Hannah started daycare right around her first birthday. My maternity leave ended, and I went back to work 3 days a week. The centre that we chose was bright and cheery. The staff were excellent and the ratios were low. They followed the babies through their own routine, and the babies were happy. It had all the things that one looks for when choosing a childcare arrangement.
I hated it. I hated the colourful padded climbing wedges, the rainbows, the collages of family photos that lined the entrance way. I resented the way that Hannah came home smelling like the daycare. I knew that she was cared for, and I knew that she enjoyed parts of it. But I also knew that I didn’t want to be apart from her like that.
Hannah at age 1
Gradually, Hannah settled in and I settled in. We both got our new routines. I came to enjoy the chance to get away a few days a week and flex my mind in different ways. I got to know the teachers and the other children. Hannah learned baby signs and action songs. She made friends and played outside and went on walks.
Eventually, Hannah’s 3rd birthday loomed, which meant that she would need to move on to a new daycare. I cried. I was newly pregnant and a bit of an emotional wreck. We had come to feel at home at Hannah’s daycare. It was harder than I expected to find another place that felt as good. I didn’t want to leave.
Hannah and Jon try skating, the day after she left her ‘little daycare’
We moved Hannah into a Montessori school near our house. We knew that Hannah would be well cared-for, but we didn’t fall in love, and neither did Hannah. But I needed to continue working to qualify for maternity leave, so I soldiered through, put Hannah on other wait lists, and decided that I would take her out of the Montessori when I went on maternity leave.
Fatefully, Hannah secured a spot in a preschool-aged centre that began on my last month of work. We decided to move her. If it didn’t work out, we could just take her out when I went on leave. But since I was planning to return to work, we would have to secure a spot for her somewhere, and the preschool-aged centre was sort of our Dream Daycare. Luckily, Hannah loved it as much as we did from the word go.
Hannah, just before she moved from the Montessori to the preschool
We ended up leaving Hannah in the preschool-aged centre part-time after Jacob was born. It was a chance for her to be with other kids her age, doing stuff that other kids her age did, when I wasn’t in a position to do much but sit around and breastfeed her brother. Plus, as I mentioned, I planned to return to work. Only that didn’t work out, since I was laid off at the end of my leave.
By the time that I was laid off, Hannah had been at the Dream Daycare for a year, and she had a year left until kindergarten. We wanted to keep her in preschool of some sort, and we didn’t want to move her yet again, so we kept her in the Dream Daycare part time. Until last Friday, that is. Kindergarten starts in September, and Hannah wanted a summer break. And so this August will be it.
A recent photo of my 5 1/2 year old, ready to move on to kindergarten
It was a bittersweet feeling, picking Hannah up on that last day of daycare. I packed her spare clothes into a bag I’d brought. I checked the lost-and-found. I signed her out for the last time. She hugged all of her teachers and they gave her a memory book. I remembered the day that I dropped Hannah off at daycare for the first time, hating every minute of it. I couldn’t have imagined then that I would be sad to see it end.
Jacob has never been to daycare, and he may never go. I don’t think that daycare is all sunshine and roses all the time. But I also feel, watching Hannah over the past 4 1/2 years, that there are upsides to the childcare relationship. Hannah has had a community of children and teachers who have cared for her immensely, and she has cared for them in return. Hannah has learned things from them that I wouldn’t have been able to teach her myself. Like how to say ‘good morning’ in Turkish, and what it’s like to have a best friend.
We’re moving on to new adventures now. As I consider kindergarten, it feels sort of the same as the first day I put Hannah in daycare. I’m not sure I’m ready. I’m not sure I’ll like it. I fear the transition. I hope that, as with daycare, Hannah will settle in and so will I. I need to believe that. I really need to believe that. So, tell me, have you used daycare or preschool? What was it like to transition from that into more formal schooling? Please tell me it will be all right!