With kids things change overnight.
So much is said and written about how fast children grow and how rapidly their minds and bodies expand and spread once the dams of babyhood burst. Ten months ago, my wife and I were on the proverbial fence about sending our little girl to a daycare program. We were both chomping at the bit to have some time where she could be out with other kids her age and where we could have just one kid in our midst instead of two.
Henry, our son, was not even 1-year-old yet. And since we both worked from home, we felt as if he could remain with us for a while yet. He could probably use us around to help him out still, we figured, and plus he was a frequent napper, so we could try and squeeze in work time when he was asleep.
But, with Violet, who was approaching three, things were different.
She was walking and talking and getting sharper and more playful and conscious with each passing day — sometimes, with each passing hour. But despite our best efforts to take her somewhere cool and fun almost every day (parks, lakes, playgrounds, etc), we were struggling with our own workloads alongside a little girl who was obviously needing even more stimulation and playtime than we seemed to be providing.
So, we packed her in the car and went searching.
We found a very cool daycare facility where the teachers (my preferred term) were extremely friendly and seemed wildly competent. Violet immediately appeared intrigued by the gang of kids in the room, too. Everything seemed right, somehow. It seemed like it all clicked.
But, underneath it all, my wife and I were nervous, I guess. Violet was our first, our “baby girl,” and she had never ever been away from us in any building somewhere miles away from at least her mom or me. Filling out all the paperwork for the daycare was easy. You just shut your mind down and put some ink in the blanks.
Going to bed the night before her first day though proved more than we could handle.
By the time we went to sleep, we had discussed it and were both deep-fried in relief to conclude that we just couldn’t pull the trigger. Not yet, we said. Not tomorrow.
Violet remained around the house then, for better or worse. Not for too much worse, I reckon, because she still seemed her regular happy-go-lucky self and all. The pressure was more upon my shoulders and my wife’s, too. We had to continue to try and chisel off splinters of time from our day in order to get our work done. It created a lot of stress. We struggled with the responsibility and wrestled it all to the floor the best we could but it took it’s toll on us, on our sanity. We had little in the way of babysitting help, and we failed to make that happen.
Then, our house burned up.
We had to move overnight. Obviously, that threw a couple new twists in the plot, and when the dust began to settle we were in a different house, in a different town, exhausted and confused. Then, one day not long after we’d landed in the new place, Monica came home and told me she had visited the Y in the closest big town, and that they had a cool daycare program. I could see the twinkle in her eye.
She had made up her mind and was right, and I knew it.
And man, what a difference.
Suddenly, Violet was out in the world. She was with kids her age, kids just like her but different in all the right ways. Our little girl, who we were so scared to let go of, flunk off the chains of procrastination we had wrapped her all up in and skipped away from us, happy and free.
Suddenly, we had a little more time to work. Not tons, of course. A one-year-old in the house is still pretty equal to keeping fifteen or twenty goats in the kitchen. But we had more than we’d had before. And Violet was a couple mountains and valleys over, safe and sound with folks who were watching her out of the corner of their eagle eyes, and she was coloring and playing house and eating lunch alongside other three-year-olds who shared her passions for Dora the Explorer and dinosaurs and swimming in the pool.
Looking back now, I know we didn’t do anything wrong as parents. Because if something feels even a little bit off, then we have to trust our instincts, huh? I mean, the castles of fatherhood and motherhood, they’re built out of the energy bubbling off of our hearts and our brains and our guts. They are complex fortresses designed to protect and preserve the kings and queens of our life. Everything we feel, everything we do … is for them; our decisions are all connected to our kids.
So, that evening when we pulled back and decided not to send Violet to daycare/preschool, that was just us being us. In all of our uncertainty and all of our mixed emotion, there was nothing but love in it’s purest hazy form.
And when the day came, when Monica had that look in her eye, we crossed a really long and scary bridge over a bottomless canyon, knowing full-well that we were ready to get to the other side and never look back. Every parent has to do it. Every mommy and every daddy.
And it ain’t easy. And it ain’t supposed to be. But, there is life on that far cliff over there. A lot of it.
Way more than I ever dreamed there could be.
Yesterday, Violet came out of the Y with a picture of a house made out of drinking straws and I’ll tell you what.
It was as cool as if our ‘Little Mama’ just nonchalantly handed me and her mom the very keys to the kingdom we’d been searching for all along.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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