F has been in daycare since she was 9 weeks old. And while I have been conflicted about it in the past, we lucked in to a daycare/preschool that became our family, and it ended up being a great experience for all of us. F is a happy, connected, smart, loving little girl and seems to be doing just fine so far, knock on wood. We are a pretty happy little family and having her in daycare feels like it worked really well for us. That being said, there were a few periods of time in the past 6 years when she became clingy and miserable every morning at drop-off, and my personal parental guilt machine swung into high gear. For some reason, I thought by now she’d have grown out of those. Unfortunately, this morning proved me wrong.
The very first time I had to drop F off when she was a tiny 9 week old beeb, I was the one who cried – I sobbed, in fact, so hard that I could barely speak to the awesome women I was leaving her with. Thankfully they comforted me, and when I picked F up that day they said she’d hardly cried at all.
That soon changed though, and she grew into a baby who liked to be held, didn’t want to sleep, and really just wanted to be near a person at all times. Drop-offs became more and more painful as she would wail and wail while I walked out the door every morning, heartbroken. The only thing that saved me was that her caregivers reassured me that every morning she was happy as a clam about 30 seconds after I walked out the door.
I knew this morning’s sadness at drop-off would be the similarly short-lived, but her hesitation and clinginess caught me off-guard. To make matters worse, I was in a huge hurry because I had to drop my car off at the auto shop before work. She wanted to demonstrate some moves to me on the monkey bars before I dropped her off and was hurt and mad when I insisted that, while I couldn’t wait for her to show me AFTER school, I simply did not have time to watch her BEFORE I dropped her off. Once we were in the daycare room she would not let go of me, then cried and cried as I tried to leave. My stress level rocketed ever higher as I took deep breaths and tried to find my peaceful, empathetic place. I think I’d left it in the car! No matter how I tried to hug and reassure her, she was not having it. Thankfully, sweet Ms. C came over and helped tremendously with the promise that F could be the line-leader when they went to class, and I was finally able to walk away. All I really wanted to do was drop everything and just hold her and be with her until she was feeling good again. My heart hurt all the way to the auto shop, and all day I’ve had a hard time shaking the guilt and sad feelings.
Rationally, I know she’s fine, and was probably fine about 30 seconds after I was out of sight. I also believe in kids having the spectrum of experiences, even the tough ones, because that’s one of the ways we figure things out for ourselves as we grow, right? And, sometimes life just isn’t fair, and this was one of those times. It’s not the end of the world when mommy doesn’t have time to cater to your every whim and in fact, it’s probably good for kids to not always get their way. As I type this, I’m feeling more and more like I’m probably blowing it out of proportion.
Still, it’s been on my mind all day. I can’t wait to see her this afternoon. Parental guilt sucks, weepy drop-offs can be brutal, and life isn’t always fair. That’s one of the ways we figure things out for ourselves as we grow, though. Right?