Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The End of an Era

Today was a rough day for me. Today was the last day of daycare for my daughter. Now, I understand that the kids will be back next summer for latchkey, but that, even though the same school is at a different location.

Going to daycare has been a part of my daily routine for the past 8 1/2 years. I have come to know several of the teachers and the owner/administrators very well in that time. They are almost like family.

I will never forget the first day that I had to take my son to daycare. I was so worried. He had been home with my husband and at my neighbor's since I went back to work.

As background, my husband worked from a home office and most of the time kept him at home, but as needed for travel, business meetings or teleconferences, we would rely on a neighbor to watch my son. That all changed one week when my husband was traveling on business and unable to make it home as planned. Our neighbor was not available on short notice and I was forced to take an unplanned vacation day at an inopportune time. At that point, we made the decision that we needed a different child care solution. We had checked out several options - both daycares and in home care - when my son was first born, but had never found the one that was right for us. A coworker that knew that we were looking made a recommendation for a daycare just south of where we lived and on the way to work for me. I just had a good feeling about the place when we went for a visit.

The first day of daycare was a cold day in March and my son was just 7 months old. There was a shutdown at work that week, which meant that I needed to be in early for the project work I was supporting. I dropped my son off, right as the daycare opened. I cried when I did, I cried when I left. It was so weird to think that someone I didn't really know was going to be caring for my son all day. I called in the morning to check on him and drove up on my lunch hour, having about 15 minutes to hang out after accounting for drive to and from. I got there and he was sleeping. I didn't care. I picked him up from his crib and went and sat on the floor in the play area and just held him and rocked him. I put him back in the crib when it was time to go back to work. I couldn't wait to pick him up at the end of the day.

It took some time, but as I became more and more familiar with the teachers and the administrators, it got easier to say goodbye to my son each day. I knew that he was in good hands. By contrast, when my daughter came along and had to go to daycare, aside from the fact that I didn't want to leave her and go back to work, it was much easier, I knew the center and the staff and there were no concerns with leaving her there. I knew that they would take care of her and cuddle her and hold her and that they cared about her.

The center has grown a lot in the time that I have been a parent. The room my son was first in as a baby is now the 'big' 2s. The latchkey that used to be at the center has been moved offsite. Many of the teachers moved up through the school with my children. One of my daughter's teachers in the 4s and 5s, was one of the original baby teachers that my son had. The one owner/administrator left the center several years ago. I have grown close to a couple of the teachers and the remaining owner/administrator.

They have all become part of my daily routine over the past 8 1/2 years. It was very strange when I dropped off my daughter this morning. I was sad. I was saying good-bye to friends. Sure, we can stop by and visit, but it won't ever be the same. They won't be part of my and my children's daily life. We will be back for latchkey, but that is a different location and different teachers. We will still see the owner/administrator at latch key, but not every day - she isn't normally there when I drop off or pick up the kids. I had to say goodbye this morning though, because by the time I return to pick her up, they are done for the day.

When I picked her up tonight, I cried again. I said goodbye and it was hard.

I feel very fortunate that I found a center that I truly loved, filled with people that I really trusted with my children and formed a bond with.

Now, tomorrow is the first day of kindergarten. I am sure that it will be an equally tough day for me. My daughter is so excited and I am excited for her, but the reality is that my 'baby' (she tells me she is not a baby) is going to school and that is sad to me. I hate to think about how fast the time is going. I will be a mom of two school-aged children.