For over three years, I’ve been a “stay at home” mom. Tomorrow, for the first time, one of my children will be in daycare. Sure, it’s more appropriately preschool (kindergarten, here) than daycare, and it’s only 4 hours a day, but it doesn’t change the reality of it. Benjamin starts school tomorrow. It’s not like I’ve been with them both 24/7 since their births: I did work a few hours a week at home, I go out and do things from time to time, I even came to Austria for 4 days when Benjamin was only 18 months old, and, of course, I was in the hospital when Liam was born (and for days after, since he was in the NICU) — and thus, away from Benjamin.
This feels so different. For 50% of his waking hours, five days a week, he will be in someone else’s care. That “someone else” isn’t my mom, or Dan, or a trusted friend. It isn’t for an hour, or for a special occasion. These people are strangers to us (although I know they won’t be for long) and this will be our every day routine. My baby is leaving the nest for the first time — he goes out in to the world to interact with its other inhabitants without my constant supervision. He will experience things I’ve protected him from and the flaws in my parenting will be exposed. The other kids may not be nice to him all the time, he may experience the pain of being left out, not liked or teased. Whatever manners and good behavior he has managed to pick up will show, as will the places I’ve not quite armed him with enough.
I know that this is just preschool, and that he isn’t expected to be perfectly polite or well behaved all the time. I also know that the hurts he receives from his classmates will not only be impermanent, but also come with important life lessons better to be learned at the age of 3 than at a later time. Mostly, it’s going to be a place for him to play and interact with kids his own age (which he’s been dying to do) and to learn German — I think that by the end of September, if not sooner, he’ll be the best German speaker in the house.
But still, he’s my baby, and I don’t think I’m ready to let go, even in this little way. But, I will, because it’s what is right for him. The good parts of this, as well as the challenges, are important for his journey in life. As with pretty much everything having to do with raising children, this just isn’t about me. (If he hates it, though, I’m bringing him straight home. Just saying.)