One of the hardest choices I think I have had to make so far as a parent has been choosing where I would leave my son when I went back to work. I created a list of questions I would ask when visiting daycare’s, and I obsessed over every detail in each facility from counting heads in each room to confirm their advertised numbers, to studying the lunch menu looking for nutrition. I was pretty nervous about the whole situation. I knew that I had to leave my son in someone else’s care so I had to make a big decision.
I chose a daycare facility that seemed to meet all of my criteria. I really liked the staff working in the infant room, the facility was very clean and seemed well organized, the food served was nutritious, and overall everything seemed comfortable to me. It took a few weeks, but eventually my son settled right in and seemed to love his daycare as much as I did. It had some great conveniences for me too – it was close to home, had very flexible hours, and they even had Saturday care and special date night drop-in offerings. We had a great first year where my son brought home a craft almost every day, and he seemed to really love the staff.
Basically we invested a year into this daycare where we ensured my son was comfortable being dropped off, that he was happy, and that he was learning while he was there.
Unfortunately the second year at his daycare started out rocky. Our son was moved to a new room which is seemed to go seamlessly at first, and we again really liked the staff he was in the care of. Obviously there were a lot of changes anyway – gone were the soothing lullabies playing in the infant room, and instead they were replaced with the shrieks and screams of toddlers using their newfound walking skills to terrorize each other. Nothing out of the norm really – toddlers are a crazy, so we embraced this change of pace.
What we started to notice was that the crafts we used to see daily stopped coming home, mostly because they weren’t being done as often. The daily summary sheet we used to pick up to see how our son’s day went was often not done because things were “too busy”, and when we asked for details on his day it was described as “great” pretty much every day. His naps were starting to get shorter and shorter, and eventually we found that he wasn’t napping at all. Normally for some kids that wouldn’t be a big deal, but our son loves a good 3.5 hour nap. To not have a nap three days in a row, well to be honest I was scared to bring him home because he was beyond exhausted.
We tried to understand some of the reasons for his lack of naps but there didn’t seem be any from the staff, and when we asked about crafts we were told they were still done often. We tried to ask the right questions, but we weren’t getting anywhere.
Here is where I think I made the mistake – I could tell things just weren’t right anymore, but I kept thinking about this investment we had made into this daycare. We spent a year there making sure he was happy and comfortable – how could I just switch him to somewhere else? He would need to re-adjust to a new and potentially scary place. What if he didn’t like a new daycare? What if he missed his old daycare?
I continued to procrastinate until suddenly I realized I was worried all about the wrong things. Our son’s favourite staff member in the toddler room had just left for another care facility, and the new person who worked in his room seemed to terrify him. I noticed he didn’t really say goodbye to her when I picked him up at the end of the day, but one morning when I dropped him off she happened to be there first thing in the morning, and he practically screamed and ran when he saw her. I had never seen him react like that before, and suddenly I realized he couldn’t stay there anymore.
Wow did I feel guilty.
I went on the hunt for somewhere new for my son to go for the days that I had to go into work, and I found a great Montessori school to enroll him in. When it was time for my son to say goodbye to his daycare, he said goodbye to everyone, and the staff were sweet enough to have a party for him. This sweet gesture had me wavering a bit, but we moved on.
His start at his Montessori school was rocky at first as well – he cried for the first two weeks that I left him there in the morning. At the end of the day when I picked him up he seemed really happy, and right off the bat he was napping either one, two, or sometimes two and a half hours. After the second week he was completely settled in. He started to run into school each morning after a quick kiss, and would say goodbye to me before I was ready to say it myself.
The relief I have felt since changing care providers has been overwhelming. I look back now and think that I really should have worried more about the signs that my son was unhappy than the fact that I would need to transition him into another facility. I think the biggest thing that I learned was that I didn’t trust my instincts that something wasn’t right. My son would have a good day at daycare, and suddenly all of the uneasiness I was having could be explained away. I would think that maybe it was just his age that was the cause of him napping less, or maybe he was just going through an irritable stage. What was really going on was that he wasn’t happy, and I should have picked up on that sooner.
When I decided to change childcare providers it didn’t matter to me if he was in a home daycare, a daycare facility, or a Montessori school. After seeing him unhappy I realized more than ever what was most important was that I needed to make sure that he was happy. To see him scared of being left with someone was probably the worst feeling I have had on this two and half year parenting journey so far, and my lofty goal for myself is to make sure neither of us feels that way again!