If You Walk Away, Walk Away
A friend of mine puts her daughter in the childcare room of a nearby health center and exercises there nearly every weekday. I loved the thought of being able to leave Henry in a fun place for an hour a few times a week while I exercised, so I thought I'd give it a try.
I got a free three-week pass to the place and introduced Henry to the childcare room. The first few times I stayed with him so he could get used the room and the teachers. He absolutely loved it -- all new stuff to play with!
The next time I left him for five minutes and returned to find him crying and hiding under the indoor slide, a space so small he could barely squeeze into it. The second time I left for about ten minutes and when I came back he was in the same spot, again teary-eyed. I left for longer periods of time (twenty and thirty minutes) other days and each time he sobbed and begged me not to leave. While I was gone he wouldn't let anyone talk to him, touch him or comfort him in any way.
People kept telling me that it would take time, but if I stuck with it he would eventually grow to love the place. I really, really wanted it to work.
And I wondered if maybe it was my job to give him a push into something he didn't want to do, if I thought he'd have fun eventually. Did I coddle him too much? Was I doing him a disservice by allowing him to cling to me? Should I make him stay against his will for his own good?
But he looked so stricken when I left and so defeated when I returned. It stirred up memories of how my mother reacted whenever any of us showed emotion that wasn't convenient for her: "Knock it off! You're fine!" But we weren't fine. We wanted her to be on our side, and she never was.
Eventually I decided not to push Henry into this. We may still join the health center, though -- Henry loves going to their indoor jungle gym and I'm hoping to start taking him to the pool. Maybe in time he'll want to go to the childcare center.
I still don't know, objectively, if I made the right decision. But a little voice was telling me not to leave Henry, and ultimately I could not ignore it.