I am not completely sure why I have not shared this experience yet. It is a super important issue to draw attention to. It is one that affects so many people. And, for whatever the reason… maybe the politics of this choice, the protection of the people involved, the judgment, and the urgency of needing to make a super fast decision left me unable to validate the feels enough to be ready for public consumption. (Truthfully I share things, because I learn from all of you, and I hope to be a contributor to the lessons our generation will hopefully catalogue.)
Quality, affordable, accessible, safe, and loving childcare is like finding a rare unicorn hair in a barn full of chickens that are allergic to unicorns, and in a world where unicorns do not exist. However, after exhaustive searches, and extensive vetting, and actual full days of pounding the pavement we always have managed to find the most epically amazing childcare providers close to our home. We have found the unicorns, a few times even… We have found the people who wrap my tiny humans up in so much love that we want to send them daily roses, and provide annual trips to Disney. (Obvs, we can’t do this, but I do buy a lot of extra Dunkin’, and drop off wine for the hard days.) We have found the people that not only love our tiny humans, but also love our whole family, our dog, the new baby doll, their skinned knees, their need for snuggles, their smiles, their challenges… We have found the providers that treat and love our tiny humans exactly like they would their own. They set expectations, and provide lots of love and guidance, compassion, they validate feels, and understand…. And they model what it means to be a family… because they even love threeangers, and eight year olds who refuse to do anything logical. (They also love their grownups, and believe in the value of the grownup work.)
Then life happened, as it does, and our magic-unicorn-hair-childcare-provided could no longer care for the tiniest. Because life…. Because 2016…. This year though…. (We are all super hopeful that their absence is temporary.)
I took this news in stride (after I cried a lot). I researched, and thought “okay, new place, we will do this… I have a job to do, and the tiniest human is resilient.” I thought she is technically preschool aged; we can rise to that. (Although, the reason she wasn’t in preschool was because she wasn’t ready to be in preschool.) I selected a wonderful, warm, friendly, well vetted, and kind program to replace our magic unicorn. You can’t actually replace magic unicorns with strangers, especially for tiny humans who are not ready.
It was a disaster from day one. We gave it three weeks. During the third week the tiniest started waking up with night terrors about having to attend preschool. On her last day, the look of sheer terror on her face will be one I never ever forget. She didn’t just miss her momma. She was afraid, and I was about to sacrifice three years of working to teach her security… I drove to work in tears, and researched FMLA laws… I realize we all have our parenting struggles – this day was one of my hardest. I will never forget her face of terror. (On this day she got to bring hot pink Frozen cupcakes to preschool to share with her new classmates, and she was ready to abandon the cupcakes so she wouldn’t have to stay. Imagine being three years old and giving up hot pink Frozen themed cupcakes?) It wasn’t working. It was traumatic for all of us.
I knew all along that I had a village of people who might be able to care for our sweet tiniest human, at least until the end of the semester. But for some ridiculous reason I was worried about continuity of care, and the burden of asking for help. I didn’t realize that the tiny human didn’t need the continuity of a single provider if people who love her always surrounded her (and surrounded her momma).
So… we dropped out of preschool, because we are not ready. And the village offered to help until the New Year. (I finished an entire undergraduate degree one semester at a time.) I will figure out next semester… when I need to.
I was chatting with my mom tonight who asked how our ad-hoc childcare was going. (She’s a piece of the village helping.) I said the tiniest keeps having so many great days, and she just knows her people, so it’s not even a thing. My mom said she likes her bubble, and fair enough, who doesn’t? She continued to say that at barely three years old that we need to protect their bubble… if they love their people they are doing okay. My tiniest loves the people and their families that love her. She loves the people that have witnessed her entire life. She loves the people that love her mom, and her sissy, and her daddy – that is who she trusts, because that is who we taught her to trust.
I could wrap this up in a lot of ways… we are preschool dropouts. I think what matters was I made a super quick choice against advice that “she would eventually settle”… I’m sorry toddlers don’t need night terror. I rose against the advice that “it was good for us.”
I picked my mama heart. I picked my gut. And our people offered help. Because when other people love your tiny humans they become magic unicorns. Magic unicorns bring tears of relief for my family, for my work, for my students, and for the sweet tiniest who just loves her people, because she isn’t ready for preschool, and that has to be okay.
The tiniest chooses love. Because that is what makes sense to her. I don’t anticipate every drop off to be without tears, but I can go to work, and serve students, knowing that the tiniest guided us all towards love, because she reminded us all that we do people who love.