Natalie started daycare today.
Before we go any further, let’s address something: I might get the side-eye for this post. Before I had kids (or even when I just had one) I totally would’ve given the side-eye to the writer of this post. You’re a stay-at-home mom and you sent your kid to daycare? Why would you even bother to have kids if you don’t want to spend time with them??
Oh, honey. *pats young and clueless self on head*
I’ve come to the realization that I’m a much better mom when Natalie and I spend a leeeeetle bit of time away from each other. Her quirks are so much more endearing when it’s not just me and her, alldayeveryday. I need some room to breathe and so does she. We just joined a local moms group and that’s awesome, but we’re only talking about one playdate a week. Homegirl needs more socialization than that and I, an introverted homebody who has to psych herself up anytime we need to leave the house, am not necessarily the best person to rely on for that.
So. We started looking at part-time daycare programs. And we found one! It’s about ten minutes from our house, she’s in a room with 8 or 9 other two-year-olds (I couldn’t count because they all swarmed me when I walked in with Olivia. Baby! Baby! Cute baby!), her teacher is lovely and enthusiastic and has faaaaaar more patience than I, and they have a 2-day per week program. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-2, Natalie gets to play with new friends and try new foods and run herself ragged on the playground.
Ten! Glorious! Hours! Every! Week!
Yes. Exciting. VERY exciting.
But I was also nervous. I was worried she’d cry and cry and cry after I left and be miserable the whole day. I was convinced the teacher wouldn’t be able to understand a word Natalie said and her requests for Cat or water or whatever would result in a total breakdown. And what if the other kids didn’t want to play with her?
Most of my concerns stemmed from my own social neuroses. If Will brought me to a party full of strangers and just left me there for five hours, I would NOT be a happy camper. I love having friends and I love being a friend but actually getting to that point and slogging through all the introductory small talk? Please, just put me out of my misery. Let’s just jump straight to being besties so I can be sarcastic without worrying about offending you.
Clearly I was projecting some anxiety onto my toddler. Just a little bit.
I packed her bag last night, the cutest, most adorable backpack ever made (affiliate link because I’d really like to get about 20 cents back from that purchase). In went a change of clothes, her water bottle, her diaper supplies, a sheet and blanket for naptime, and all of my fears about sending her to daycare.
On the flip side, though, I was pumped. I had a full five hours planned for myself and Olivia: some errands, Olivia’s weekly letter and photo, diving into my Week in the Life album, and maybe even a quick workout. Let’s do this. I figured today might be tough, but it’ll get better. Natalie is a very social kid once she warms up to a new situation, so I knew she’d love it…eventually.
I woke up at 5 a.m. today when Olivia did and planned on nursing her, changing her diaper, and crawling back into bed for another hour or so until Natalie woke up. I had kind of a nagging headache that wasn’t there when I went to bed, and I figured it would go away soon enough. They usually do.
Um, no. It blew up over the next hour until I was getting sick from the pain. I took some Advil, not knowing how much I’d be able to keep down, and miserably watched the minutes tick by on my phone. Finally at 7 a.m. I gave up and called in the calvary: I texted my mom.
She came riding to my rescue and drove Natalie, Olivia, and me to daycare. There was no way I was missing my baby’s first day of “school” (that’s what we’re calling it with Natalie) and although I was feeling a bit better at that point, I really wasn’t in any condition to drive.
Mom waited in the car with Olivia, since I thought that all three of us abandoning Natalie in her classroom would be a lot more difficult for Natalie than just me. She stiffened and reached for me as soon as we walked inside.
“Buh-uh, Mama. Buh-uh!!” (She still says “up” backwards and I love it.)
I carried her to her classroom, where I peeled her off me and gently set her down. Her teachers attempted to chat with her but were met with a stony-faced Silent Bob. She didn’t want to talk to the other kids, she didn’t want to play with toys, and most of all, she didn’t want to leave my side.
After the teacher had gone over the usual first-day-of-school administrative business with me, I realized it was time. I wasn’t doing either of us any favors by dragging this out. I hugged Natalie, gave her a kiss goodbye, and left.
I fully expected a keening wail to rise as soon as the door closed behind me, but I heard…nothing. Just the squeak of shoes on the tile floor.
Mom dropped off Olivia and me at home and I shed a few tears thinking about Natalie standing alone and crying for me. Then I told myself that if she were really hysterical and inconsolable, they’d call me. So I went about my day and accomplished exactly nothing that I’d been planning on. I hung out with Olivia, tried to take a nap to shake off the rest of the headache, and spent most of the morning feeling just plain yucky. I did manage to do a mini grocery shopping trip to pick up the absolute essentials since our cupboards are pretty bare (oh yeah, we moved this weekend!).
Aaaand that was it. I picked up Natalie at 2 p.m. and although she was thrilled to see me and ran right over to give me a hug, she didn’t grab my hand and immediately try to drag me out into the hallway. Progress! Her teacher said she’d had a really good first day. To my complete and utter astonishment, she napped. It might not sound like much, but she hasn’t had a single nap outside of her crib or pack-and-play in a loooong time. Like, more than a year. So when I found out that all the kiddos are expected to lie down on their mats in the middle of the floor and sleep for an hour? HA. No way.
But she DID. For 45 minutes. And ALSO to my complete and utter astonishment, she ate nothing. I think it’s been awhile since I’ve written about her eating habits, but I they’re best summed up thusly: EAT ALL THE THINGS!
Oh well. I’m sure it was just the stress of the day, and she made up for it with her snack and dinner after we got home.
At first I was really upset about my total waste of a day and beating myself up for…having a headache? Oh yes, that’s a productive thing to be angry about. But then I realized: this going to daycare business? It’s a regular thing. So what if today was a wash. I have Thursday, and next week, and the week after that.
It was a less-than-auspicious first day. I have no “first day of school!” photos of her holding a chalkboard sign, no pictures of her backpack, nothing to commemorate the day except this blog post.
But that’s ok. She’s got a whole lot of first days ahead of her.
And I’ll probably cry at all of them.