“Stop at the corner!” I call ahead to my two older boys as they bike the half-mile between our home and “school.” I’m pushing the baby in an umbrella stroller weighed down by at least five bags of blankets, lunch boxes, changes of clothes, sippy cups, and who-knows-what-else like a veritable pack mule.
Each of my three sons started day care at six months old, when I returned to work. With our first, I stressed over the nanny vs. day care decision. We chose day care. And then we chose it again. And then—even when it was no longer cost-effective, we chose it again.
I was in love.
In love with the teachers…
If nothing else, it is my humble hope that this post is my inevitably insufficient thank you note to them. My feeble attempt to express the endless gratitude I have for how they helped me become a mother and raise my children during our poignant, tumultuous early years together.
The teachers who witnessed my son’s first steps.
Who filled out a daily report for each of my kids—every.single.day. (All of them saved.)
Who taught me when it was time to buy my son “real shoes.”
Who observed, with keen insight, the nuances of my sons’ distinct personalities.
Who knew I was pregnant with my second nearly before I did.
Who allowed my children to explore with paint and sand and water and dirt in a way I don’t always (ever??) like to do in my own home.
Who taught them the ABCs and how to give “gentle touches”—to love learning, to play well with others.
Who taught me to care less about the mess of parenthood and more about savoring the milestones.
Who took all three of my children, daily—without question, without guilt.
Who made it possible for me to get as close as I could to having it all—who served as my support system as I was leaning in and out and all over the place.
Who have loved my kids as their own.
I’ll never forget the first time my son came home smelling like someone else. And how I came to love that—because it meant I wasn’t the only one looking out for him in the world.
In love with the other parents…
Their children were my sons’ first friends; they were my lifeline. These were my people, after all. We were all burning the candle at both ends, missing our kids when we were at work, fitting in work when we were with our kids, savoring the weekends with them, then savoring the Monday morning silence without them.
We’ve been through the difficult drop-offs together—caught between a crying child and the demands of work that impatiently awaits. We whisper conspiratorially in the hallways about the new teacher or biting policy. We exchange knowing expressions of exhaustion and empathy. I tuck in your shirt tag as you fly out the door; you lend my son pink Crocs when he’s potty training and I failed to send back-ups.
We are a team, us day care parents. We’re in this together. We “get” each other like no one else does.
* * *
You can’t hide at day care. You’re there every day—the good ones and the bad. They’ve seen you rushed, stressed, haphazard, put-together, victorious. Incredibly pregnant, and then immediately postpartum. They’ve seen you. They see you. And they help. Every time. Every day. They are a constant, a comfort.
But today? Today we move on. Preschool graduation for my oldest; a move out of town for us all. We’re ready.
But I will never forget the feeling of walking through that glass door and into those pale yellow hallways, the warm familiarity washing over me, the sudden and calming relief of knowing you’re not alone. That there are people all around you, ready to lend a hand. To love your kids, to lift you up. To give you the strength, support, and community you need to keep going.
To the people of day care, to “my people”: you have been there since the beginning—and every day after that. We are ever grateful. And we will miss you dearly.