Daycare. Daycare (and the daycare setting) has haunted me since before Camden was born.
My dear friend, Jessica, swooped in and saved my sanity when she offered to watch Cam for us when I returned to work full time. It was a temporary arrangement that turned into 10 months' worth of love and care. Camden clearly loved it there and I was comfortable/confident with the care he was getting, and loved being able to check in with Jessica whenever I wanted throughout the day. So, in early December when Jessica decided she wanted to go back to school, it was time for us to face the daycare music. I was sad, but kept reminding myself that Cam wasn't a little 3-month old baby anymore, and I just needed to get over myself.
I immediately put him on the wait list for one of the local childcare facilities. Never having been there before, I went and took a tour of the facility. As I stood there taking it all in, my chest got tight and a giant lump in my throat kept getting bigger and higher. This place wasn't bad. I know mama's that send their kiddos there and love it. But I was completely overwhelmed by the thought of my sweet babe going from being one of two kiddos in a cozy house, to one of 40 snot nose rug rats in a big facility. There was an unpleasant smell in one of the two pre-toddler rooms, and at first I thought that one (or more) of the little ankle biters had a poopy diaper. But the longer I lingered, the more I realized it wasn't that kind of smell, and in fact, I couldn't definitively identify the stench. I'm not a clean freak, but this was just too much, and it sent me over the edge. I left, fleeing the premises without the warm and fuzzy feeling I was hoping for.
I started researching other options - both private, in-home and facilities/centers. I politely said, "Thank you," hung up, and snorted in disgust upon hearing some of the prices for several of the local facilities. Good grief people! I need to be able to feed my little pig, too!
Coincidentally, a co-worker had a birthday gift for Camden and we swung by to pick it up. While chit-chatting I was telling her about our need for change in child care arrangements and my experience with the facility I toured. She immediately offered me her child care provider's business card, gave me the low-down, and I was 98% sold. I figured, if this person, who's opinion I value and respect, sends her sweet kiddos to this lady - she must be OK.
I called and set up a meeting for the next day so we could come check things out. The gal and I chatted while Camden raced toward the kitchen set, making himself right at home by banging the pots and pans. I immediately felt at ease picturing him in this home environment with only a few other kiddos. Watching her interact with the few kids that were there that day - I felt like she was a perfect combination of structure and relaxation.
The first few weeks with the change were tough - mostly because I didn't know this person at all and bam(!) I'm leaving my child with her. What made it even harder was that right about the time Camden started the new daycare, he developed some separation anxiety. Super great timing, little dude! He would cling to me, cry (alligator tears crying), and jut that pouty lip out like no one's business. The crying would start before I even got him out of the car, for goodness sakes! I had to institute a "drop and run" rule. No lingering. No waving. Just kiss, handoff, and run.
I really, really beat myself up over this - wondering if it was an age thing, if he was just super comfortable with Jessica, or - did he not like it at his daycare? I already have serious mama guilt issues. This was just another pancake on the stack that was making me feel like the worst person in the world to be leaving him in that state every day. The daycare gal assured me that he stopped the blubbering and was fine soon after I left. He'd get distracted by the cat, Milo (who he LOVES) and the other kiddos and have a great, happy camper-Cam kind of day! Inside, I was just crumbling because the last image I had in my head - was him reaching for me and cry, cry, crying. This went on, and on, and on, and on.
(I promise my kid is not under the influence of drugs).
To make matters worse, Jessica watched him just last week for an hour (while I had my very belated birthday massage). We came inside, I sat him on the floor, gave Jess the rundown, gave him a kiss and said "bye-bye," all while trying to get out the door in a flash so not to unleash the tears and lip. What do you think my little man cub did? He stood up (ALL smiles) and waved bye-bye back to me. Uh, what? Who IS this child?!
Needless to say, my super relaxing massage time was spent with my mind racing - wondering if I'm doing the right thing. Is he happy at daycare? Is he trying to tell me something? Should I investigate a new daycare? Gah.
This week (this frigging week!) he finally stopped the clinging, crying, and pouty lip at drop off. Three frigging months after starting in her care and we're over the drop off hump. Good grief.
I do have to say that I've very happy with Cam's daycare lady and the care, love, and attention that Camden seems to get. There are four or five other kiddos there on a daily basis, so he's getting lots of socialization and interaction. They do baby yoga, celebrate holiday's with little parties, and do art projects. Our refrigerator is starting to overflow with hand/feet-prints and scribbled coloring pages.
Yesterday, I was driving up the road and noticed some kids were playing outside in the front yard. I slowed down and stopped before reaching the driveway because I was witnessing the cutest thing. Four kiddos were walking in the grass, one following the other, looking like little ducks. Which little duck do you think was pulling up the rear? Hammy. Hammy in his hoody, too-big pants and Velcro Adidas shoes. I about died. And really, really wish I had my Nikon in the car to document.
The smile on his face was priceless and to see him be independent and thriving in this environment (pretty much) made the anxieties and doubts I've been having the past three months wash away.
So, congratulations, you've just finished reading the longest blog post on daycare in the history of blog posts about daycare. You deserve a medal. Or a hug.