mean mama


little things mean a lot
August 28, 2008, 1:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t know how it is that tomorrow will be my boys’ last day at their daycare. In a little over a week they will start at a preschool, and in two short years they will be in kindergarten (despite their young age, but that’s a whole other can of NYC Board of Ed worms).

I can’t tell you how much having them in daycare has impacted our lives, 100% for the better. When they started attending last August, they were the babies in the group, still drinking from bottles and toddling around wide-eyed. They sat in high chairs to eat and slept in pack-n-plays for nap. Watching their transition has been nothing short of amazing. In one short year, they have become the big kids in a new group of little ones.  They sit at the tables with the other big kids, finding a chair and returning it to the pile once they are done. They drink from big kid cups and eat with utensils. They have favorite foods and joke with the other kids. They nap on mats. They know all the routines and sit against the wall obediently for story time.  They use the potty with the others, not always perfectly, mind you, but wow. They have friends. They are part of a gang of kids, and the day revolves around them. They have the key to their own city.

I can’t express to you how wonderful their caregivers are. This is not a fancy daycare that people are applying to for months in advance, as is often the case in NYC. I don’t know that these young women get paid very much – they are not teachers per se – and yet the work and love that they pour into their jobs is huge. The boys transitioned pretty well when they started. There were tears the first week or two, both theirs and mine, but I never doubted that the boys would be loved and comforted.  They quickly grew to look forward to daycare and asked to go, sometimes even on weekends!

Over time, my boys have asked for one caretaker in particular when they are at home. Some moms might be insecure about this, but I think it’s adorable and it makes me happy. There is no better feeling when you are a working mother than to know that your kids are happy where they are and that there is someone looking out for them. That knowledge made it okay for me to gradually enjoy my new job and see a future in which I could be a mom and also pursue a career that I love and feel is important to other parents’ kids too.

When I was in the hospital for the five weeks leading up to having MBB, daycare was the most stable thing in the boys’ lives. They were needier and clingier and more sensitive during that time, and their care-takers were soft places to fall. They really helped them through. They even helped pick them up and walk them to the center when my mom was here alone, and never asked for a dime. While I was crying my eyes out from missing the boys, knowing that they were going to daycare every day was a giant source of calm for me.

The  caretakers give the kids hugs and kisses and “I love you”s all the time, and the kids giggle and beam from ear to ear. They talk to us about the boys’ development and let us know when they’ve acted out and what they did about it. They have asked us if we’ve seen certain behaviors at home and how we’ve responded.  They really helped us figure out some of J’s behaviors and were in communication with his various therapists and supported us in getting him into a special ed program even when it hurt them to think that he might be different.

Over the past year, we have given them little gifts here and there (I’d sometimes surprise them with a chocolate bar), money for special occasions, and cards, but there is not much we can do or say to convey to them the impact they have had on our and our boys’ lives. And when I get all mushy they get a little embarassed anyway.  They are in their early twenties and don’t have kids, and they cannot yet know what their work means, after all.

They once told me I was the nicest mom they’ve had, which really shocked me because frankly no one has ever called me the nicest anything. I don’t think people are as outwardly appreciative to caretakers as they could be. I make a point of it probably because my mom was a caretaker in a daycare situation, I was a nanny for a year, and now I’m a teacher. I wish people realized that little things, like chocolate bars, can mean a lot. I know they do to me. Don’t save it all for Christmas, friends.

Any way, we are bringing in cupcakes tomorrow, and the boys are excited. As much as I have told them, I don’t think they understand that they will not return to daycare. They are too excited about summer, and days with me and the baby, and the notion of getting a backpack for their new school to slow down enough to listen to what I’m really saying. But I just might tear up. This feels like a big deal… like a big year that changed our lives, one that we got through largely because of these women. And I will be forever grateful for that.

And damn it, my babies are growing up.

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7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

how lucky your boys (and you guys) are to have had such a wonderful experience! I was tearing up a bit just reading it! good luck tomorrow

Comment by Dolores

I absolutely love that photo.

Comment by bri

I was tearing up a bit, too! Especially because I am looking for a daycare in Brooklyn for my son and am having so much anxiety (nightmares, etc.) about leaving him somewhere all day when I go back to work. I hope this isn’t too personal a question, but since your kids are are graduating anyway, could you tell me the name of your day care? It sounds like exactly the kind of place I would want my boy to go.

Comment by nina

Wow you summed up my feelings on childcare perfectly. My two daughter have been in the same center since they were both under 1 and I can’t say enough about how it feels to have a “village” of loving people caring for my children. My 4 year old just graduated and thank god the baby is still there or I would be at a loss. They have become my family too. Thank you for saying it in such clear words.
Jane

Comment by Jane

Like the others I teared up reading that as well. My son was in a daycare from the time he was 3 months old until he was a little over 2 years old with the same women. It is very hard to express the gratitude a working mom feels when her children are well taken care of. In my case, the ladies were retiring after over 30 years of running a daycare. And although I am thrilled with the preschool that my son is in now, I am currently pregnant with my second child and can’t help but wish I could pull my two ladies out of retirement just for my new child. You summed this feeling up perfectly. You might want to consider printing out this post and including it in a card to give to your women on your boys’ last day. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us have felt.

Comment by Kim

Thanks for this.

Comment by Lo

Nice post. I’m so glad that you and your boys had such a good experience. I am experiencing “back to daycare” angst even though Jo has gone to the daycare before, it’s in Lo’s school, he had fun last year, I love the women who work there and so does Jo… still, I’m having a hard time. It doesn’t make sense. But I appreciate hearing perspectives like this, especially on days like this.

Comment by Co




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