Ah, the best laid childcare plans…. A couple of weeks before Ian left, our childcare person for Quinn backed out. As much as I should probably feel inconvenienced, part of me was a little relieved.
I don’t have any problem with people who use daycare. Every child and family and circumstance is different, and there are cases where it is certainly the best thing for all involved. But for myself, I’ve never been comfortable with it. I don’t want to miss anything, and if I can’t be with my kids I want them to be with someone else who is equally invested and interested. I never feel guilty when I’m at work if they’re with their dad, or on rare occasions with an uncle or aunt or grandparent. As long as they’re loved, it’s all good.
Ian and I have managed to arrange our lives so that one or both of us has always been home with the kids. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice because we were doing what we liked. Luckily neither of us likes yachts or eating out regularly or gambling. Our lifestyle of hanging out at home, playing in the park and splurging once in awhile on treats from the ice cream truck is cheap to maintain, so we’ve never struggled with issues of work and family balance. When Ian went back to school, I stayed home with Aden. When he graduated and couldn’t find work, I took on more jobs and he stayed home. After the birth of each baby I would stay home until I felt comfortable venturing out for short quartet gigs, but for the most part I had any work the first year come to me. The conservatory where I work let me teach from home with a baby in my lap, and I have a workshop just off the kitchen so my boss at the repair shop could just bring violins to me. Each of my kids as babies spent time napping in a swing in my shop while I worked on instruments. Ian’s weekend work with the Army Reserves left him plenty of time for being home most of every month. We never contemplated daycare because it wasn’t necessary.
Then when Ian got deployed in 2006 we were left in a lurch. Aden was in Head Start, but Mona was really little, and I was working in the mornings. I had no choice but to put her in daycare for about three weeks. For a variety of reasons it did not go well. I wrapped up all of my work obligations as soon as I was able and went back home. When Aden started kindergarten that Fall, it was just me and Mona for awhile, and eventually Quinn. People suggested, understandably, that daycare for Mona would get me some much needed rest. It makes sense, but there is something about the deployment situation that made it not a viable option. Mona would panic when we took Aden to school. We took daddy away and he didn’t come back. I don’t think she trusted that Aden would come home. I couldn’t ask her to say goodbye to me, too. Also, with Ian gone, I needed my kids with me. I feel that way now, too. I’m not roping them down with apron strings–they can play and go to school and all that good stuff–I just feel more at ease when they are with me.
So, rather than look for someone else to watch Quinn while the girls are in school we decided to create for him a School of One at the violin store. He’s potty trained and knows his letters and numbers and is even working on reading a little bit. He’s trying very hard to tell time. He’s polite and speaks clearly and is excited about learning. He’s more ready for school than probably a lot of the children who are already enrolled as K3 students at the Montessori school, but he doesn’t turn three until the end of November, so he doesn’t make the cutoff.
We got him a cute little desk with a chalkboard top. We made a broken rental cello into a toybox, and got a nice table for his sisters as well, so they can do homework in the store after school. Quinn has his own big kid backpack and a Scooby-Doo lunchbox and lots of paper and crayons. We pack everything up in the morning, and even though he’s disappointed every time we drop off his sisters and he doesn’t get to go into the big school, he likes his tiny school. It has cereal bars and grapes. He draws me pictures, he watches Signing Time DVDs, and he builds towers and structures and refers to them as ‘block parties.’ I’m not getting nearly as much work done as I’d like, but that’s okay. I changed the violin store to by appointment only, so I can spread customers out and only take in maybe one project a day. I’m hoping to take him with me to volunteer in the art room a couple of times a month, so that way once in awhile Quinn gets to go spend time in the big school, too.
In the meantime, things seem to be working. One of the reasons I thought it would be nice to run our own business, is that when I was growning up it was fun feeling like a part of my parents’ art gallery. Their business was like an extension of our home. I’ve made an effort to create an environment in my own store that makes my kids comfortable there, and so far it has. I have dreams of Aden getting good enough at violin to help me out, by tuning instruments and working with customers…. I’m not counting on it, but it would be wonderful if it happens.
I don’t know how long the School of One will keep Quinn suitably occupied, and I may have to rethink it and hire help to watch him down the line, but I hope not. I like having him with me. Although I’m running out of room for his drawings behind my bench already.