I Sent My Son to Daycare and I’m Anxious But It’s Fine But I’m Anxious.

My son is at his first full day of what I am calling “school”, but what can better be described as daycare for 18-month olds and up, and I don’t know if what I have to say about what is happening right now adds up to anything definitive or helpful because I am just in it at this moment but I feel that if I don’t write down what being in it is, I will wrongly remember and gloss over things and someday tell friends who are doing similar things that it was hard but it was FINE and it is going to be GREAT. You know what, I’m not sure I’m even writing this down for my friends. I think I am writing it down because I am not sure what else to do with myself right now.


I just got a salad. I’m listening but not actually listening to a podcast as I write this because I am frantic for chirpy, low-grade distractions.


Sly had three days of transition to daycare/preschool last week: an hour on the first day just feeling out the space with me there; two hours on the second day – the first hour with me and the second, without; and two hours without me on the third day. Did you follow all that? I have explained it several times to people, providing an excess of information to still the seven baby birds flapping wildly in my chest when anybody wonders how daycare is going, and I am not sure anybody really needs to know all that. BUT I NEED TO TELL THEM.


The transition week went well! He did not cry when I left. He was excited when I came back. I thought, it cannot be this easy or this good. It can’t continue like this.


Well.

I WAS RIGHT! HAHA, I WAS RIGHT! SLY IS AT HIS FIRST DAY OF PRESCHOOL/DAYCARE AS I WRITE THIS AND IT’S NOT THAT EASY, IT’S HARD, IT’S HORRIBLE, EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE. GODDAMNIT. I DID NOT WANT TO BE RIGHT. Sly cried when I left and when we called ten minutes later to check in, he was not crying but he was not going bananas with joy either. 


This morning (or last night or on Saturday or never, maybe, I don’t remember), my husband and I agreed we would see how long Sly could go on Monday, letting the teachers tell us how he was doing and when we should come and get him.


I just paused to take several aggressive bites of a lentil salad with toast. I just checked my phone to see if a rescue operation is imminent. I have no messages.


For the past ten days, Sly has half-willingly given up nursing and his morning nap. My husband and I went to California without him for three days for a wedding and when we got back, instead of leaping onto my body and shouting, “Nurse! Nurse” as I assumed he would, he just nestled his head into my neck for ten minutes, taking breaks to pull back and look at my face and smile. It was insane. It was maybe one of the best moments of my life so far. He didn’t ask to breastfeed for a full 24 hours after that. I took this, and the four day tit break, as my green light to quit. He’s asked to nurse off and on since that day, a week ago, but he doesn’t try that hard and I’m not gonna reward half-assed efforts, for anything really, so, it’s over. It’s over. OH MY GOD BREASTFEEDING IS OVER. If I didn’t think I’d someday have another kid, maybe I’d be sadder. If I hadn’t already been half-weaning him for months, maybe I’d be more hormonally rocked. But, I’m not sad, I’m not rocked, I’m fine. I think – I hope – he is too. This single nap shit has not been easy, but it’s been necessary because that’s what they do at school, a single nap, starting at 1, so we have to get on the boat or flounder forever. We are getting on the boat. We are not on it. We are getting on it.


So we’re transitioning. Some people say you are always transitioning, with a kid, and to those people I say, OK, fine, what am I supposed to do with that, just wear a helmet forever? Great. We, in any case, are in the midst of several transitions and it all feels normal for part of the day and then very bad later, especially around 5 pm or sometimes 3 pm or sometimes 10 am.


Since consuming those lentils like a starved goat, I have continued to behave oddly. I threw on an oversized sweater coat, in spite of the 80-degree weather, and fast-walked myself into a full body sweat on my way to the train. I waved at an MTA worker, not because I thought I knew him but because he seemed kind. Like my 19-month old, I was trying to survive by endearing myself to anybody in the near vicinity with authority (all the while wearing what is basically a blanket).


So, my son wasn’t bananas with joy at daycare. But, really, who goes bananas with joy that many times a day? I don’t. I go bananas with joy a few times a week, maybe. Maybe. I understand at least some of the psychology that surrounds a child’s adjustment to being cared for by a non-relative three days a week. I know that they need time to learn to trust new people and they cry to express their ache for comfort and to, in a way, give those new people a chance to comfort them. I know that this is a process. I hate that word and how clinical it sounds, how mathematical and soulless, but I know that honoring the process part actually honors the non-mathematical part of my kid, the human part of him. He is not a machine. Nor am I.  Therefore, we must process. Ironic? I’m not fully in my right mind right now.


When we called again hours later, he was sleeping. He was sleeping! Among other sleeping children! I knew it could happen. But I didn’t believe it would. So often in my life, I am flabbergasted by the fact that things work out. And work out well! But what’s the point of bracing for disaster with every big wave of change that rises before us? My kid doesn’t need that kind of white-knuckled rigidity. I watched Joe Biden’s interview with Stephen Colbert and if there is anything I could hope to impart to my son these days, it’s Biden’s mother’s words: “Nobody is better than you, but you’re better than nobody.” This isn’t so much to drum humility into my son, though that’s a lovely (if exhausting) quality, but to do the opposite: to remind him that he CAN – and must sometimes – manage the tricky unpleasantries of life! Like the first nap at daycare. I have faith in him not because he’s special but because, like so many other children before him, he can do it. He just can. I know he can. I can too.


It isn’t helpful or fixable, this anxiety. But maybe it’s necessary. I’m working shit out by trying to contain those baby birds trapped in my sternum. There goes a bird, every few sentences, another bird. Another one replaces it, but now we’re only a few hours from pick up. The minutes move, they do, they move and move and now, here I am writing again three days later, pretending I can jam into what’s left of the afternoon much more than is reasonable. Here I am, birdless, all the first day twinges gone. Here I am three days older. Here I am knowing it’s fine, everything’s fine. Here I am knowing my son will, in time, quick-moving time, go bananas with joy at school. And the greatest and most awful part of that is that I won’t be there to see it.


Off you go, birds. I miss you already.