha ha. I so enjoyed the Uni break, my
    girl was so happy. Hope your morning went better. Gx

  21. deborah jefferis says

    My daughter was exactly like this. She took until Easter to really settle in. I was the same and my poor Mum had to drag me out from under the bed every morning. If it’s any consolation I think it means that you are such a loving warm wonderful mother that she doesn’t want to leave you. Too quickly she will grow up.

  22. My heart goes out to you and all the mums out there going through the first steps of schooling. It’s somhard both on the little ones and the parent. But you are right, it will get better. xx

  23. I’ve commented on this topic to you before – recap; yr1, fine last year – not this year. Anyhow – I’m using the dog – keeping it in the car, or doing kiss & drop, saying can’t stay because can’t leave the dog in the car too long because she might wee or chew the seats. It’s worked over the last week & 1/2 because she loves the dog & doesn’t want to distress it. Good luck.

  24. Number 1 went off every day happy, even when we moved. Number 2 not so happy, she’s fine now once she gets to school but every single morning until she gets there its ” I don’t wanna go!”
    Number 3 starts preschool next week and I know he’s going to be a tough one to send off (for both of us).

    • Preschool? How did that happen?! Good luck x

      • I know, right?! He’s suddenly a boy, not a baby anymore.

        I’ve been told on a few occasions over here how cruel I am for keeping him home this long, apparently I should’ve sent him off when he was 14 months old.

        This one will be the hardest as he’s the last and he has been my constant sidekick since we moved to Dubai.

  25. Lisa Oliver says

    I really needed to read this today-its been a long week (and it’s only Tuesday!). My son started Kindy this year and this post pretty much sums up how I have felt every morning since Week 1. Actually the alarm went off yesterday and for a split second I thought ‘yes it’s still Sunday-hurrah!’ but alas the school week had begun. I know in my heart it will get easier, but emotions are running high here and it’s so hard leaving them. Thank you for a wonderful post Beth xx

    • How good have the weekends been for this exact reason?! It will get better, a few more days or weeks and then you should be there. Good luck x

  26. Oh Beth, it’s like Ground Hog day every day here. I feel your pain. I know things will get easier but I’m counting the days and the nightly wines! Here’s to our little ladies finding their light. x

  27. I am right here with you love.
    It’s so hard. Emotional for everyone. Exhausting for everyone.
    I never expected such a big adjustment for all of us.
    I miss her. She misses us and home. She misses her brother. He missed her. We all miss slow mornings and PJ days.

    Thank you for this post. I needed to read something from another Mama in the trenches.

    It will get better… xx

    • We were on the floor together (well virtually) when they wouldn’t sleep, and now here we are again. She will get there. PROMISE. And then? Well there will be something else. There always is. Good luck and KNOW that you are not alone xxx

  28. it is hard. It took 4 teachers/deputies to get one kid into a classroom last week. We tell the parents to go fast. I have no idea how teachers cope sometimes, we have had to employ extra adults for particular kids to make sure they stay in the classroom/school ! More than once staff can be running around the school looking for a kid who slipped through fingers. It does help if children are used to being separated and are ready to sit still for hours, even sitting on the mat for 5 minutes is a good start. So many are not ready for school, but this crazy, start when you are 5 in NZ, just happens. And we have had 80 just turn up… yes 80. As they do!

  29. Lisa Mckenzie says

    Beth I hope it gets better very soon,nothing harder than taking little ones to school that don’t want to go Xx

  30. Thinking of you and Harps x Was talking to a few mums last week and our kids of all ages had had all kinds of meltdowns (F included!) … week 3 … when the new reality sinks in, friendships have been mixed up, new teachers to get used to, routine back in place … it all affects their emotional state (and ours!).

  31. I think I’m struggling more than my little boy this is my first going off to school i have all these questions. I want to know how he is going what he has done during his day have a chat with his teacher, so different form preschool years i want to take him to that cafe for the baby chinno and hang out at the park all very new !

  32. I can’t tell you how happy I am to read this…not because I am happy for your hard times, but because I am going through the exact same thing! Way over here, in conservative (barf!) Utah! MY GOD MOTHERHOOD IS ROUGH!

    I have two very happy, easy going, children that have excelled at and loved school, then there is my little caboose. Liam has been a challenging child from the time he started crawling, spirited just isn’t a strong enough word for him! Liam is 4 and in his 2nd year of preschool. He has been in trouble in preschool before and every morning getting him to go is a battle, but this past Monday he actually yelled (and got in the face of) another student and his teacher!!! I was mortified! I held it together long enough to apologize to the teacher and have him apologize and say thank you to them for calming him down, but then I lost it in the car…water works…only to have said child tell me to, “Stop fake crying! Adults don’t cry!” He is lucky that he was strapped in the backseat and I was in the front. School again tomorrow…dreading it!

    • Oh Natalie I feel for you! For both of you. Know that you are not alone, and you are doing a really good job under hard circumstances. Good luck x

  33. Mine is in Grade Four and still hates school. She has been taking about running away and we’ve had to meet with school to get on top of that quick smart. Wish I could find something to hook her into school and enjoying it.

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