Yesterday was one of the longest days of my life. My heart was torn open early in the morning. I moped through much of the day, distracted, finding it difficult to concentrate. I even cried at times.
It was your first day at daycare, and you were there all day.
You are so young, Peanut. The original plan was to avoid daycare until you were fully three years old, then send you to preschool a couple half days each week just for the enrichment experience. That’s what we did for Munchkin, and I felt so blessed to be able to give her that gift.
But our circumstances changed and we needed a new plan. I did a lot of research; Daddy and I considered many alternatives, agonizing over the decision. In the end, we determined that having you spend two full days each week in a daycare/preschool environment was the best thing to do at this juncture.
We weren’t happy with just any daycare, though. We decided against one after a tour, not because of any obvious faults, but because it didn’t feel right for you. We chose this daycare because we believe it’s a good fit. We feel confident you will be nurtured and stimulated.
It was still heart-wrenching to leave you yesterday morning. Going in, I planned on hanging out for a little while, even though Daddy took you for hour-long visits on Monday and Tuesday. I stayed for about 45 minutes, not caring that I would be late for work. When I left, you were still one of only three kids at the center.
You followed me to the door. I was trying to be cheerful, a smile plastered on my face in an attempt to encourage you. I hugged and kissed you, waved good-bye, blew more kisses, and promised I would be back “later.” “Buh-bye” you parroted back, your hand suspended in mid-air and a bewildered expression on your face. As I closed the door behind me, the teacher scooped you up and held you in front of the window to watch me walking away, still waving and praying for strength to hold back the tears just long enough to make it out of your sight.
I could read in your eyes what you don’t have the ability to verbalize yet: “Where are you going, Mama? Why are you leaving me here? Mama, please don’t go!”
I broke down as soon as I got in the car.
You weren’t crying, but I worried that you would start any second, and I wouldn’t be there to comfort you. I forced myself to wait a couple hours before calling to check on you. I learned that you had cried some, off and on, but had been comforted or distracted by the teachers and the other kids. They told me you were “doing well.” Though their reassurances were logical, my heart wondered how repeated crying classified as “doing well.” You were in pain, however briefly.
I talked to our family counselor. He acknowledged this experience is a sizable emotional challenge for us, maybe one of the biggest you’ve ever faced. Then he reminded me that we’ve given you an excellent foundation through attachment parenting. Even at your age, you would subconsciously be able to draw strength and security from those roots. And you would learn an important lesson when I came back to pick you up.
I will always come back.
To be fair, I experienced some of these emotions and concerns when Munchkin started preschool last fall. But they were somewhat abated by the ability to explain to her what was happening and listen to her perceptions and feelings about her experiences. It was hard at first, but we all adjusted pretty quickly. Shy at first, she made friends she now looks forward to seeing.
I know we will adjust to this new routine, as well. You will grow comfortable and confident in your new environment. But you are my baby. It’s so hard to let go.