My baby is at childcare this week. I can’t quite believe that it’s happening; he still seems so small to me. He’s definitely the youngest baby there at this point- at only nine months old, he is at least three months younger than most of the other kids there, and they are all walking easily around him.
On our second orientation visit, it broke my heart to see a little girl toddle over to him and grab his hair with a chubby little fist, and to see him look up at her, confused and unable to do much of anything about it. It was a harmless moment, really. She was just being curious, and I was quick to remind her to use gentle hands while opening up her fist to release Zach’s hair, and all was well, but for some reason this tableau squeezed at my heart so much that it hurt inside. He just seemed so little and helpless, not yet at a stage where he could fend for himself, and I felt so sad to think that I was going to leave him all alone in a place where he seemed too young to cope with the “big kids” and their antics.
Last week I dropped him off for his first full day. I had decided that after drop off I’d do some grocery shopping to take my mind off things, and as I stood in the Woolworths parking lot, I called Max to let him know that I’d gotten Zach to childcare and all was well. Max was in London at the time for work, and I felt very much alone as I waited for him to pick up his phone. As soon as his familiar voice answered, I was in tears.
I wasn’t expecting to be one of “those” mums. I didn’t think I’d cry about an event like this, but I did. Oh did I ever! I cried on the phone to Max for a good thirty minutes. People were coming up to me in car park to check if I was ok. I looked a real mess by the time I made it into the store, and when I did, one of the Good Samaritans from the parking lot approached me to see if I needed help. He was a middle aged man of about my dad’s age, and we ended up sitting over a coffee and talking about what had happened that morning. Ha! It was sweet of him to listen and I felt a bit better after, but I still ended up wandering aimlessly around the grocery store, buying things I didn’t need and taking over two hours to get out of there.
Logically, I know that this experience is good for him. He gets the chance to engage and play with other kids of different ages, and with other adults, as well. I think his social confidence must be growing stronger by the day; he’s already a pretty chilled and happy baby, and I hope that being at childcare reinforces that as he learns to have increased independence and enjoys meeting new people. He also gets to eat a variety of foods each day that he’s there, and I’m sure lots of them are things that aren’t in my normal cooking repetoir. He’s a pretty good eater at home and loves to feed himself, and I’m sure that having exposure to even more foods than I can provide is a good thing.
So you see, I know that sending him off to care is a good thing. I love the Montessori philosophy that his centre follows, and I feel comfortable with the staff and other children. So I’m putting it down to hormones — everything within a mother is telling her to keep her child nearby and protect him, so letting go of his little hand and giving him to someone else for a day goes against the grain in every way.