Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Fond Farewell to Day Care

And now, to get a little wistful.

For the past two years the boy has gone to the same day care inside the home of a wonderful woman named Beth.

Beth has looked after Master Blackwell and four to five other kids between the ages of 3 months to about 3 years.

From her education, to her day care experience, to being a mother of four, Beth is a kid expert. Nothing phases her and it shows each and every day in the calm that permeates her home.

"I'm sorry, I was told summer lasts forever. What exactly is
preschool anyway? They've got a beach there too, right?"
Beth is the picture of consistency. She knows what each and every kid has eaten, how often they went to the bathroom, how well they slept and how well they behaved.

Santa's list has got nothing on Beth's.

Her home is a wonderfully warm and reliable small pond inside of which the boy has flourished. Amidst this small crowd, he's learned valuable lessons in how to behave and, in general, how to be a congenial creature.

He's learned not to push. Not to hit. Not to shove.

He's learned to share. He's learned to be social. He's learned to do what he's told, even when it's not mom or dad giving the orders. Along the way, he's made friends.

In dropping him off and picking him up, we parents get to know the other kids too. So along with our own kid, we're watching others grow before our eyes.

One little girl started out at Beth's as a three-month old. When I first saw her, she was a cute little infant, who was sleeping in a cradle every day. Slowly she grew into a crawler, who screamed and cried whenever I smiled and said, "Hi," to her. I'm not sure what it was, but boy, she didn't like the looks of me.

But then, in the blink of an eye, she became toddler with long hair who was as charming as a toddler could possibly be.

This is a good world in which to leave your child for a day. As a parent who relies on day care — as most of us do — we put our faith in the competence, intelligence and goodwill of others each and every day. To be able to do so with complete peace of mind is a blessing.

It's also temporary.

Now midway through his fourth year, the boy has reached the age of preschool. It's time that we put him in a bigger pond with new challenges and new possibilities.

So we're leaving the familiar, trusted warmth of Beth's home for a whole new ballgame.

He can read the sign but, does he really
understand what it means?
Instead of four kids in his class, the boy will have 14. Instead of a home, the boy is going to a bigger school with bigger rooms for different activities. He'll be bringing his lunch. He'll be afforded more space and responsibility.

Instead of Beth,  there are a number of teachers who will be getting to know him. At the same time, we'll be getting to know them too.

Naturally, Mrs. Blackwell researched many possible destinations for the boy before determining that this was "the place." Of course, selecting a preschool isn't that simple. There's always a few hoops to jump through, not the least of which is ensuring that they actually have an open space for your kid.

Fortunately, the place we wanted had a spot for the boy. Mrs. Blackwell and I have re-adjusted the pick-up and drop-off protocol and lined up our other respective ducks.

Planner that she is, Mrs. Blackwell also shopped obsessively for the perfect lunch pale before finding one that met her exacting specifications. She completed a grocery list, including numerous nut-free options so the boy's lunches are nutritious for him and not fatal for others.

So on the eve of his first day, all that was left to do was hope the boy would adjust to his new world with minimal friction. Of course there was no way of knowing how this would go until we tried it.

Well, those questions were answered yesterday.

We had the good fortune of the boy waking up in a fabulous — and decidedly chatty — mood. As we worked our way through one of his favorite breakfasts (waffles with butter and strawberry jam), he provided an ongoing narrative. Lately, much of his dialogue has consisted of talking about the "snow" one receives on their TV when the cable goes out.

"Does the snow scare you mommy? Does the snow scare you daddy?" the boy will ask, before answering his own question, "Yes, the snow scares me."

The good mood continued when we buckled him into his mom's car. We were off to a good start. But, the reality of a new world awaited.

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