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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Monday
Sep122011

Jingle Bells 

I have butterflies in my stomach. Last week we registered Violet at a local daycare. Not because we really need daycare but because I want her to meet other little people her age and play and have snacks and learn to share and, well, you know, just do stuff.

Here's the part where I tell you that the only time Serge and I have ever been away from our daughter for longer than a few hours was when I gave birth to Henry. Or when either of us spent a day at work back when we actually put on pants and left the house to bring home the bacon. But even then Violet's never been in daycare, she's always been with him or me or grandma or, very occasionally, a babysitter while we watched the infrequent movie or just sat at a bar and drank, so grateful were we to be out in the world WITHOUT KIDS.

Every time we drive away from the home childless it feels as if we have pulled off a bank heist worthy of an Oceans 11 sequel. We're out in the world! Without kids! It's hard to even focus on having fun though, so certain are we that the cops are about to pull us over and ask if we have a license to enjoy ourselves without our children.

"I pulled you over because you were having fun. Do you know how much fun you were having? Do your children know where you are? I'm not going to ticket you this time but..."

I can probably count the times we've used babysitters on both hands. I guess we're helicopter parents whirling at full-speed but it's just how it's been. And now that I work from home we're even more attached. This can't end well. Methinks the helicopter is about to crash and burn.

So I'm nervous. And writing this story for Strollerderby certainly isn't helping matters. I'm sure I'll drop her off then loiter in the hallway peering through glass windows and then, when they shoo me from the building, I'll probably hang around the parking lot maybe calling inside every half hour to check that everything is going okay until the police arrest me for leering at children. Or something.

Yesterday, after registering Violet at daycare, I spent about a thousand and twelve years at Best Buy not making my best buy. I had to purchase a new computer because one of our laptops died. A year ago Serge and I shared a laptop and now I can't fathom sharing a computer. Poooor me! We have to share a laptop? Nothing doing! I mean, share a laptop? I might as well start retrieving my water from a well and rubbing sticks together to start a fire to warm our home.

So it was a shitty day and I had to drag poor Violet all over the place with me and she was bored and tired and I was tired and annoyed. We were driving home and in an effort to entertain her I started singing the first song that came to mind. Jingle Bells. Not the dashing through the snow part but just the chorus. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, jingle all the way...

Usually she just listens to the songs, offering a few words here and there, but she was fascinated by Jingle Bells. Within minutes she was singing the entire song. AGAIN, AGAIN, she'd shout. We must've sang the song a hundred times in a row. From the city we live nearby all the way back to our home out here in the country. As we pulled in the driveway it struck me: today sucked but I taught my daughter Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells! Maybe the biggest Christmas song ever. If I did nothing all day but teach my kid Jingle Bells that means it was an awesome day. A memorable day.

Oh man, so, you guys? Any tips for dropping her off at daycare tomorrow? Should I just drop her off and bolt? Does loitering make it worse?

Reader Comments (28)

Speaking as a parent and a teacher, I recommend not sticking around and drawing it out. It's much harder on the child if the parent lingers (it's so classic, as soon as the parent leaves the crying stops within minutes if not seconds). Here's what my son's preschool/day care center does and I think it so so smart. They have a window by the door that has a view down the hallway, and they sit by the child while they wave goodbye to mommy or daddy. It really teaches them to say goodbye in a healthy and supported way.

So that's my two cents. Get out of there like you're ripping off a band aid. Quicker = less pain.

Good luck!!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

Bolt! Then, make sure you have plenty of time to sit in your car and bawl before you have to drive. She will love it and you will love hearing about her new friends and the fun activities.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

I don't have kids, so I'm going to tell you the story my mom told me about the first time I went to daycare.

My mom was so nervous that I was going to freak out and throw a tantrum, but instead, as soon as we got to the door, I let go of her hand, turned to look at her, said "Bye" and ran inside to go play with kids and toys. She says it nearly broke her heart with vacillating pangs of pride and sadness. She was proud of me for being brave, but it mad her sad how independent I already seemed.

My advice, be prepared for Violet to not think it's that big of a deal. It might be more epic for you than it is for her.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

I remember laughing really hard at that "pulled off a bank heist" line by someone else from when you featured them in one of your Twitter Tracker posts. Not as funny recycled the second time around.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaLa

we have always talked it up at home many days before the first day. what a big girl she is for going to school and how much fun she will have and all that. my daughter did just fine, it was totally the let go of the hand, a hug and kiss and she was smiling and waving bye when i left. however my son cried and one time when i just bolted he got out of the door of his classroom and came running down the hallway screaming mommy...it was the saddest day of my life!!!! he's 11 now and has no problem at all with me leaving him, and he has no memory of the incident even though we bring it up often. it was one of the worst days of my life. so i suggest talking it up and doing what feels right for you. if you want to linger and play with her till she's ok, do it!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhilary

Drop off and bolt... and then hover by a window so you can hear when she stops crying. I did that with my son and felt so much better knowing he had stopped before I actually left.

Oh, and he didn't cry the first day. Oh no. He cried the SECOND day, when he knew what was up - when he knew he wasn't just at a fun place with new toys but instead at a place where Mommy would leave and come back hours later. The first day - harder on you. Second day - harder on them. But for what it's worth, I think you're doing the right thing. I think daycare with other kids their own age is a really great thing.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCandice

No profound tips for you, but thought you could appreciate a story! I am a School Nurse and we had parents who were quite nervous about sending their 3 year old to school. They LITERALLY hid behind trees and looked in the windows to make sure she was fine. Needless to say, it was a hard transition for them, but things turned out beautifully!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFanannie

Monica, i think it would be nice to throw a little "Going to Daycare" party the night before daycare for Violet. This would seal it in her mind as a positive experience. (It may ease your anxiety as well). And when you drop her off, maybe let her bring a favorite blanket or toy from home, and give her a proper goodbye rather than sneaking off while she plays (although I don't think you would do that--I'm just saying because I have seen other parents use this approach when I have babysat and then the child is asking for parent the whole time they are gone). Just say bye and tell her when you will be back and I think that will work smashing. Oh by the way, regarding Lala's comment, I think that was pretty snarky. So what if you use the same "line". Maybe you are like minded. I don't think that you intentionally lifted that phrase and "recycled" it...For what it's worth, I believe you are one of the most original writers I have read.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterniobe19

Hrm...just wrote a long-ass comment, but it wouldn't post? Just me?

Well, here's the condensed version: Drop and run (with proper goodbyes, of course.) Mine was a little apprehensive last year (3 year old pre-school) on the first day, but by the second, she was refusing to leave!!
Wylet seems to have such a bubbly and outgoing personality that she'll be fine!!! How many days/hours will she be going? Because that CAN make a difference. Our school does 2 days for 2 year olds, 3 for 3, and 4 for 4. All 2 1/2 hours a day.

Maggie couldn't wait for the first day of school this year. Of course she came down with a NASTY sore throat and 103 degree fever that night, so she missed the rest of the week. And, boy, was she pissed! (I was rather nonplussed, myself!!!) She's already talking about kindergarten, and how she'll get to go all week for full days!!!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryotko

What a big day for your family! I'm sure Violet will meet lots of new friends and it will give you some special time with Henry too. We've gone through multiple phases of separation anxiety with my now 4.5 yr old son. Lingering definitely makes the transition harder. My advice is to keep the good-bye short and make sure she knows what to expect. (like, 'I'll take a quick tour of the classroom with you and then I'm going to say goodbye, but I'll be back after naptime'). When my son is really having a hard time, I sometimes draw some variation of a smiley face on his hand, so that when he's missing me, he can look at it and feel close to me. We also went through a phase where he would physically push me out the door when it was time to say good-bye, no parents allowed in preschool! There are some really good books out there about going to school. 'The Kissing Hand' comes to mind, but there are others too. Good luck!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErica S

@ niobe19 - Thanks for your kind words! I did use the bank heist line from @shanenickerson then added the bit about Oceans 11 and am absolutely fine with it. I know Shane would be fine with it too. Shane nailed it so I used it. I thought about changing it to a casino heist because that goes better with the Oceans 11 thing but didn't. I know y'all read my Twitter Tracker, I link to it. Anyway, I put a link to the tweet in there again and hopefully @LaLa will get over it.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

I love day care. I am a work outside the home mom and have had my daughter in daycare since she was 13 weeks old (she's now 2). I still feel a pang in my heart on Monday morning after spending an entire weekend together but she always has a blast and comes home tired and happy and surprises us constantly with things she learns. My husband and I are incredibly grateful for the great care she receives while we work.

So for the first day, I would recommend, drop and run (even if she starts bawling - remain upbeat and back out of the room) then retreat to car and cry. If you want to see her playing, compose self, go back in and look through window. You can also call the center and ask how she's doing if you decide not to go back in. More than likely the report will be a positive one! :) Big first step, Mama - you can do it!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

Just be prepared to sing Jingle Bells to yourself all the way home.

@LaLa, I really like the first part of your name but the 2nd, recycled part, not so much.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

Don't cry when you drop her off, you will feel like a knob, and the other mothers will judge you. hmm , or is that just the area I live in?

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersaffron

I wish I could like comments! GreenInOC - awesome!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercjsmom

Oie- I'm what you referred to as a Helicopter Parent. We've hardly been away from my son and I think its time. I think it would be really good for all of us. So, I think this is an awesome thing you're doing for your daughter and I'm interested to hear how it goes! I know the only way I could handle not being a freaky-mama-window-peeper would be because I had a ready good vibe with the joint. And, then I totally would leave without any fanfare. I think our kids take their cues from us and if you're comfortable with it, she'll know it ok for her to be. You're a good mamma, you'll know the right thing to do when you get there.

Gotta say, I don't get the hype over you using the bank heist metaphor. I'm not a twitter-er but I'm sure I've heard that metaphor before. It's 2011 and Really Hard to say something that no one else has said before. I have a friend who bites my writing style from time to time. One time I read a title of something of hers that she totally stole from me and I was going off about it to my husband. He's an art and art history teacher and said, "as artists that's what we do-- we take things that inspire us and make them our own." I'm not looking to get into some big ole off topic philosophical convo here. But I think you have a really genuine, authentic voice and I've read some really beautiful pieces you've written. I don't know what LaLa was was in a pinch about but it seems like someone was waiting for a chance to get nasty. Whatev. Fee free to repeat any and all words that I've posted here-- you'd be hard pressed not to! If we didn't copy and share with each other we wouldn't be able to teach your little girl Jingle Bells!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

GreenInOC . . .awesome.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBLM

Take a deep breath, say goodbye, ask for a hug and maybe a kiss (we are often also given a tickle), then leave before you cry and don't look back or she'll catch your insecurity. You could make up some leaving ritual, like some secret handshake or something, or let it happen naturally. My daughter has been in daycare since she was 6 months old while I go to school, and she's a very happy 3.5 year old now who asks to go to daycare on the weekend (probably because there's a little jungle gym and swing set there and not at home). I bet Violet will love it. I also bet you'll enjoy being apart after a few days.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

GreenInOC - I thought the same thing as everyone else! I totally wish I had a "like" button!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

I just want to throw out there that you don't *have* to put her in daycare. If you would like to have a little time to yourself, be able to write and it works for your family, then go for it and enjoy. But, if you're doing it because you think you're *supposed* to, you don't have to. When my son was about 3, I was on the hunt for a preschool because I thought you were supposed to, not because it was what was right for our family. I had a friend clarify this, and decided preschool was not right for us. Neither of my kids ever went to a daycare/preschool, they're both now in elementary school and have done very well academically and socially.
Many families do preschool/daycare and it works for them, I applaud that. I also know that I've spoken with several moms with children younger than mine who were under the same assumption, and were glad to have clarificaiton that the kids can opt out and turn out just fine.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Coffey

Forgot to mention that I'm a very free-range mom and keeping my kids home and opting out of preschool was not about helicoptering at all. Best wishes to you in your new adventures!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Coffey

My 2 sons are older, way way past playschool years, but I had one of each. The oldest wept and wailed for several weeks ( at 2, he only went 2 mornings for 3 hours) but he always stopped crying quickly after I left. The youngest never looked back....it was" bye Mom" and gone! My advice is always always say goodbye ( never sneak out) , leave quickly after the goodbye, let them take a "lovie" if they want and don't feel guilty for taking advantage of a break. It's healthy for a child to learn that others can take care of them and that Mom and Dad always come back. Kids learn so much at playschool and I don't mean academically...they learn to get along with others, sit for story time and listen quietly, sit for snack and so much more.
Good luck!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

@Cynthia - What an awesome comment. Thank you for that. It's something I've struggled with. I never went to pre-school but now it seems like the thing to do. It's such a first-world concern: is my kid socializing enough? Millions and millions of kids never went to preschool and are just fine.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

From a teacher's point of view: it's best if you leave once she's settled. Take her to the classroom, get her things put away, talk to the teachers, say good bye - and go. It'll be rough for you - but it's much, much better for her to have a clear transition and loitering can make it even *harder* for her to get in the groove of "Oh, so I'm doing this new thing now." It's also harder on the teachers to have mom around - it adds a layer of stress for them as well in that they can't really get down to business if there's a kiddo still attached to her parent and they want to move on to circle time.

Most teachers have done this a zillion times and will absolutely understand that this is rough on the moms. Take their lead and they'll probably give you a polite, but clear, indication of when it's a good time to go.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Preschool...who needs it? Probably parents who need to work outside of the home and have all sorts of extra money to pay for it. Your children have each other and there are always other kids on the playground. Plenty of opportunities for socialization with people of all ages. Who needs all of those germs and boogers and sicknesses coming home.? Yecch!! You only have your babies with you for so long and as long as there are toys and stimulation and NAP times and snacks...She'll learn to share with her brother! Sharing is overrated. I want my OWN dam thinga-jingy.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

PS. Sorry, I came up with 4 siblings all within 6 years of each other!

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

If anyone asks, tell them Violet is home pre-schooled.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky

I'm with Gina and Cynthia - no biggie if Wylet doesn't go to daycare/preschool! She'll get plenty of socialization from you and Serge and Henry, your friends and family. My daughter is going to turn five at the end of October, and I've never had her in daycare/preschool (the only time I've been away from her was when I had my appendix out earlier this year). Because I'm homeschooling her, I've worried about her lack of socialization, but she has a few kids she plays with every once in a while and our neighbors have two (older) home schooled kids. Our 13 year old home schooled neighbor comes over to babysit/play twice a week for a few hours and it works out great. And if I ever catch myself still worrying about the social thing, I just have to watch my daughter in action around kids OR adults and my worries float away. The kid is smart and very social, and honestly, I think kids get SO much from being around their parents most of the time...much more than they do if they're around kids all day. And a bonus from not attending daycare - my kid hasn't even had a cold in a year and a half! Maybe you can find an older neighborhood girl who can come play with Violet a few times a week instead?

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

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