10 Tips for Transition to Child Care (From a mom who got it all wrong)

I’m excited to host a guest post by blogger Jessica Smock, an educator, mom, and almost-finished PhD student. Jessica has only been blogging at School of Smock since the new year, and she’s already turned out a ton of thought-provoking and informative posts about education and parenting. Today, she writes about her son’s transition to child care. It’s a sort of confession, because as you’ll learn, it didn’t go so well. The upshot is that she turned her experience into a useful guide for parents approaching this transition. Enjoy her post, and please feel free to add your own experiences and advice in the comments below.

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10 Tips for Transition to Child Care (From a mom who got it all wrong)

By Jessica Smock

I thought I had done my all of my homework, as a diligent parent, researcher and educator.

As a new parent, it can be a tough, long process finding the right child care for your child. You have to think about what your needs are: a small, intimate, home-like environment or a fully-accredited, educationally focused child care center; location (at home, close to home or work); your budget; your schedule… Next, you have to do your research, using friends, family, or a local or national referral agency, to identify providers that meet your needs and have openings. And then you should visit facilities and talk with the providers, asking them questions about their curriculum, sick child policy, discipline philosophy, caregiver experience and training, feeding and nap schedules. Finally, you sometimes just have to use your parental instincts, going with your gut about whether a provider will match your family’s parenting style and your kid’s temperament.

I had done all this before my son started a fantastic preschool program.  So why was my son’s transition to day care a complete disaster?boydaycare photo

My son had started off when he was six months old with a few different babysitters that came to my home a few times a week while I wrote and worked on my dissertation. He did well with this and loved playing with his young, energetic babysitters, but it wasn’t meeting my needs. I couldn’t concentrate in our small house with the constant chaos and noise that surrounds a baby. So I started looking into child care centers in my new city. I thought I was more than capable of doing this. I was a teacher and curriculum coordinator for more than a decade, with a Master’s and nearly a doctorate in the education field. I had worked as a research fellow for a social research nonprofit in Cambridge, where my major responsibility was helping to write a research report of high-performing child care facilities in Massachusetts. I had interviewed dozens of providers across the state and country, as well as state education heads and early childhood researchers from Harvard and other local universities, and helped to create a framework for evaluating child care providers.

I didn’t think at all about what happened after I chose the program. Continue reading

Dear Cee: About those tantrums and tears

 

Dear Cee,

We have had a lot of change in our lives lately. You have started day care, and I have started going to this strange place we call “work.” (I always wonder what you picture when I say I’m going there. I think you’d really like climbing the stairs in the 300-person lecture hall where I go to tell stories to sleepy college kids. You’ll have to check it out sometime.)

We had these nearly two years of spending almost every minute of every day together, living in our quiet, predictable rhythms. As an infant, you clung to me and had little interest in being close to other people, even Daddy at times. Our early attempts at leaving you with a babysitter were traumatic for everyone. You would cry and cry, refusing a bottle. I would sit at my desk, unable to concentrate on my work, and instead checking my phone for text messages from the babysitter. You let me know that you needed me. I accepted this and stayed close.

I was nervous about this change, but you love going to day care. You jump right in to play, often only pausing for a quick hug goodbye with me. And when I return to pick you up, you greet me with a grin and a hug, but then you go back to playing and it is often a struggle to tear you away. You embrace your new caregiver as if you have known her all your life.

I am so relieved to see that you are comfortable with this change. But it is also bittersweet for me, I admit. It is a LOT of letting go. In fact, you may have noticed that I have been hugging you an awful lot lately when we are together. That’s the only way I can ease myself into the reality of your growing up.

But also? It is magical to watch you become your own person.

You walk confidently and run joyously. You disagree passionately. Sometimes you are agreeable, but you’re passionate about that, too. You demand band-aids, piggy-back rides, and one more bedtime story. You try new words, first listening, and then testing them out. You pause, you reflect, you nod with understanding. You protest holding my hand as we cross the street. You pretend play – serving me dinner of plastic veggies and grinning as I nibble at them and complement your cooking.

And you still need me. Continue reading