Tomorrow, my son is scheduled to attend his first few hours of daycare. I say a few hours, rather than a full day, because I will most likely be picking him by lunchtime. I plan on parking my panicky self at the nearest café where I will pretend to pull off the stunt of writing a cover letter for my Word Count Doesn’t Matter Because of My Epic Genius novel. I am told that slumping in the corner of a café is a better plan for a Monday morning than slinging back some cold ones at the bar, although this is debatable. After an unacceptable amount of caffeine and a few resulting stares, I will flee to rescue my son from all of his fun that I am not having.
If there are no cafés nearby, I will discreetly situate myself in somebody’s front yard down the street from the day care. I will find a sturdy tree against which I can lean, so that the people inside won’t be able to see me and anyone passing by will just think I’m that woman who sits in her own front yard with a laptop and a face full of anguish.
Here’s the thing: my son has thus far eschewed all of my highly contagious neuroses. I don’t know why, or how, but Dante is becoming a confident, social, independent, chatty, and curious individual. He has been genuinely happy and relaxed from day one. Once he starts going to school, he will be the kind of kid who is popular because he is a born leader, and because he is kind.
I have no concerns about Dante getting used to his day care. We decided on a nice little home-run place filled with calm and cheery children his age. It feels more intimate than an unsmiling and corporate scan-your-thumb-print-and-proceed-to-door-number-two-childcare-center (yes, these exist).
During our first visit, he surveyed the other toddlers, confirmed they were up to par, and then helped himself to the brightest and noisiest toy he could find. He proceeded to saunter around the room, introducing himself to people and falling over.
It isn’t Dante I’m worried about, really. It’s me. Well, it’s my worry about him that is actually more worrisome than the overbearing basis for this worry is in the first place. If you follow me.
I am putting my son in daycare so that he will gradually get used to spending eight hours away from home whenever I settle on a full time job (ahem…hello, Los Angeles). If I had it my way, I would stay home with him until his enrollment in kindergarten, and make lots of money working twenty hours a week from home while Breakfast at Tiffany’s plays in the background. While this may be wildly unrealistic, one can certainly dream.
My own experience with hired help as a child began when I was only a few months old. I was with a full time nanny while my parents both worked long hours, and when I got older, I did the daycare crawl, going from one place to the next until I got to preschool. That was when I really peaked: I was married to the cutest boy at the school, bossed the rest of the boys around, wore the prettiest barrettes, and frequently snuck off from the group to go read to my stuffed bear (I already see a streak of solitary preference in Dante).
The blight of social awkwardness I later succumbed to in elementary school can be attributed to my first pair of glasses and an unimpressive tomboy wardrobe, but I can assure you than I had my time in the sun at age four.
For the next six years, I attended various after school programs and, at one point, had another nanny. Looking back on these experiences, I realize how hard it must have been for my parents to spend so much time away from me. I can only endeavor to be there for my son as much as possible as he gets older, and I feel extremely lucky to have spent his first year at home with him.
Several people have tried to reassure me that it will get better and that Dante’s daily drop off will become routine. This is pretty assumptive, considering what a glaringly ill-adjusted individual I am. These are the same people who scoff at Scotch for breakfast.
Part of me hopes that he will find something disagreeable about his new day care and demand to be removed from the program — he certainly won’t be getting kicked out for beastly behavior, so perhaps I’ll have to stealthily set up a situation that he simply won’t tolerate.
Maybe I’ll stash a very small, quiet squirrel in his cubby. Wait, he loves those (also, rabies). Okay, I’ll sneak spinach into his snacks. No, he’s pretty into his spinach. Perhaps a disturbed and musical furry friend with no off switch and a penchant for talking to itself in the middle of the night — oh, right, that’s my worst nightmare, not his. Damn it.
I know that when I pick him up after his first day, I will be filled with pride and relief. Thus far, Dante has only been to the daycare at our local gym for a maximum of an hour and a half, but every time I go to get him, I find him playing contentedly with the germy toys and laughing at the antics of the older kids. He needs to make a diverse group of friends, to regulate his schedule naturally and to learn how to share. He deserves the warmth of strangers who will become a second family, and the lure of a private playground. And I need to learn to cope with my excessive maternal anxiety without hitting the bottle.
Just kidding; the only bottles I’m involved with on a daily basis go into a baby’s mouth.
Virginia Petrucci is a freelance fiction and non-fiction writer, and a former model and actress. She has a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and English, and is pursuing further education in Psychology. She has a one-year old son named Dante.