Two Daycares: Quite Beautiful

When I picked Owen up from daycare today, I asked him if he wanted to go back the next day. I’ve finished my teaching and marking, so I thought if he wanted we could spend the day together.

“I want to be at daycare every day, Mummy,” he said, causing his teacher to swoon.

So I decided that a calm day at home would suit me just fine.

After I picked him up, I brought Owen over to his old daycare. He attended from 7 months to 2 years. On the way there, Owen narrated from the back seat. “At my old daycare my teacher was Nadine. At my new daycare my teacher is Mimi. I love Nadine and Mimi. I love both of them.”

When we got there, several of his old friends were still there, colouring pictures. Nadine was thrilled to see him, and even had a little Christmas present for him. The space was bright and calm, just as I remembered it. Owen remembered faces but had to be reminded of names, “I remember Jeanne! I no remember Alex.” Lori, now three and a half, was the only one to remember Owen’s name. He settled in, coloured a little, then played with his new puzzle.

A little while after we got home, Duncan arrived and asked Owen if he had gone to visit his old daycare. Owen, exhausted with his long day, was sprawled on the couch, pacifier in mouth.

“Ya,” he garbled, “I’wsqbtf”

“Take your suçe out, honey. We can’t understand what you’re saying.”

He complied. “I went to my new daycare and my old daycare,” he said. “It was quite beautiful.”

Home for the Holidays

It wasn’t too long ago that the thought of having Owen home all the time was, frankly, undesirable, if not actually frightening. I found being a stay-at-home mother extremely difficult, isolating, and boring for the only 7 months I ever tried it. I thought daycare was a godsend: here was a chance to work and think and read… while someone else looked after my child! I guess I felt a little guilty, but Owen seemed to enjoy himself, and anyway, as a family, we all really needed me to be working.

This summer will mark a transition between daycares. We got accepted into the daycare attached to my work, which is by all accounts marvellous, beginning at the end of August. Our first daycare provider had to go to France to look after her elderly parents in mid-June, so she needed to reduce the number of children in her care. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this plan on my own, but when I realized I would have no childcare for the summer, I was actually overjoyed. Owen is not NEARLY as much work as he was when he was 7 months old. In fact, being with him hardly feels like work at all. He naps now, for me (which he wouldn’t do for about a year), he walks, he’s interested in the world, we chat… And as an added bonus, being with him means there’s really no way for me to get any “work work” done. Will my thesis get turned into a book this summer? No. Do I care? No. Will it ever? Probably not. Oh well. Will I read all those important novels I’ve yet to get around to? No. Will I write my novel? No. Will I ever? Oh, probably not. But we get to the park and the pool almost every day. We check out the second-hand bookstore and the library. We eat alfresco on the dilapidated deck. We go on field trips: so far, we’ve taken the train twice (to the Jazz Festival) and the bus once (to visit Pointe-Claire Village). I’m not saying I’d like to do this for the rest of my life. I’m sure I’ll be happy to go back to work when the time comes. But for now, Owen and I are on vacation. And I’m really loving it.

Sadness

I got a call from Owen’s daycare this morning. Owen (who never has “des crises”) was breaking down in tears (and I don’t think he understands the election results, but I’m close to tears myself), and apparently nursing his arm. He insisted on bringing The Runaway Bunny (“Nunny Away,” he calls it now) to daycare with him, and was hugging the book as I left him this morning. Of course, this brings all kinds of guilty twinges into my heart – does the boy hope I will become a tree that he will come home to? Does he want me to become a gardener and find him, my little crocus in the hidden garden? Because I will, of course, but today I have a stack of essays to get through (oh, I know, and this blog entry – but I’ve done 12 essays already this morning and this will only take a couple of minutes).

I explained to our daycare provider that Owen has been fragile the past couple of mornings. Yesterday he sat down on the couch and cried for absolutely no reason. He hadn’t hit himself on anything, hadn’t asked for anything we’d refused – nothing. And, through his tears, he kept saying “Mmmah, mmmah” (i.e. he wanted us to kiss it better)… but how do you kiss sadness better? We did, of course, and he eventually calmed down, but this morning there were more moments of sadness, not directly related to going to daycare, I don’t think, but possibly. And the book seemed to be a security blanket.

Anyway, I asked that the daycare phone back if he was still inconsolable, and haven’t heard back in a couple of hours, so I guess he’s OK. Poor little guy. Don’t worry. “If you become a little boy and run into a house, […] I will become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.” This afternoon. Promise.

Gregarious

There was a home daycare providers’ strike on Wednesday (which I support completely, by the way). They have been negotiating with the Quebec government for important things that they don’t currently have, like sick days and pensions.

Anyway, Duncan and I decided to share Owen, so he worked in the morning and I took Owen to class. I should mention that the class I took Owen to is the only class I would ever contemplate taking him to — I team teach it with two other people and by this point in the term, the students are milling about rehearsing, so there’s no problem having a toddler around. Well, except when I tried to watch a dress rehearsal with him in the room. That didn’t work at all.

But for most of the class, Owen had a great time meeting about a hundred new friends, playing, and eating snacks. Full disclosure: I have to acknowledge that I brought him in partly to show him off. My colleagues could easily have covered the class without me. I suffer from every mother’s delusion that her child is the cutest most adorable being that everyone wants to see all the time. But… you know… he is!

When I brought him back to daycare yesterday morning, his daycare provider Nadine was not at all surprised that he had made friends. He has charmed all the parents at the daycare, he charms the kids they visit at an elementary school, and has certainly charmed Nadine. She said that his openness would make life easy for him. I certainly hope so. I hope he continues to like people, to smile at people, and to genuinely like people, for his whole life.

Whirling Dervish of Home Organization

I’ve spent the week cleaning, sorting, getting rid of, boxing, trashing, sweating, drooping, reviving. I don’t know why I got this bee in my bonnet, but I think it might have something to do with the guilt of having Owen in daycare full time while I have no real work in the summer, so I had to create a job in order to feel like my days were meaningful.

This morning as I backed out of the driveway at 8:30 to take Owen to daycare, my neighbour and her mother were on the front porch. And in my head they were judging me for taking him to daycare and then coming home. They don’t know how busy I am going to be today! I thought to myself. I am not just going to sit around and watch tv or update my blog. OK – they don’t know about the blog, but anyway.

This week, I organized the bathroom drawers, my underwear drawer, my wrapping supplies, the winter scarves. I ironed napkins. I hung pictures, dusted shelves, vaccuumed and mopped under the couch. I threw away expired cold medication, vitamins, and a pregnancy test (no one wants to risk that emotional roller coaster… you’re pregnant – oops, no – the test expired in July 2010 – OR – You’re not pregnant and you go drink half a bottle of wine – except you are because the test expired in July 2010).

Aaannyyyway.

I have spent so much time justifying to people why daycare is so awesome – and it is – when I’m working. But right now, I am kind of craving a daycare vacation. Fortunately, in a little over a week, we’ll be off to Nova Scotia and free of schedules and at least that kind of guilt. Does anyone feel guilty about leaving their child with his grandparents? Surely not!

What I have done this week is the nesting that was supposed to happen in the third trimester of my pregnancy. A nesting phase that I tried to force. Well, here it is – in response to daycare, not impending childbirth. It got so bad that earlier this week I was cleaning up Owen’s play area while he was still playing. I think I took his train out of his hand to tidy it up.

Duncan is afraid he will end up in a box in the basement, tidied away.

I’ve finished the house and am now itching to go get Owen, but he’s still napping. Soon I will kiss those scrumptious cheeks (after I’ve scrubbed them and rearranged his hair).

Party Boy

We threw a first birthday party for Owen on Saturday.

As usual, he was a gracious host, all smiles and giggles. I must confess that I didn’t spend that much time with him at the party. He was so surrounded by loving adults, teens, and children, that I felt free to chat with my friends and family. At one point, my dad asked me where Owen was, and I confessed I had no idea – but I wasn’t worried. He was among friends:

What I think I was most impressed with was that he took the time to look at and smile at every present that came his way. I would have expected him to grow bored with the barrage of bags and cardboard boxes, but he was engaged and delighted with his new toys. He even took great pleasure in a picture frame, spending a couple of minutes cooing at the stock photo insert.

He ate cake (not quite his first time, since there are birthday parties at daycare, but almost). He quite liked cake.

It was a great day.

You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

Owen’s first word is “bye-bye.” Not Mama, Dada, Ball, Book, Cat, or Hippopotamus. I actually had a guilt pang about this yesterday (does he feel like we’re always leaving him?), which I quickly got over (he says and/or waves bye-bye for hello as well as goodbye, and says it repeatedly as he crawls across the room, turning around for a confirmation “bye-bye” before grinning and crawling another couple of feet.)

I was at a party on Saturday night with a whole bunch of childless people. I don’t know if they want kids or not, but there seemed to be a lot of apprehension over losing your entire life if you happen to be caught in the black hole of  parenthood. (The unknown can be a scary place for a grown-up*).

One question that came up (as it so often does) is whether I like being back at work. The answer: an unqualified YES. This answer shocks people. Really? But you must have a good daycare. Yes, I do. But don’t you miss him? Not really… I don’t. I don’t miss him when he’s napping or down for the night, either. I don’t miss him when Duncan takes him out for a run. I feel weird about this, because it seems to be taboo to admit that you don’t pine for your baby when you’re away from him. I look forward to seeing him, but I don’t think that’s the same thing.

I went back to work when Owen was 7 months old. Was I ready any earlier? Absolutely not. Was it difficult at times? Of course. But overwhelmingly, my return to work was a relief. It was a return to the person I was before I had Owen, a person I had, quite frankly, missed. I enjoyed teaching, reading, talking to students and colleagues, and I also enjoyed picking Owen up from daycare at the end of the day for a jaunt to the park or a walk or an hour of playtime before dinner.

At my staff party last week, a couple of my colleagues admitted that they’d felt the same way. Another friend of mine has always insisted that she is not cut out to be a stay-at-home mother. And of course I know others who love spending every day with their kids. For me, though, daycare has been miraculous.

I still want to clarify that I love having a child and that I am not racing to be away from him every day. Owen is a giggling, squishy bundle of sunshine who radiates joy onto his surroundings. I think I could spend every single day with him (and never crave daycare’s breaks) if I had another adult around all the time. Part of what I found difficult in the early days with Owen was the profound isolation I felt. The good days were always the days I’d had coffee with a friend, or lunch with family. The difficult days were the days I spent alone with Owen. Some days I would go to the drugstore just to have a conversation with a grown-up. It didn’t even matter if Owen was having a good day or a bad day. It was just the long lonely stretch of having only a baby to talk to. It’s not the baby. It’s the loneliness – it’s free time that you can’t occupy with any of the normal things you do to relieve boredom.

Owen is at daycare as I write this. He happily waved goodbye when I left… because I think he knew he would see me soon.

* Scaredy Squirrel… again!