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Stepping Back

The results are in from last week’s poll and we’re all over the map!

I wanted to know when you first began leaving your child with a paid caregiver, be it regular daycare, a babysitter other than Grandma, a nanny, or whatever. The replies were evenly spread out over the entire age spectrum, running from six weeks or earlier all the way up to older than two years!

There are a lot of things that factor in to when you first leave your child with a substitute caregiver, with necessity – usually financial – and your comfort level being the biggest two. While I think the poll answers don’t give us a glimpse into any of the decision-making that went on before baby first got left with “someone else”, I’ll be bold enough to say the poll results tell us one thing:

Kids are pretty hardy, and if our hearts are in the right place as we make these decisions they’ll probably turn out pretty well.

I’m guessing it was just as hard for each of the moms who voted to leave their baby for the first time, whether that was at six weeks or two years. And I’ll also go out on a limb here and say that we’ll remember that first time way longer than our kids will. 

I have yet to leave Maddie in the sole care of a stranger. She’s at fourteen months now and believe me, I know how lucky I am to have had the choice. We’re able to make it on mostly one salary, with Brian watching her the nights I do work, and have the freedom to allow me to stay home with her. Combine that with a doting grandmother who lives two blocks away, and there’s usually no lack of family members to watch Maddie.

We are, however, moving towards getting her comfortable with being watched by non-family or friends, for a couple of reasons.

First, with my brother’s first baby due in a few weeks, (selfish jerk), I know that Gamma Sitter Services won’t be quite as available as they once were, dang it. Things are bound to come up that require Brian and I to be engaged elsewhere, and we’d rather have Madeleine get to know a sitter in a no-pressure environment than have her first time flying “solo” to be in an emergency situation.

And second, she’s hitting the age where it’s hard to keep her still (and quiet) during the sermon at church, and I’m tired of spending the entire service walking up and down the stairs outside the sanctuary. Fun though that may be for girly.

So we’ve been spending a lot of time in the nursery, which she adores, and hanging out with other kids. At first we simply played in there together, interacting with the nursery workers and the other toddlers. Then I spent one day about a month ago in the corner, to see if she’d look for me.

She didn’t.

So for the past couple of weeks I’ve been sitting just outside the nursery where the workers can come get me if she loses it and Silky – who has been surreptitiously handed to one of the caregivers - is not enough to bring her back from the edge. The fact that Abby and her husband Paul have been the volunteer parents during that time has helped, since it gives her an extra familiar face. So far, not one tear.

Next step – to head up and actually sit through a sermon. I can’t wait.

I’m still nervous about this, though she’s handling it like an absolute pro. Because as content as she has been to hang out and play with her friends, she has not yet looked around the room for me, not found me, and realized I wasn’t there. I know there’s going to be at least one bad moment when she discovers I won’t always be there for her, and I wish I were going to be just around the corner when it happens rather than in the midst of the service.

I could be making this up; she may never need to have her heart broken in that small way. She may simply be content to trust whatever adult’s around to help her out. We’ve raised her in a circle of adults who regularly come through our house and it may have made her more flexible than I suspect.

And if I’m being one hundred percent honest, I’m having a hard time leaving her to face the big bad world by herself.

See, no one knows her “stuff” like I do. When I “lurked” that one Sunday, I witnessed her in a whole new light – as part of a bigger group of kids. She’s so used to being around people who know her intimately that it throws her off a bit to be a little less understood. When music came on Maddie immediately went into her “pre-dance squat”, then looked around the room grinning for someone else to get ready to dance with her. No one else did, and she quietly straightened back up and went on to something else. It kills me to see a spark squelched in her, though I know it’s necessary as she learns to be a part of a bigger community.

I jut feel like I’m letting her down a bit. No one else knows that she likes to have adults hold her left hand while she walks, but her right hand while she goes up stairs. Or that she speaks sign language, so when she gestures she’s really trying to communicate with you. Most people wouldn’t realize that if she comes at you with something held in her outstretched (always right, never left) hand, she’s not trying to give it to you, she’s trying to tell you about it. What nursery worker would realize that when she’s on the play pony and begins rocking she doesn’t want help, but if she begins bouncing it means she wants you to give her a ride and a story?

Believe me, my head realizes it’s best for her to get comfortable with other people. I want to raise a strong, independent, confident woman.

But couldn't she miss me just a little?

And I’m absolutely positive that at this stage it’s harder for me than for her. Just this Sunday when I went back in to pick her up, she saw me and went running. Not towards me, though.

Towards the snack bowl.

There was a plate of Goldfish crackers on the kids’ table – which she’s never had before. As I dropped her off that morning and saw her creeping towards it, I made the deliberate decision not to ask the nursery worker to keep her away from them; I don’t want to be “that” parent. They aren’t junk food, just not my favorite healthy treat. So I let it go and turned my back. And Maddie gleefully ate some.

Which explains why, when I returned, she ran back to the plate. She knew her Goldfish minutes were numbered, and needed to stuff as many as possible into her mouth before Mommy intervened.

Yeah, I think she’s going to be just fine. 


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