The first day I dropped off Sully, my older son, to daycare was in January of 2018. He was three months old, and he transitioned seamlessly. I, on the other hand, cried just thinking about him being somewhere without me. The day before, I’d called one of my best friends and confided in her that I was worried that he’d become close to his teachers, and he’d forget I was his mom. She reassured me that there was absolutely no way that would happen, but I wasn’t sure I believed her. The next day, I stood in the infant room sobbing, while my husband handed Sully to his new teacher. Ms. Michelle, the pinnacle of reassurance, encouragement, and compassion, looked me directly in the eyes, told me she loved all of her babies, and hugged me and Sully together. She showed me so much kindness in that moment, and that allowed me to feel ready to walk back out through the doors.
It’s funny now, of course, that what I feel most anxious about leaving in our move to upstate NY is daycare. Moving is relentless and exhausting; there’s organizing, packing, and cleaning, and those things take a lot of physical and emotional energy. We’re in the thick of it, and we pack up our truck in two days. I’ve motivated myself to move through 90% of this with efficiency and attention to detail, but I’m having trouble moving through the grief I’m experiencing leaving behind the boys’ first school (and those who know me wouldn’t be even slightly surprised to know that this is the space I’ve connected with most deeply).
Like many parents, I did a lot of searching to find this daycare, and we’ve been really lucky. The teachers have been miracle workers who have cajoled, coached, and cared for my sons every single weekday for years. They have provided band-aids and ice (the cure-alls for toddlers), they have reassured me and my husband that something was just a phase, and they’ve shared sweet photos and told us detailed stories about what we missed while we were working. They’ve maintained our boundaries and changed countless diapers, but mostly, they loved our boys.
As their mom, I believe both of my sons are very lovable, but, also as their mom, I know they have unlovely moments. They’re people. I know that their teachers have experienced many of these moments, and still, I know they’re loved there. My younger son has some fear with new people, but he’s always felt comfortable in the infant and pre-toddler rooms. He runs toward Ms. Michelle, Ms. Stephanie, and Ms. Makenzie with what can best be described as wild abandon. He snuggles into them the same way he does with me, and he usually doesn’t look back for me after he’s in their arms. The idea that he might not feel this way at a new daycare is what brings on my tears now.
We’ve had the joy and privilege of having our boys seen, known, and loved each day, even if it wasn’t us doing it. Honestly, that’s my hope for them for all of their schooling. I want teachers who will see them, unloveliness and all, and love them; I want my boys to feel their encouragement, compassion, and reassurance. I can handle working through the logistics of a move, and I’m going to grieve the loss of intentional and deep relationships with my children’s first teachers. Luckily, I know now to let myself sob, appreciate all the love that has been given to us, and walk through the door.
First image, Sullivan and Sara the night before his first daycare drop-off. Image courtesy of Sara Bailey.
Second image, Tucker, smiling at one of his teachers. Image courtesy of Sara Bailey.