Oh, what a week since Wesley starting day care part time last Monday. The people there are lovely; the facilities are lovely. Last Friday, a man came in to play the guitar for the children. Tomorrow, they’ll get to ride a train around the courtyard. Wednesdays are splash days. And still, and still – I hate it. I hate it all. I hate this choice I’ve had to make for career, and money, and life. I hate that our baby clings to us and cries as we drop him off each morning thus far. I hate watching him on camera aimlessly wandering that room. I hate that on Friday, upon my arrival, he was again crying. How hopelessly tired he was – and how he then refused to nap. How his night sleep has been disturbed beyond recognition. How yesterday at pick up time, I found him in a corner, by himself, with his cloth diaper lovey draped over his head. How this morning I may have only imagined him saying “no school,” or perhaps not, as he began to cry before even leaving the house in Craig’s arms. How this afternoon, I found him in a different corner, on the slide, going up and down, up and down near another child. He’s fine, finally, I thought. And then discovered that the baby I brought home was like a shadow of my Wesley, almost listless and undeniably – well – sad.
“Today I was happy,” they write on his little sheets each day. And I don’t know, is it a lie? “He did much better today,” they tell me. He hasn’t thrown more fits when asked to climb up to the sink and wash his hands, as he did the first day, then refused to eat his lunch. He’s no longer having complete meltdowns when it’s time to change his diaper. He made it through the day today without his pacifier and lovey, cheap substitutes for ourselves. And still, and still.
I can’t decide which was/is harder: the grueling semester I pulled this spring, spending my days with Wesley, squeezing in grading during nap times and late nights and most weekends, rushing off to teach at night only to return after he was long in bed — or putting my baby in strangers’ care. Maybe I just simply made a bad decision. Maybe I should have chosen to keep that old schedule up a few more months, a few more years. Maybe there’s a reason kids don’t start school until much older. Maybe it’s perfectly “normal” nowadays to have to place our children in day care, but not entirely natural. Maybe other children do better, younger ones, older ones, less sensitive ones, ones who don’t well up with tears when they hear the neighbor child crying or when they watch a cartoon where a pet rooster has to be given away.
And so I hate it. We all hate it, I think, all of us who do this. Even the mothers who put on good faces and tell you it gets better, that soon when you come to pick them up, they won’t even want to leave, who try to sell you on that bullshit that it’s harder on you than it is on them. Oh, it’s been hard on me. But it’s been brutal on my Wesley, my fragile son, my baby.