Elizabeth Stone once said that, "making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
I have three kids, two boys, ages 13 and 7, and a girl, age three. I love each of them more than life itself, and I can totally relate to the idea of having my heart walking around outside my body—and in my case, in three perfect pieces.
Last week, I put my daughter Sophie in a daycare preschool program for the first time. I’ve been working from my home in as a freelance writer since before she was born, she has always just stayed with me. I’d work around her naptimes, in the evenings when my husband got home and, more often than I’d like to admit, late into the night. If I needed a babysitter on occasion, a family member or close friend would help me out, and life was good.
This plan was working pretty well for us until I got hired as a freelancer with Patch. I was thrilled when I was offered the position, because I love journalism, and I love getting out into the community to get to know my fellow Hazelwood residents.
Before I knew it, I was happily getting more and more assignments, all of which required me to interview community members as part of my research. I hobbled along, mostly interviewing people over the phone and occasionally sneaking out in the evenings to interview in person. I felt overwhelmed, stressed and annoyed. I couldn’t very well take a squirmy 3-year-old to cover the events my editor needed me to attend, so what could I do?
I realized that the solution needed to benefit Sophie too as this wasn’t about just me. So I started my search for a preschool/daycare program that would allow for a bit of flexibility, but that also had an academic-based curriculum in place. I wanted Sophie to have friends her own age, and to start getting ready for “big girl school.”
After doing my research and calling several different daycares and preschools in the area, I finally found one that was willing to be flexible and had all the bells and whistles I wanted for my daughter. The warm reception my husband and I received when we arrived unannounced, along with the full tour of the facility and happy faces of the other kids there sealed the deal.
It was decided: Sophie Atkinson would start preschool, and she was thrilled.
When her first day of school arrived, I thought I could handle it. After all, I worked in a corporate job until '05, so my oldest son had started daycare at 18 months old. My middle son started preschool at three. With my oldest, I’ll admit that I cried every day after dropping him off in the morning—for a whole month. It didn’t help that he also cried for the first two weeks.
Things got a little better with my middle son. I only cried for the first few days—and I was pregnant with my daughter, so I chalked it up in part to hormones. But for Sophie’s first day, I just wasn’t sure how I’d handle it—or how she would.
When we arrived at the school, though, I got my answer. Sophie immediately let go of my hand and started playing with the toys in her new classroom. I don’t even think she noticed when I left—although I made a point of letting her know I was going and kissing her goodbye. I only cried a little, thankfully distracted because I was in a hurry to get to the event I was covering.
Her teacher told me when I arrived to pick her up (a little early) that Sophie had a meltdown after she finally noticed that I left, crying that she wanted her mommy—but that they were able to calm her down and she did well for the rest of the day. And that appeared to be true, because when I walked in right before nap time, she ran over to hug me and then did something I never expected. She told me that she wanted to stay for nap time. This, coming from the young lady who insists that sleep is only for grownups.
So, it’s settled. Sophie reports that she can’t wait to go back to preschool, and I can now get out into the community and interview my fellow Hazelwood residents in person more often. It’s a win-win situation!
So keep an eye out for me—and if you see me out in the community, don’t hesitate to say hello. And who knows? You might just find yourself in one of my stories.