It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Hello, goodbye

Malli and Nigel are graduating Mary’s house in September, on to greater educational adventures. I’m often asked how I feel when kids move on, and every time I wonder what response the questioner expects or desires to see: Mourning? Indifference? Agony? Wistfulness? Tears? Hopefulness? Like a piece of my life has crumbled away, never to return?

In truth, the answer is … all of the above, none of the above. Well, all except that last one. I’m quite sure that has never, ever happened.

Once in a while, a child leaves and my heart gives a little lift. My job becomes easier, my home a happier place, my job satisfaction goes up, up, up when that child heads out my door for the last time. That doesn’t happen often, but I’d be lying if I said it never did. Sometimes it’s the thought that I’ll be seeing a particular parent for the very last time that causes the lift to my spirits. That happens somewhat more often than with the children…

However, I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, in this as in most aspects of my life. I like change. I find new things inspiring and energizing. When a child moves on, I’m pleased to see them take their next step on their way, and excited for their newest venture. I will miss things along the way, but by then the next child will have arrived, with his/her needs, challenges, and laughter, and I will be too busy to spend any time pining. Such is my nature, and it certainly makes the job easier!

(And yes, I’m much the same way with my own children. I did not cry when my eldest left home; I consider my second child’s current hunt for an apartment with some pragmatic maternal worries, but no tearing pangs of abandonment. We’ll see how I do when my third, my ‘baby’, leaves the nest, but so far, so good!)

I am usually delighted to have a visit from a ‘graduate’, to see how much they’ve grown and developed in the intervening months/years.

So, Malli and Nigel are moving on, taking two sets of huge blue eyes, and, from one or the other, an impish sense of humour, a predilection for long, fanciful story-telling, a tendency to break unexpectedly out into dance … and an increasing urge to boss and/or tattle with them. Now that stuff is someone else’s problem! (See? It’s not all bad…)

And as they leave, Aiden and Noah arrive. Aiden is Emily’s baby brother, who’s been coming for two hours a week for some months now. A free service, this, for I view it as much a favour to myself as to his mother — our year-long maternity leave is a great thing for families, but has the tots being dropped into daycare well after separation anxiety has reared its troublesome head, which can make the first three weeks much more difficult than they were ten years ago, back when maternity leaves were only six months long.

So Aiden has been coming to see me, and a good thing, too! His first visit with me was not one I’ll soon forget: the boy has a scream that could shatter glass. It certainly came near to shattering my eardrums. Now, however, he transfers easily into my arms, and smiles bye-bye at mummy. It’s still likely that he’ll cry for some of his first days with me: eight hours is much longer than two — but at least he now recognizes me as someone who can provide comfort. It makes all the difference.

That leaves Noah as my total newbie. Noah, who signed up six months ago. I’d offered the opportunity of a weaning-in time (though, as I’ve discussed, I see this as primarily for the parents’ benefit, not the child’s), but since there was no further mention of it, I’d thought it wasn’t going to happen.

Wrong. An email this week informed me that Noah’s mother would like to have him attend on Thursday and Friday, for an hour or so. She believes it will help his transition … two and a half weeks from now, when he starts full-time. (The time gap because I will be taking those weeks off.)

It won’t make a smidge of difference, of course. Two hours spent with mommy while in the company of a stranger and some strange kids, then, two-plus weeks later, he’ll meet the stranger and her kids again, only this time mommy will leave. For eight or nine hours. For a 12-month-old, there is no relationship between these events at all, at all.

But, shhhh. We won’t tell mommy that. She’s leaving her baby with a stranger! Yes, we’ve met, we conversed at length. I made a good impression. She’s talked to my references, and they told her all manner of great things. She’s seen my home, she’s met my family. She’s signed a well-written, professional contract. She feels she’s made a good decision (and I agree!) but really? I’m still a stranger.

Her baby needs the transition? Perhaps. Mommy needs the reassurance? Definitely. Reassurance that she’s done all she can for her baby, that the other children in my care are happy, that I am what she thought when we met six months ago… and what does it cost me to provide it? Two hours of my time. I think I can manage that.

August 12, 2008 - Posted by | daycare, parents | , ,


  1. Exciting times, as always, in Mary P’s world! I look forward to all the future tales of tot adventures.

    I am curious about strategies for dealing with children who have glass-shattering screams. My 16 month old daughter has such a scream and she’s not afraid to use it, at home, out in the world, on airplanes, anywhere! Sometimes the reason is obvious (Mummy went to another room without her) and other times, not so much. She will scream with glee and with sorrow at equal volume.

    I keep telling myself that when she has a few more words it will be better but until that happens, any ideas on how I can help her express herself in other, less-deafening, ways?

    Comment by kim | August 12, 2008 | Reply

  2. “back when maternity leaves were only 6 months long.”

    It’s statements like that one that make me really angry sometimes. Not at you! At the system down here that’s sending my neighbor Kerri back to work at 6 weeks.

    Otherwise, lovely post!

    Comment by Bridgett | August 12, 2008 | Reply

  3. I don’t know if you’ve read or not, but I closed my daycare. I might open another one in a nearby town sooner than later and I might sit here on my frumpy behind and tend to my 3 year old who (since his brother started big school last Friday) has almost caused me to eat my arms. He is driving me nuts.

    I have all my daycare stuff….I’ve sold a piece or two, a glider, a bumbo seat, I’ve given some construction paper to my son’s teacher and some more odds and ends that won’t withstand the heat of a storage unit.

    And, with that….I quit. I have mono. I damn near killed me for about 6 weeks…I even had to be put in the hospital. And, since the doc believed me to be contagious for almost a year and deathly sick for at least 3 months, I figured it was for the best of everyone if I had no need to be around a lot of small children. I mean, if I couldn’t go to my own daycare for a year…how would that work? It wasn’t working so well the few weeks I was sick..

    Anyway, I have no idea why I’m telling you this except there is this one little boy…every time I think about him, I just burst into tears…I got him when he was 3 months old and he turned one in February…and I miss him…waaaaah.

    But, had to take care of the well-being of myself and all the little kids involved!

    Enjoy your time off!

    Comment by Jerri Ann | August 12, 2008 | Reply

  4. When pumpkinpie first went into care, I worked her in over a week, two weeks before I went back to work. It was a step-up plan, starting with a couple of hours together with the nanny and the other kid, moving up to leaving her for a couple of hours, then for half a day, then for half day plus lunch and nap, and then full day. It gave her time to adjust to a bit more each day, and for her, that works. She had no troubles adjusting, because she’s one who if she feels comfortable about what she’s getting into, is just fine.

    But a half day and then nothing for two weeks? Yeah, that’s starting all over again when he joins. As you say – at least the mom might feel better getting that last, closer look at the situation.

    Comment by kittenpie | August 12, 2008 | Reply

  5. My daughter will start daycare in two weeks. She’ll go to the same place where my son has gone for the last 4 years. She’s only seven months old, but it really seems like she knows the place from so many times picking up her older brother. I’m also leaving her there by herself a few times over the course of this month – whenever they have space. I guess it’s just interesting to me that her experience will be so different because she’s already been there a lot as the younger sibling at pick-up time.

    Comment by Sarah | August 13, 2008 | Reply

  6. I had to read your post twice because the first time I was still reeling from the idea of a 12 month maternity leave. I am in love with Canada now. I wish the country directly south of you (ahem) was as forward-thinking when it comes to maternity leave (or paternity leave, or, for that matter, health care…). I’d settle for the 6 months you used to get. Heck, I’d settle for 3 months.

    Comment by Kiera | August 13, 2008 | Reply

  7. Congrats to the graduates!

    Comment by Suzi | August 13, 2008 | Reply

  8. Oh, Mary, I was actually born in Canada, but my parents saw fit to move us down south when I was a wee tot. And the thought of a six-month or a year-long maternity makes me drool! Am expecting baby #2 in two weeks and have been fighting to take my 12 weeks (to which I’m legally entitled to!)

    And as always, thank you for sharing your perspective as a daycare provided and as a mom!

    Comment by Peggy | August 13, 2008 | Reply

  9. I had a year-long maternity leave! Only I didn’t actually get to go back to my former job. And I certainly didn’t make any money or have any support (aside from dear hubby). I bet I would like your way better.

    love the perspective here too — And I’ve come to ask a favor. Of you, of any readers who care to weigh in. (Be gentle, please.)

    I’m having a problem vis-a-vis daycare, and I strongly suspect I’m wimping out. It’s all here:

    advice and guidance most welcome. I wish you were my Day Care Lady!! (well, except for those cages…) 🙂


    Comment by red pen mama | August 13, 2008 | Reply

  10. I have to laugh, because I understand kids don’t need that transition time, but even when leaving my kids’ with my own parents, I still hang out a while before leaving to make sure they are ok.

    Comment by mamacitatina | August 17, 2008 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: