When I look at the differences between Mark and I and the result of our fairly isolated childhoods, and the active, happy and social childhoods of Erin and Stu thanks to their being in a great daycare, it is understandable why I don’t feel guilty that my kids spent their early years in daycare.
I grew up very isolated because we lived in a fairly quiet area with few kids our age, and I didn’t actually start school until grade one.
Before then, most of my time was spent at home with my Mom and younger sisters.
The home time was great for learning the ‘homemaking’ things under the tutelage of my Mom, but it didn’t provide opportunities for socialization, learning of manners, getting along with others, sharing, team work, etc.
After all, it was just my Mom and sisters, so why would I have to be anything but my natural, shy, introverted and awkward self in the one place I was comfortable.
Our kids, Erin and Stuart, were in daycare from toddler age on. As a matter of fact, Stuart was barely walking so he could still be described as an infant.
Our first attempt at placing the kids in daycare wasn’t very successful.
One day, shortly after enrolling them, I arrived at the daycare with a relative in the vehicle with me to pick them up, and she shouted (and I paraphrase), “Oh, Lord, Erin’s over there kissing a boy!” I looked in the direction she indicated across the playground and could see Erin off in a corner with a boy ‘necking’. She was only three!
I looked around to find the daycare instructors huddled in a corner at the other end of the playground chatting, so I immediately walked over and asked why Erin and the other kids were left to their own devices and described finding Erin with this boy off in the corner ‘necking’.
The reaction I got? “Oh, aren’t they cute? They’re so in love!”
I just about lost it, but instead, I gathered Erin and her things and left, not even telling them we wouldn’t be back. I immediately enrolled them in the daycare on the base where we lived instead.
The nice thing about the new situation was that the daycare was located on the property of the school they would be attending once they ‘graduated’ to kindergarten. The staff were amazing, took an interest in the children, were vigilant, and always consulted with us about any issues.
Although I still felt that nagging guilt when I dropped my kids off every morning so I could go to work at my own business, I gradually felt better when I saw how social, happy, active and creative they were becoming at the new daycare.
To Erin and Stuart, it was just a fun time for them to hang out and play with their little friends. However, it went beyond just play. They exercised their creativity by drawing, storytelling, making up plays, and hands on arts and crafts. The basic, standard lessons of kindergarten children were also incorporated into their daily activities. I would then pick them up at the end of their day and take them back to the office with me until closing time, where they actively helped me around the shop, even using the cash register (thank heaven I had such wonderful, patient customers).
One of the highlights for me was the realization that our own business and career pursuits were making a positive impact as well.
This was evident one day when I went to pick up the kids from the new daycare and was called over by one of the daycare workers to point out what Erin was doing. She had set herself up in the corner surrounded by some of the other kids with a selection of toys in front of her and a toy cash register open with play money in it.
She was actively ‘buying and selling’ from her own little shop.
It is interesting to note that not long after we removed Erin and Stuart from that first daycare, it was forcibly shut down in a very fast and hush-hush way. We were never able to learn why, but based on my own experience, I had my suspicions.
Stuart also enjoyed spending time at my office, but he wasn’t as interested in helping out, so he spent most of his time with the son of the people who owned the store across the street. We had our own little business and expanded family while at work.
Once Erin and Stuart started attending elementary school, it was obvious what a positive affect daycare had had on them. The transition to kindergarten was exciting to them – not at all intimidating and fearful.
They settled easily into their classes and developed great relationships with their teachers and most of the students. They did have to deal with incidents of bullying, etc., but I felt that they dealt with such things much better than if they hadn’t been so well socialized at daycare.
Now, Erin and Stuart have moved out of the house, leaving us with our empty nest.
We can take pride, however, in the fact that we did our best to make sure they were surrounded by wonderful people who honestly cared about them and looked out for them.
If you’re considering daycare for your children, take it from me – they’re never too young. Both Erin and Stuart started in daycare while wearing diapers and they have a lot of positive qualities to show for it, that will only help them make their way as adults.
As one who has always been awkward socially, I’m a good example of the negatives of not being socialized early.
There are a couple of things to remember, however, when placing your kids in daycare.
You can never be too careful. Take the first daycare we used for example. Because we were brand new in the community, I didn’t know a lot of people to check with about it and we paid for it. With the second daycare, we had lived there just long enough to hear all of the glowing reports of the daycare and its staff, and didn’t hesitate to enroll Erin and Stuart there.
Check in periodically unannounced.
By showing up early that one day to pick up Erin, we were able to see and assess how lax the supervision and attention was at that daycare. This is the best way to spot problems early.
Talk with the other parents.
Only other parents can give you a true picture of what the daycare and the staff are like.