Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Daycare Diaries

Jack has been at The Sunshine School since he was 6 months old. He's played with the same friends for three years. He's been in a serious, although sometimes rocky, relationship with his girlfriend Ruby for that entire time.  He's moved from the infant room, to the wobbler room, to the big boy room for "potty-trained" toddlers.

This school has been our saving grace. For all the hectic mornings, crazy work schedules, and days we forgot diapers / shoes / milk, etc -- they always have a smile, a reassuring word, and an extra set of whatever we dropped in a puddle, peed on en-route to daycare, or happened to leave at home that day. Most days he lunges toward his favorite toy, favorite friend, favorite teacher. Laughing and engaged the minute we arrive. And for the one or two days a month when Jackson clings to me, holds onto my leg, cries and begs: "Mommy, don't go" the teachers bend down, pat his back, give him hugs and always say "Here, let me help with this transition" as I nod, fight back tears, hold him for 30 more seconds, and then stumble out of the classroom toward my car, toward my work day, toward ten more hours before I see him again.

A common joke between Brent and I (among many inside jokes since we became parents) is "Oh, did Daycare teach you that?" Which, I guess, is more of a question than a joke but we always laugh in amazement and wonder at the new words, skills, and tricks he brings home. After his first few weeks there, our 6 month old started using sign language at the dinner table for the words "milk", "more", and "all done".  Fast forward a year and a half later, Jackson starting counting to ten in the car everyday, it went something like this: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. JUST A MINUTE WE'RE NOT DONE!" (This last sentence was a line he stole from one of his favorite books. It adds a certain flare to the  counting segment that I attribute to a budding appreciation for the dramatic).

He's also learned the alphabet, certain colors, how to pee standing up, and a rapid response outcome to the phrase "I'm going to count to 3" that I can only thank the teachers for instilling in him since we have absolutely not even one back bone between the two of us and neither one of us knows what the heck is supposed to happen after three. We just know it gets him to stop throwing pickle jars out of the cart during our weekly grocery shopping. (He must be putting the pieces together: Pickles + Mommy = total cliche and baby on the way! Like the flare for the dramatic, he also picks up on those psychic tendencies from me -- but we'll be going more into the whole 'I KNEW I WAS PSYCHIC!' epiphany later in this posting).

Apart from all the obvious benefits of early learning, social development, etc I just find everything about daycare very comforting. From the macaroni seasonal-themed artwork to the potty training sticker charts to the hand written notes at the end of the day:  

"Jackson really enjoyed playing with the dinosaurs today! He ate all of his broccoli at lunch time! He got to sleep in the Director's office because he wouldn't stop giggling at nap time and then all the kids were giggling instead of resting! Actually that happens quite often we thought you should know!"--Ms Tina

I'm probably so grateful for the dependable yet diverse routine they offer Jack because I know that if I were to be home with him each day, there would be no schedule, no music class, no arts & crafts, no daily walk to the playground. Cause on the weekends, I'm pretty much like "Let's cuddle all day!" or "Winnie the Pooh!!!!!"

They also give great advice. And they manage to do it in a really non aggressive but firm way (with lots of teacher head nodding that I find quite affirming, actually).

"Some of the other parents are starting to potty train at home. Would you like to try that? (Head nod).

and 4 months later...

"We noticed Jack still wears diapers every day. Would you like to see what a pull up looks like? Here's an article on p-o-t-t-y t-r-a-i-n-i-n-g." (Extra long head nod).

"It's starting to rain a lot now. Because of how we live in Oregon and all. Would you like to bring a rain coat for Jack? That will help him stay d-r-y if we go outside to play."

And stuff like that. I kind of like it. They are always helping us figure out how to parent better which is super awesome because Brent and I are both the youngest of our siblings and WE HAVE NO FREAKIN IDEA what we are doing most of the time.

But now. Oh boy. We are moving. And Jack will have to say goodbye to all his little friends. (Who he probably thinks are his brothers and sisters since he's spent so much time with them his entire life). I know I'm gonna be a total hot mess on his last day, but for now I am putting those thoughts out of my head and just concentrating on finding him an equally fantastic pre-school in Eugene. He won't need to go full time, which is great, but we want him to go two days a week so that he can continue learning all that stuff that we fail to think of. And so he can still have access to crayons.

So I prepared an extensive list of daycare options to call through and first on my list, by random chance, was a Montessori school. Thanks to the huge chip on my shoulder and my constant cynicism of God-knows-what I immediately scrawled "going to be bitchy" on the form that contained their contact information. I sighed, then called anyway. The lady who answered said:

"It's a little late in the day for us to be answering questions. You need to call in the morning if you want information on our school."

"Oh, umm, okay, sorry. I was just wondering if you do part time care? Like, for a couple of days a week?"

"Oh no. Definitely not. It's very important the children have a regular school day 5 days a week."

So funny they have no time to answer pesky questions like "Do you have any openings?" but plenty of time for a phone lecture. Snap. They told me, yes they did! Oooh, I'm so scared of you Mister Montessori! Anyway, I got the chance to confirm my psychic abilities, which was cool. Proof below.

The only daycare, oddly enough, that was more than willing to answer every question I had over the phone and BE NICE TO ME was the Baptist one! The Sunshine School is also Baptist. For all my crazy politics and Catholic upbringing, who would have figured? But you know what? Those Baptists make some good daycare!

We are going on a few tours after Christmas, so perhaps I will have an update then on what we decide. I may stop by the Montessori school just for some more material.

*To dear friend Sarah -- this post is for you (and all amazing teachers out there) in tribute to the many years you spent at Head Start. Where would all us clueless moms & dads be without smart, dedicated, loving teachers who care for our kids and save our butts every day? You probably don't want one of my crazy blog postings dedicated to you. But I did it anyway.


  1. Of course I want a blog post dedicated to me! I don't expect or need any thanks for what I do because I love it, but goodness me does it feel good to hear you say that. Here's the thing, though. The teachers are only as good as the parents. So if you are listening to the teacher, accepting feedback and reading let alone enjoying the notes they send home, that says more about the quality of your parenting than the quality of the teaching (though I'm sure Jack's teachers are wonderful!). Sometimes I wish life were a little different, it seems the friends I choose are not always the ones I actually get to spend any time with. Eugene is very lucky. And so is the Sunshine school.

  2. Love you, Becka! Beautiful blog!

  3. I was in your shoes a few years ago, when my first child changed day cares, which doesn't mean that I know jack now. It just means that I have done it once before and once more with our second child, and I have come to realize this one valuable piece of wisdom that has saved me through many nights of horrible, guilty, gut-dissolving, panic-attacking, binge drinking, chainsmoking utter fear of psychological death for my kids:

    They can deal with change much better than we can. Way, way better. Because they have no memories to speak of. Therefore, they haven't had time to get all nostalgic (or bitter) about the past.

    Not that I know anything, but that is what I tell myself when I'm alone at night and the voices come.

  4. Thank you Sarah, it probably is a combo effort. Although, I really would be lost without awesome teachers!

    Mom / Holme -- Thanks! I love you too!!!

    Wag the Dog -- That does make me feel better, and they keep telling me the same thing. I think it will be harder on me than on Jack!

  5. Hi Bekah! Finally found the paper where I wrote down the URL. Great post!

  6. Thanks Sarah -- I was in awe over your blog, it's amazing!


Thank you for your comment!