On these late November days the sun is setting fast when I arrive to pick her up from daycare. I get out of the car and head in behind a few other parents, all of us shaking off the workday, hurrying in to greet the little faces we love. I notice the bright moon that is rising, excited to show Evy when we leave the building together.
When I walk into her classroom her body wiggles and dances with excitement. She runs to me for a quick kiss before darting back to show me what she’s playing with: today, a feast of fake food, “soup” in cups that she’s serving her teachers and shares with me. Her sweet teachers (whose patience and enthusiasm is the stuff of heroes) tell me how she’s been “cooking” all day and ask if she helps in the kitchen at home. They tell me stories about things she said and did during the day, she gives them hugs and blows kisses. She points to her artwork on the walls, studies the photos of her friends and tells me who they are – she can name all of her buddies, loves talking about her “frennns!”
As I gather her coat, lunch box, and report of the day’s activities she sneaks in one more minute in the play kitchen area. I talk to her about going home, seeing Calvin, starting dinner, and Daddy coming home as I slip her arms into her coat and start the zipper, letting her pull it up to her chin. I put her hat on and we say goodbye to her teachers – she gives out more hugs and kisses. As we walk down the hallway she talks about the babies she sees, points out the art projects and photos on the wall, and waves bye bye to everyone we pass. They all grin, wave back, know her by name. She helps push the door open as we step outside. I lift her into my arms and point out the moon. She smiles, points, “moon! clouds!” and we walk to the car. When I buckle her into the carseat she waves bye bye to the moon.
Our ride home takes less than three minutes. We talk on the way. At 20 months old, her language continues to explode, and this week she has started telling me stories about things before I ask. Tonight she told me about the play doh she played with, and about how cold it was when they went out to play.
There is always a part of me that frets about whether we’re doing the right thing by sending Evy to daycare three days a week (or, truth: there is always a part of me that frets about everything). I wonder if there are other options, if this is what’s best for her, if she likes it, if I should be home more, and all of the other doubts that fill the minds of parents everywhere.
But for this particular kid, I think daycare is a great thing. She’s done well there since starting at four months old. At eight months she earned the nickname “the mayor” – smiling and waving to all the teachers and kids, all day long. She’s social and very verbal, and it’s clear that she loves being with a group of friends all day. She spends her daycare days playing with a collection of fun toys and does more interesting art projects than we could do at home. She has fantastic playgrounds and outdoor spaces to explore. She does better with naps at school than at home. And she is with wonderful, loving caretakers.
Daycare probably isn’t right for every kid, and her needs will change as she gets a bit older and we start thinking about preschool (I have dreams of Montessori…), but at this point in toddlerhood it is a great thing – and that moment at the end of the day when I walk in the classroom door and see her face is pure gold.