Image from my Instagram feed
Yesterday marked another big transition in our family life. Nora, who has been cared for at home by my husband Aaron for her whole life, transitioned to part-time daycare. Aaron found part-time work on campus, which he also started yesterday, which means that for about 19 hours per week, Nora attends a brand new (as in licensed yesterday) parent co-op daycare located across the street from my office on campus.
The situation is about as ideal as it can get. My husband was hoping to find a flexible but permanent part-time position close to home. It’s taken him exactly a year since we moved here to find it. Nora is now nearly 23 months old and at an age where she craves interaction from other kids, so part-time care seems like a great solution. The daycare, which again is yards from my office and about a block from my husband’s, almost closed at the end of the school year. A group of our friends saved it from closing and spent the summer converting it to a parent co-op. Nora knows almost all the kids who attend the daycare. Plus, they have brand new teachers and a cleaned up location.
And yet, transitions suck. Big time. For everybody.
Due to the nature of job changes, we had about a week’s notice to get Nora ready for daycare. In that short time, I think we did the best we could in preparing her. We bought her a cute little lunch box at Target. We converted one of my husband’s small bags into a backpack for her. We started talking to her about the daycare she’ll attend, who she’s going to play with, and how much fun she’ll have there. Since the daycare was reopening, there were several parent work days over the week, so we took her to the location about 3 or 4 times. We let her play in the playground and in the “little kid room” where she spends her day. I even got her to pee in the little toilet that she’ll use each day.
Yesterday was the big test. During the day, she seemed to pass really well. We both took her to the daycare together. When she arrived, all of the kids were playing in the playground with the teachers. While Aaron put away her things and learned the system for storing lunches, I pointed out a few of her friends and encouraged her to go play. She walked off and began playing, without even looking back. When it was time for us to leave, we both gave her a quick hug and a kiss, reminded her to ask an adult when she needed to go potty, and left. There were no tears, no drama. For the record, my husband did look like he was going to puke after we left, but it was a big day for him between starting a new job and leaving Nora in daycare for the first time.
She spent about 4.5 hours there, as she will four days a week, spanning over lunch and her nap time. She had fun, behaved, and went potty twice. However, she barely ate lunch and only napped for 30 minutes when she normally naps for two hours. This is not surprising, since she has always been a challenging sleeper and eater. When I talked to her about her experience at the end of my work day, she talked happily about seeing her friends and going back the next day.
I thought it went as well as could be expected. Then the evening hit. She hadn’t eaten much lunch, so Aaron had her eat a late snack. During dinner, she was barely interested in our food, so we had her eat on my lap while I spoon fed her. Not our normal scenario, but it worked. We took a walk as a family as we do every night, but she passed out for about 10 minutes in her stroller. So we woke her up and helped her walk around. We tried to keep her bedtime routine consistent, but she kept complaining about how tired she was and understandably so. I had to skip several components, because she was crying. All told, by the time she got to sleep, she was about 35 minutes ahead of schedule.
She woke up 1.5 hours after bed time. This can be normal, because again, she is not a good sleeper. Last night, she was inconsolably crying, which is strange, because she normally wakes up happy. It took me about fifteen to twenty minutes to get her to stop crying and fall back asleep. Then, of course, I couldn’t sleep. She woke up again about two hours later and joined us in bed, only crying a little bit. She refused to nurse, which is a little strange, but we are on the path to weaning.
She is processing the transition more subconsciously than I expected. I don’t know if she’ll connect her sleep troubles to daycare or if she’ll be grumpy from the crying episodes last night. I’m not looking forward to the drop off today, because I don’t know if she will once again play happily or lose her shit.
I know that it’s only day one of the transition and it will likely get better. I have to hold on to that. I also know that transitioning to being without us in her daily world is a natural part of her development and that as she gets older, she’ll spend more time in the care of others. But hot damn, last night was unexpectedly hard.
How did you transition your child from care at home to daycare? Are there any strategies that worked well for you?