Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lord of the Flies

In order to help my man work on our house, we've decided to enroll Juniper in daycare one day a week.  Today, I checked the place out.  I'm not sure what I was expecting...maybe a fairytale-like place with storytelling and finger painting and lots of toys.  What I wasn't expecting was a hard dose of culture shock.  It seemed so...dirty, institutional.  Lots of small, snotty-nosed kids running wild and a handful of older kids glued to the computers.  One boy yelled to another, "No!  That's MINE!"  And then there was the small flock of kids that reminded me of dogs at the pound.  All of them barking and wagging their tails and trying to show you how awesome they are so you will take them home.  One boy with a t-shirt soaked in drool followed me everywhere wanting to show me his plastic multi-tool.  Another girl wanted to show me her new shoes and brag about how she got to go swimming with her parents.  I felt like I was about to leave my kid at a day-time orphanage.  I was trying not to cry in front of the director; she was clearly very proud of her facility.

Any doubt I have ever had about our decision to arrange our lives so I could stay home with the youngin's instantly vanished.  Poof.  Any doubt I have ever had about what kind of role model I will be for my daughter as a piddly, stay-at-home mom (the world's most under-appreciated job), in lieu of a high-powered somethingorother...poof.  Any doubt I ever had about Juniper not getting enough socialization...poof.

I know this is probably not the best facility.  We live in a very small town and this is the only official day-care.  The neighboring resort town has an array of options to fit anything from a normal budget to deep, Rockefeller pockets.  But I'm guessing the normal-budget day-care even there is comparable to ours.  I suppose I was just expecting something better than what we have here at home.

Our visit to the daycare left me thinking about everything Juniper has that we take for granted.  I often have the grass is greener on the other side approach, thinking a real career and daycare are the best be able to say I am a _____ (fill in the blank...caterer, nurse, professor, teacher...).  But.  At home, she plays in grass, dirt, water and wildflowers...versus a gravel yard with plastic play structures.  When she talks, there is an adult who listens and understands.  When she wakes from a nap she is greeted with hugs and kisses.  These seem like small things, but after our visit today, they seem huge.  
J bug is really into counting.  It started with flowers and moved on to everything else.  Her sequence generally goes..."One...two...ree...six."  

I found myself not asking certain questions because frankly, I didn't want to know.  We are planning to leave her there once a week until we are finished with our house.  Period.  The care-takers seemed kind and level-headed and really, that's all that matters.  And I know Juniper will love the place.

Actually, I was expecting her to jump right in and think it was the greatest place ever and protest when it was time to go.  But she surprised me.  She is not at all shy, but she did seem a bit overwhelmed.  If I could have read her thoughts, they would have gone something like this: Wow!  Look at all these kids!  Where ARE we?  Hey Mom, check out this plastic helicopter!  Who ARE these people?  Where are the parents?  Look!  A plastic egg carton.  Wow.  Why is this girl following me everywhere?  Help mom, she's got me cornered.  What the HELL are we doing here anyway?  And then she gave me the same look of uncertainty that Osa gave me the first time I left her at a kennel.  Needless to say, she didn't protest when we left.  Still, I am convinced that she'll love it, because ALL kids love daycare.  Right?

I try not to judge anyone based on their child care decisions.  Everyone has a different situation.  For many families, there is little choice involved.  I have friends who grudgingly send their kids to daycare everyday and hate it.  I have other friends who know stay-at-home parenting isn't for them and probably include thanking God for daycare in their bedtime prayers.  I know of others who are stay-home moms but probably shouldn't be.  I have yet to meet a family with the *perfect* situation.  And for us, right now, our best situation includes daycare.

:: I wrote that ^ on Monday.  Wednesday we left Juniper at the daycare center and didn't pick her up until they were nearly closed.  You would be proud: I didn't even check on her at lunch (I thought checking would make it worse)...but I did have my cell phone glued to my leg with strict instructions that "if she seems overwhelmed, just give us a call; we're only a few minutes away."
Six years ago we installed a hardwood floor with a hand-nailer.  This time, we borrowed an air-nailer and, Holy shit!  We'll be selling the hand-nailer on e-bay.  

Meanwhile, my husband and I had our first all-day alone together for the first time in 21 months and Oh. My. God.  It felt wonderful to be working on a project together, just like old times (except at every break I would verbally wonder what Juniper was doing at that very moment: Juniper's probably eating lunch right now, I wonder what she thinks about eating alongside a bunch of kids?  They're probably trying to get Juniper to nap, I wonder if she will, etc.  I could sit down and watch a nine hour video of Juniper at daycare and never get bored.  Truly.  I wish I could have seen what she did all day.)  But there we were, at our new house, gettin' shit done.  My man gets to do this all the time, but for me, doing something constructive with my hands was a glorious change.
With the miter saw on the ground, I got to practice my "birthing squat" several hundred times a day.  My thighs are sore, but I think I've got it down.  

:: When I picked Juniper up she looked hot and exhausted, but barely registered my appearance.  She looked at me and asked for milk.  (Oh's been so long since I've posted!  Juniper drinks cow's milk now with just a nip of mama's milk before bed.)  Then she went back to pushing two baby dolls in a swing.  She DID NOT want to leave.  I finally had to pick her up and she kicked and screamed and clawed my face.  I think the care-takers were a little surprised to see such behavior come from the "absolute peach" they'd been watching all day.  When I got her in the car she was thirsty and famished.  I handed back every last piece of food I could dig from my bag with her asking, More? More? all the way home.  But...they got her down for a nap!  And she played so well with the other kids!  And she was such a joy!  And she talks so much!  And she was an absolute peach!

She did so well, and we made so much progress on our house, we decided to leave her two days a week.  But I have to say, when we bring her home from the Lord of the Flies free-for-all, she is a tad crazy.  Wednesday night she talked and sang non-stop during dinner, then pulled my hair and clawed my face when I tried to get her to sleep that night.  Thursday night she was cranky and cried a lot.  So apparently, she's a daycare peach and saves all the other emotions to unload on us.

:: But anyway.  Other than the ginormous emotional switch to daycare, Juniper has been so funny and wonderful and growing and changing faster than we can keep track of.  We have had so much fun over the last month (and I have so many photos!) that I'll need to write some catch-up posts.  (Along with that turkey camp post, right?)      

Nothing beats naked bike rides with dad.