I’ve just come home from the daycare drop off and I feel all churned up. My two-year-old is new to kindy and so, drop offs are hard for him (and me!) right now.
This morning, like the last few kindy mornings, I peeled his small body off mine and placed him screaming in the arms of his lovely teacher. As I walked out the door, blowing kisses and saying “bye!” with my best, ‘I’m going to be cheerful so you know it’s all OK’ voice, I felt like utter crap for leaving him.
While I know in my head that he’s going to be just fine and will actually have a ball today (and yes, I will call his centre soon to check he’s settled), my heart hurts and I feel like I am going against all of my mother instincts by leaving him.
Here are some of my thoughts and feelings right now. I’m sharing them because I know I am not alone and that every mother whose child puts on the waterworks at drop off knows what I’m talking about.
1. Is he settled now?
I hope his screams have stopped, his tears have dried and he’s happily playing with his favourite carpark toy now. I hope he’s smiling and feeling calm as he drives those little wooden cars up the ramp – “brmm, brmm”. Oh, I wish I was a fly on the wall!
2. Am I doing the right thing by him?
Maybe he’s not ready for childcare? I know kids much younger than him go to daycare, but is HE ready? He was so upset this morning. Maybe his age-appropriate separation anxiety is a message to me, his mother, that I shouldn’t ignore? Should I pull him out? Oh, gosh. I should pull him out.
3. But maybe he needs this?
All little ones need to learn healthy separations, right? They need to know that mummy always comes back and the only way he will learn this is from experiencing it – in a really lovely place! He also adores painting, craft and squishing play dough. Kindy would be so much fun for him. He probably needs this. He’ll love it there. No, I definitely shouldn’t pull him out.
4. Will he be well looked after?
Yes, I know he is in the bigger sense – he’s safe, he’ll be fed nutritious food and (hopefully) he’ll sleep, but what about the smaller things? Will his teachers remind him to tip his drink bottle up as he sucks so the water comes out, for instance? Will they be able to decipher his many mispronunciations? Will they notice if his shoe strap has come off? OK, now I am being a control freak.
5. Is this even worth it?
He goes to daycare two days a week so I can work to pay for it. It’s an investment in keeping my career alive though and, in truth, I also love working. I enjoy the break from being a full time mummy and doing something for me. Plus, it feels good to earn a little bit of money for our household, well what’s leftover after paying childcare fees, that is. But right now, I am questioning myself. Is his distress worth it?
6. Will it get better?
He’s just started so perhaps these are new-to-kindy-tears. My eldest son experienced them, but then there were also other issues at play for him. Maybe after a few more weeks he’ll settle and become familiar with all of this? It’s a new routine for him. Maybe he just needs to get used to it? Maybe I need to chill.
7. Will he sleep?
Rest time is strictly 12.00pm there. At home, I usually put him down for a day sleep at 12.45pm. So will he sleep so early? Maybe all the stimulation will make him extra tired. But will someone remember to give him his blankie? He will need it and I specified this on his enrolment form, but has someone read it? I should call the centre to check. No, I am being a neurotic mother. They know what they’re doing! I should still call. He needs blankie.
Now I know that when pick up time rolls around this afternoon, his little face will light up when he sees me. He’ll toddle towards me with his chubby arms wide open for a cuddle and I’ll scoop him up. I’ll kiss his soft cheeks and he’ll grin as I ask him if he’s happy – “yep!” he’ll say enthusiastically. Then, “Have you had a fun day?” “Yep!” again. “Do you like kindy?” I’ll also ask tentatively. “Yes! Thumbs up!” he’ll cheep as he holds one hand in the air with his index finger pointing to the sky.
In that moment, all of my mum-guilt over daycare will wash away and I’ll feel reassured that I am doing the right thing. He’s had a great day. I’ll stop questioning.
Well, until tomorrow’s tears that is …