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.