The first time Clara went to day care, she came home wanting to toss mulch up in the air and go down the slide head first at the playground. On the second day, she insisted we criss-cross the Velcro on her sneakers. A week into our new routine, she says words I don’t completely understand and she wants things I haven’t heard of. I met a mom at a park once and asked her if she noticed any differences in raising her two children—one of which she stayed home with and the other went to day care at around six weeks. She said that she didn’t feel like she knew the one who was away from home as well as she knew her other daughter. We’re only a week in, but I can already tell Clara is establishing a life for herself outside of my influence and control.
Once I picked William up and he was crying in a swing. I about nearly called the whole thing off right then. I definitely started using the footage from the rotating surveillance camera viewable from the entrance room to spy on them five minutes after and before I picked them up. Okay, fine, ten minutes. The past few days, however, I’ve gone to pick William up and he’s been happily bouncing in the lap of Ms. Medina. I watched him from the doorway—I love watching my kids from a distance—and he was just ‘aflirting with his day care momma.
Sometimes Clara clings to me when I try to leave but then Miss Bethanie asks her if she wants to go outside, and she barely tosses me a wave “goodbye.” When I pick her up, she says she doesn’t want to go home yet. She’s often sliding down their big metal slide with two other girls, holding their hands. When we get in the car, she devours the rest of her lunch and says, “I want to go back to day care.” We come home, and I love every single minute of the two hours I have with them before we start getting ready for bed. Every minute feels full of purpose. Then, they go to sleep almost an hour and half earlier than our pre-day care days.
Clara never says, “I miss you too much, Mama” or “I don’t want to go to day care,” but lately she insists more often, “Hold me.” Tonight was a Mama-Nuggle Night, which means I get to lay in bed with her and say prayers and watch her fussily arrange her baby dolls before bed. She squeezes my neck and says, “My Mama!”
I definitely muttered to Aaron the first time we tried the new morning routine, “This is a nightmare!” as Clara screamed from having to be woken up in the morning for the first time in her life. I am going to have to supplement the breastmilk supply with formula, which doesn’t break my heart as much as I thought it would. I live in a constant state of mild worry that William is crying in a playpen for his mama and that some kid somewhere is being mean to my daughter.
But slowly I am coming to believe that Ms. Medina and Miss Bethanie are sincerely fond of my children. I like that Clara has no choice but to eat the orange, zucchini, and yogurt I pack in her lunch rather than the pasta with butter and parmesan lunch I would inevitably make her every single day. I like that the kids are exhausted by the end of the day from so much stimulation. I like that Miss Bethanie says, “Nap time” and Clara grabs her napmat with the other two-year-olds, lays down, and sleeps for two hours—no long drives around the neighborhood or endless afternoons of rocking to coax her into sleep.
Eight hours a day are a lot of hours, but I think it’s going to be okay.