For better or for worse, for the past 18-months Cullen has been mostly with me. We get babysitters here and there, and once a week I have a friend watch him for a few hours while I work, but other than that he is my sidekick. Up until now, we haven’t had any issues with separation, although I knew – like everything – it would eventually come. I’ve left him with relatives, dropped him at gym daycare, and even gone out of town for a whole weekend (Cullen stayed home with dad) with no issues – until recently.
A few weeks ago, Cullen and I headed to my barre class as usual. We’ve been going consistently together one or two weekday mornings each week since January. There is a great childcare area, and the workers there know his name and are very warm and welcoming. He has always trotted right in, heading straight for the play kitchen or blocks, and seems happy to engage and interact with the other kids. Two weeks ago we walked in and it was business as usual. He seemed comfortable and happy. I made the mistake of lingering in the lobby a little too long, and the next thing I knew he was melting down and shrieking for me. Nothing I did could calm him down, other than picking him up and taking him out of the childcare area. Eventually, I left him screaming (which is really hard to do), and told the nice girl to come get me if he didn’t stop within a few minutes. She never came in, but I spent the whole class distracted and distressed.
Last week, it was more of the same scene. This time the waterworks started as soon as he entered the childcare area. He was fine in the lobby – one foot away – but once we crossed that gate his whole demeanor changed. I hesitantly left him again, and an hour later I found him calm but still unnerved. He ran to me the minute the door opened. The workers there are so sweet, and clearly worked hard to get him under control. They took him outside for “walks” and let him splash in the fountain, gave him snacks, and turned on cartoons. I am lucky to go to a place that goes so far above and beyond.
This morning, we headed back again. The minute Cullen caught sight of the childcare area, he clung to me for dear life and his lip started quivering. Big fat tears rolled down his cheeks, and no offers of snacks, Elmo, or cartoons even phased him. It was so sad. The very friendly girl scooped him up and took him outside for some air and sunshine, while he screamed and reached for me. It took everything in me to not run after him, but I reluctantly headed into class.
An hour later, I came out and he was perfectly fine. She said he calmed down within a few minutes and happily played and snacked with the other kids. I know this is just a phase, and part of toddler-hood (and parenthood!), but man – it’s rough! With another baby on the way, Cullen is going to have to get used to being cared for by more than just me, so I’m not willing to give up. We need to keep at it, as I know it’s good for both of us.
Any tips for easing through this latest stage?