Wednesday, January 30, 2013

She's all grown up

So its been a week and a half since the little one's solo orientation and I've only just now recovered to write this post (or I'm just a wee bit lazy). You may recall from my last post that I was feeling rather upset about the prospect of leaving my gorgeous toddler (she's been walking unaided for 6 1/2 months now so I don't think I can call her a baby) alone with strangers (child care professionals (CCP)). And as usual I was right (I think I can say that, now that I've been a full time parent for 8 months, so I am actually always right, and never ever wrong).

Getting together all her bits and pieces like a bottle, a couple of changes of clothes, a hat, shoes and of course the ever attached dummy, made for a frantic morning (I don't believe in preparing the night before, but apparently I do like using lots of brackets in this post), but we arrived more or less when I planned to: 9am.

In my experience childcare centres are pretty much all the same. Friendly, and often bubbly staff, who are all smiles and trying so hard with their tone and body language to reassure you that that your child will be well cared for and that you're not an absolute bastard of an uncaring parent for leaving you're bundle of joy with weirdos (see Editorial note below) who are just a wee bit unnerving, and this childcare centre was no different.

I spoke to the CCP on hand about the littlest one's eating and sleeping habits, and passed on some info about what she liked to do and what her personality was like but then after a prolonged hung and a kiss I handed her over for a cuddle. At about that point I could feel the tears welling in my eyes and a strange feeling of separation, abandonment, distress, and a great sense of wrongness washed over me. It didn't help that the cutest one started to cry, which she does to all strangers. A couple of deep breaths and a quick 'Bye little one, I'll see you later' and I was off, closing the door and wanting so much to lean against it and sob to myself; but I didn't because I'm not that melodramatic.

The little one's room at the childcare centre has a large window which parents have to walk past before leaving the centre, so I stole a glance to see if she was still upset, and this is possibly the worst bit, she had stopped crying! All because she was being shown a caged rabbit in the room, and I could tell she was fascinated. I hate rabbits!

Careful planning got me through that first day: I took the kids to a 9:45am movie at the cinema, so was completely distracted by that to think about how the little one was going, and afterwards, a little bit of shopping before picking up the cutest one at the end of her first half day. My one hope was that she would have cried the whole time she was at child care. At least that way I knew she would have missed me. Yes I know its completely selfish, and obviously a horrid experience for her, but I needed to feel good about myself! OK, so its not entirely true. I wanted her to be happy, to have a quick acclimatisation, but IF she had been upset the whole time, well, I wouldn't have been unhappy. 

So there I was, hand trembling on the door knob to her room, part of me wishing she had a great time the other part wishing she didn't. I turned the door knob. I peered in. I couldn't see her. What had they done to her!?!?! But as I stepped into the room I saw her, and more importantly, she saw me. She had been happily playing with a doll, but as soon as she saw me she dropped both the doll and her bottom lip and started wailing as she staggered toward me. SHE MISSED ME! Or hated me immensely for leaving her in the first place. I'll go with the former.

That first hug after leaving her in the care of strangers was priceless. It filled me with a joy and warmth and overall relief. She survived. She could do it, she actually enjoyed it. And wow, even I survived too. Surprises all round.

A week and a half later the good news: she still enjoys it. The bad news: I don't see her all the time and I miss her. Yep that's it.  OK so there is some sadness, everytime I drop her off, especially because she cries when handed over for a cuddle to one of the CCP but really, thankfully, the other two kids have kept me busy enough (thank god for school holidays) not to dwell on the cutest one too much.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Childcare workers are not weirdos, well most of them aren't, they're actually really lovely and do an amazing job looking after your kids. But for the sake of my own amusement, it served the post better to paint them as villains.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Let's make friends

It seems an age since I last blogged, but I guess I've been happily meandering in the bliss that is being a full time parent (no sarcasm either, this is without doubt the best job in the world). With school holidays kicking in and then Christmas my life has just been happily rolling on. Nothing overly exciting to report, which, when you have kids, is not a bad thing at all.

However, my tour of duty is coming to an end and there are certain things that must be done to prepare for our (the whole family's really) lives. One of those things is child care.

As I mentioned way back when, I've been going to the local library to socialise the cutest one, but sadly my own feelings of discomfort have prevented me doing much other baby socialising. I did go to a playgroup once though and while the little one enjoyed it, playing with all sorts of different toys, but essentially ignoring all the other children, I hated it. Whilst there were a couple of mums (one from the library group), who actively went out of there way to chat, the rest (some 8 or 9) basically treated me with some sort of rude indifference or a patronising and condescending tone, as if I had no right being there, as if I was interrupting their day. I was out of place and didn't feel particularly welcome. Needless to say I didn't go back. Burnt once I didn't bother trying any other playgroups. Afterall it was a convenient excuse for me not to put myself in uncomfortable situations where I had to talk to strangers (my own mum taught me not to talk to strangers). Oh and yes I'm completely aware that I could have made more effort and tried harder, but heck, my heart wasn't in it. I suppose with that attitude it was always destined to fail.

So the mouse's socialisation with children of a like age was limited to our weekly library visits (which in the end I quite enjoyed) and the occasional visit to friends with little ones. I admit it, it's been my biggest failure as a full time parent. And it will make the next bit of her and my lives all that more difficult.

This week she had orientation at child care. It seems a nice place with nice carers and the mouse did a lot better than I expected. We were there for an hour, together, and whilst one carer asked me stuff, and told me stuff, the mouse just wandered and explored. She picked up unusual toys (to her) and played with them. She watched the other kids, and they watched her. She even managed to be in the same space as one of the other little girls and tried to share a dolly she was holding. That moment reaffirmed to me why she needs this. She needs to make friends and learn how to play nicely with them. Her exposure has mostly been Lord Vader and I and two doting siblings who are much older than her. She needs this. It'll be good for her.

Next week she has two half days of orientation, by herself. Just anticipating what I'm going to feel when I drop the cutest one off to be left alone, with strangers, finally allows me to sympathise with Lord Vader who many years ago had to go through the same heart wrenching thing with the other two kids. I'll feel guilty at abandoning my poor defenceless child. I'll worry that these strangers won't look after her properly. I'll be frightened that something bad will happen to her because I'm not there to protect her. And most of all, I'll just miss being with her, that moment when she drifts off to sleep in my arms, or that wonderful laugh when I tickle her.

And it would be remiss of me not to mention her feelings. Because I haven't socialised her more, this is going to be traumatic for her. She'll miss ME. She needs me to be there for cuddles, and laughs, and reassurance, and to make the tears go away, and to make her feel special and I'M forcibly denying her these things that SHE NEEDS.

I'm not looking forward to it at all.

I know I'm not a BAD parent for doing this, but heck, what is wrong with irrational emotional feelings from time to time. She'll live. She'll be so happy when I pick her up and yeah, she'll learn to enjoy it too. She'll learn new things, she'll make new friends, and she'll start growing up just that bit more. Perhaps that is one of the things I hate the most. She'll grow up without me, and I'll miss it.

PS. Thank you Lord Vader for giving that up so that I could experience it. It means more than I can explain.