Oh my goodness, things have gotten hectic. I know I have neglected the blog, but I’m gearing up for teaching next week and I’m suddenly juggling more a few more responsibilities than I’m used to. Once I figure out how to keep all these balls in the air, I hope I can carve out more writing time again.
It has been a big week for our family. It was Cee’s first week of part-time day care. She seemed to cope with it beautifully. Not surprisingly, I have struggled with it more.
In the week before she started there, we had three play dates at Cee’s day care, a small in-home program. Cee jumped right into circle time, outdoor play, and meals with the other kids while I watched quietly, usually from a distance. She only clung to me for a few minutes on the first day, and then she was off. She wanted to play with the toys and be a part of the group, and she seemed confident with them. I could tell she was really ready for this change.
After we left our last play date, I told Cee that next time we came, she would stay to play with her new friends and her caregiver – we’ll call her Annie – would take care of her while I went to work. She gave me a funny look.
Over the next few days, I reminded Cee of this plan several times. We would remember something she did at day care or one of her friends there. Each time it came up, I would say something like, “Next time you go to Annie’s house, you will stay to play with the other kids while Mama goes to work.”
Cee: “Yeah.” Then usually a pause, and then, “Mama?”
Me: “Mama will go to work for a little while, but then I’ll come pick you up at lunchtime.”
Cee, nodding her head: “Yeah.” (This leaves me wondering – what exactly does a kid like Cee think of when she imagines “work?”)
On the night before her first day, we packed her bag with diapers and a few changes of clothes, and we repeated the same conversation. Except this time, I could tell that she knew exactly how it would go. She just needed to hear it one more time. She seemed to understand the plan, and she seemed ready.
On drop-off morning, we arrived in plenty of time so I could hang out for a bit while Cee got comfortable. Once she was playing happily, I went and crouched down next to her to tell her that I was leaving for work. She grabbed my neck and said quietly, “No, no, no…”
“Yes, Cee. Mama has to go to work. I’ll be back soon to pick you up. You’ll have lots of fun here playing with these toys and your new friends.”
She squeezed me tight and then relaxed. I kissed her, and she kissed me back. Then she turned and kept playing, not even watching me while I walked out the door.
No tears. I may have been on the verge as I drove the couple of miles away from her. I was so proud of Cee and of us – that we had found a way to prepare her for this and that she had risen to the occasion with grace. New place, new people, surely a bit out of her comfort zone. And I admit, part of me wanted her to be sadder on this day, because it sure felt bittersweet to me. But she seemed to take it as a new adventure, and she had no doubt that I would be back to pick her up.
I stopped at home to have a quick breakfast before biking to campus. Sitting with my coffee cup, the house seemed so oddly quiet for that time of day. I missed her already.
But then, 30 minutes later, I was in a meeting. With adults, smart ones, too. I felt inspired and excited about teaching this term. My world felt bigger, just as Cee’s must have felt that morning.
Pick up that first day went smoothly until I explained to Cee that she had to leave the day care toys at day care. I eventually had to pry a set of toy keys out of her hands in order to get her out the door. After that, she had one meltdown after another between the day care door and our rocking chair where we nursed before nap.
This went on all week. Uneventful drop-off for mornings at day care, followed by meltdowns and passing out at nap time from sheer exhaustion. Cee coped with the changes really well at her day care, but it wore her out for sure.
And although my week was filled with mostly useful meetings and work on preparing my courses for the term, I started to miss her more and more. By Thursday night, I felt I had barely seen her. Before I went to bed, I laid on the floor of her dark room for a while, listening to her breath next to me. In her almost two years of life, how many breaths had she taken apart from me? How many challenges had she faced without me standing behind her? Not many.
This is just the beginning, I know. As of this week, Cee has friends that aren’t also our friends, and she’ll be learning things that we don’t teach her. I have to mourn this a little.
It’s good, really. I’m so excited about teaching this term. Both Cee and I are as ready as we could be for this change. But changes are always hard for me – even the best ones. This is where you can all tell me that it gets easier. Right?