To say that motherhood is the ultimate on-the-job learning experience would be a massive understatement. If this were a “real” job, I’m sure I would have been severely reprimanded by my superiors many times by now. But luckily I work for a very forgiving and loveable boss who instead pays me in heartbreakingly sweet hugs, kisses and the most wonderful laugh in the world.
This week was another reminder of one of the top lessons I’ve learned during E’s first 2 1/2 years — always trust your gut. First, a little history lesson.
When E was 14 months old, she started going to daycare twice a week. I have an amazing job that allows me to work part-time and largely from home. Her first year, I only worked about 10 hours a week. It was enough to at least pay for groceries and gas for us and more importantly, it helped me keep my sanity. I would go into the office once a week for our staff meeting. For many months, E tagged along and got passed around to a bunch of eager arms or nursed contently while Mommy met with her co-workers (I know, amazing, huh?).
But then she got mobile and noisy and a lot more disruptive! So my grandparents, who live about an hour away, started coming over to spend a few hours each week with their first great-grandchild. Again, a great situation.
But the older E got, the harder it got to work from home. There were a lot of late nights for Momma and it was making all of us cranky. So I thought it was time for her to start socializing with some kids her own age and give me a bigger break.
At her age (14 months) it was really hard to find part-time childcare that wasn’t preschool (which typically starts around 18 months). So I found a daycare in my neighborhood that was willing to work with our hours. It was not a fancy new place. Rather, it was old, a little rundown, but I really liked her two teachers. A first we had some big-time separation issues, but she quickly came to love her Miss Debbie, her new friends, and before I knew it, she was really looking forward to school days.
When she was 2, she switched “houses,” and moved up with the other 2 to 3 year olds, and that’s when our problems began. The transition was hard. Capital H hard. Lots and lots of crying (I’m not ashamed to admit the tears were on her end and then mine, in the car). And this went on for weeks. They tried to tell me it was normal, but I knew my daughter. I knew something wasn’t right. She didn’t cry when I left her with babysitters and she hadn’t been crying before the switch. Now, I had to almost trick her on school days and I wouldn’t tell her where we were going until we were almost there because I knew it would be a total meltdown. And to be honest, there was something I didn’t quite trust about her new teacher either. Nothing specific, just a general feeling I had about her and her attitude towards the toddlers.
I let this go on longer than I should have, and it’s something I still feel so guilty about today. But I was tricked by how happy she seemed to be in the afternoons and the teachers’ promises that she never cried more than 5 or 10 minutes. And to be fair, the drop-offs did get better but there was almost always a few tears, even after 4 months of trying.
So, one day I had enough. I started school shopping, and I found a place I really liked and that I had heard great things about from other moms in our neighborhood. So we said good-bye to her old place and I girded myself for re-starting the whole transition again in June. But something weird happened — E was in love with “new school” from Day 1.
I kept thinking it would wear off, that one day there would be the inevitable tears at drop-off. But that’s never happened yet. Not once. In fact, last week the school was closed for the week between the summer camp session and the new school year, and all week long, she BEGGED to go to “new school” (yes, she’s still calling it that more than 2 months later). Now, we’re going three days a week, she’s thriving, and I’m at peace.