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.

If You Are Pregnant, Maybe Read A Different Post.

Here I am, showing up today not because I know what to say, but because I want to be here. I don’t know where else to go. I did not know what to write this week. My husband said, why don’t you write about that, about not knowing what to write about, and I thought, what a fantastic idea, I’m sure people would love to read about the blank hollows of my brain. 

But here I am.

The last couple days have eked forward, punctuated by naps, trips to the ATM to pay the babysitter (so I can write), and anxiety, which has blown in like a quiet windstorm in my stomach. Have you had anxiety? YOU HAVE??? TELL ME ABOUT IT!!! IS IT LIKE MINE???

This is what I want to say to every single person I see. I want to ask them if they are having anxiety RIGHT NOW ALSO??? ARE YOU??? HOW DOES IT FEEL TO YOU???

I didn’t realize, until this heinous but otherwise banal week began, that I may actually have had anxiety my entire life. I just called it by other names (can-do spirit, wanting to be liked, nervousness around other humans, the ability to blow small things out of proportion for many days in a row). For years, I’d stayed active enough to distract the anxiety away.  But I now live in kid-land. It is great here and beautiful and interesting and there are lots of small pieces of mangled food and swapped consonants, but it is also sometimes the equivalent of climbing into an umbrella stroller. I feel too big for it, sometimes. Sometimes, I can squish and it’s cool, the frame won’t break. Sometimes, though, I cannot squish and I see myself from an outsider’s perspective, too big, too full of adult thoughts and ideas to be riding around like a fool in a tiny folding chair with a basket under my butt.

Visuals like these and anxiety, they are symptoms of sleep deprivation. You cannot hide from sleep deprivation. You cannot hide from 5:30 am toddler wake-ups. You cannot hide from the bursting days, the loveliness of them and the way there are moments when you are watching your child, listening to him repeat somebody’s name, handing him a blueberry that he will pop into his mouth with the digital prowess of a teenage flautist, that the entire earth and your entire self is elsewhere and refreshingly unimportant. There are also moments when all I can think about is myself, particularly when the night has not been good to me, and that is when the anxiety barrels in, kidnapping my confidence and my righteousness and my zest for life.

It is then that I become Blank Hollow Mom. You’ve seen her before. From faraway, she seems to have a certain sense of purpose, bustling down the sidewalk, her kid wrapped close on her chest or babbling happily in a stroller out in front. But then you get closer and you see Blank Hollow Mom’s eyes, that they look empty, like she is wearing empty eye contacts, and you see her mouth and it is a straight line, maybe even a bewildered frown, maybe even an open mouth gape, like a frozen Pompeii person, and you can’t provide comfort, you can’t turn that frown upside down because you can’t find a way in to those scary empty eyes. You think, “Oh Jesus, what happened to HER? She must hate being a mom! Or, maybe she’s always been a miserable person. Maybe she’s the kind of person who does the opposite of light up a room. Or, I guess maybe she just lost something important, like her wallet or her sense of self-worth. If it’s the former, that’s a real hassle, especially calling credit card companies with a kid nearby to throw the self-service menu wildly out of whack. And if it’s the latter, goddamnit, get a grip, woman, you MADE A PERSON, BE FUCKING PROUD OF YOURSELF, OKAY???”

Those aren’t the things you are thinking when I walk by you? OK, well, perhaps my sleep-deprivation induced anxiety has morphed into paranoia laced with low self-esteem.

Oh god.

I took two naps yesterday. I passed out cold as soon as my son konked out in the morning and then I did the same thing again three and a half hours later. You’d have thought we were drugged the way we went down. Mothers of slightly older humans don’t tell new mothers that their sleep may, in fact, not improve as time goes on. Why would you want to scare a a newbie whose body has been changed forever and still hurts for it? You don’t so you lie and say, don’t worry, it’ll get easier.

And, I mean, we all know it does get easier (RIGHT???), but, I am coming to understand, using the small patches of still-effective, non-neurotic brain available to me: you have to work harder to take care of yourself. But you do have to take care of yourself. And if you don’t and you’re still OK, that’s WONDERFUL, but keep it to yourself. People like me will find your nonchalant iconoclasm a threat and will lash out at you for it because people like me are tired and not in their right mind.

I want to be in my right mind, though. So I am going to attempt to revive Blank Hollow Mom. I will start going to bed earlier. I will start saying no to things, like, maybe, a career path that isn’t as meaningful to me anymore and may, in fact, summon stress like a dinner bell does farm children. I will start eating lunches that aren’t composed primarily of muffin crumbs, sardines leftover by my child, hand-torn hunks of counter warmed cheddar cheese, and fistfuls of artificially flavored sunflower seed disks, accompanied by random sips of water from random glasses left around the apartment. I will start saying affirmations to myself daily that are too unabashedly hopeful for me to type here with a straight face. But I will say them, I swear I will. I will put my phone somewhere and forget where that place is.

I will not start smiling at construction workers because they ask me to or humoring people who refer to my child as a ladykiller, but I will start smiling to myself, when I find something funny (like THIS BOOK, the one thing that’s given me giggle fits this week, and I’m not discounting these giggles even though they morphed into five minutes of hysterical sobbing).

I will go to sleep early. This is the hardest, particularly when you’re running a roll call on your daily/long-term failures, but I will sleep. I have to sleep. The answer, the light, the way forward, it all lies in bed, underneath a blanket, its peaceful face still flickering slightly, but its ankles unburdened and its eyes relighting themselves in the dark.