Friday, November 07, 2008


This has certainly been the week for it! Some of it seemed to come more easily than expected: Obama’s win was announced while Eric was upstairs soothing a stirring Violet back to sleep - we hadn’t even finished dinner yet! After bracing ourselves for a night of nail-biting, it was almost anticlimactic. (The announcement, that is. The event itself was - and will remain - monumental on so many levels.)

But even before America elected its first black president, our baby girl was going through some big changes of her own. Monday morning was Violet's first day at her new daycare. The daycare she’d attended since I returned to work, Serenity Infant Care, is a small program providing care, as its name suggests, expressly to infants. At 15 months old and officially toddling, Violet was ready to move on to Toddler Care.

We’d heard amazing things from other parents about the place we had decided on and we were impressed with the program and providers on our initial visits, so Eric and I were excited for Violet to get started. But it was a bittersweet anticipation. After a year of attendance at Serenity, Violet and I were both pretty attached to its owner, Hayley, as well as the other little ones she’d spent so much time with.

A coworker with a six month old at home mentioned to me this week that his stay-at-home wife "couldn't imagine leaving her baby with a stranger." I know what she meant, and I'm sure not having experienced anything other than being at home with her baby, that must be how she imagines childcare. But fresh from a tearful goodbye from Hayley, I told him that our daycare provider had hardly been a stranger.

Maybe it was the unusual amount of time I was able to spend at Serenity with Violet that made me feel at home with Hayley. For the first few months, Violet refused to take my milk in a bottle from anyone, so I spent every lunch hour nursing her there at Serenity, hanging out with Violet and Hayley, Hayley's staff, and the other kids who kept them company. Even after Hayley’s patient persistence had eased Violet into eating for others, I found myself lingering there often. It was just a comfortable place to be.

But even more than the environment she has created (somehow 12 infants in fairly close quarters really can be serene), watching Hayley with Violet, and the other babies in her care, was a constant reassurance. She moves among them with a peaceful grace, responding to sniffles with snuggles, basking in babies like no one else I’ve ever observed. That she loved Violet was evident every time Hayley wrapped her arms around her, which made it all the harder to take Violet to anyone else, even though we all agreed she was ready.

Before Violet was scheduled to begin attending the toddler program, we spent several afternoons there with her introducing her to new caregivers, new friends, and a new setting. She was excited to explore it all, and became comfortable with the owner surprisingly quickly. Monday morning, Violet and I showed up for her first day. Shortly after we arrived she ventured away from me to check out a basket of blocks, and proceeded to make herself at home, checking out puzzles and the play kitchen. I hung back, letting her get familiar with things on her own, but happy to hand out hugs every time she swung my way. She was happy with this arrangement until it was time for me to go, and her to join her new contemporaries for breakfast. I gave her kisses and hugs, and settled her into Shana's arms before I left. She was crying as I closed the door; it took all my self-restraint not to rush back to her. I stopped just outside the door, waiting to hear her to stop. It didn't take long - less than a minute - but every parent knows than when your baby is crying, one minute can feel like a lifetime. Of course I called several times that day, and each time Violet's caregivers assured me that she was actually enjoying herself. I was relieved to see that with my own eyes when I arrived to pick her up . . . but of course I didn't mind when she dropped her snack as soon as she saw me and came running.

It's going to take some getting used to - for all of us - but overall, Violet's first week at EFTC seemed to go well. My departure is still a pretty traumatic experience for both of us, but she recovers quickly. She's already pretty attached to the primary provider, and warming up to the other caregivers already. She completed her first art project this week - a masterpiece of different types of tape. She also joined in group activities, devoured everything we sent for meals and snacks, and slept soundly every day at naptime (I'd love to learn their secret for that!).We wish President-elect Obama a similarly smooth transition!

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