In less than 2 weeks, when Rhiannon goes back to work for the fall[1. Maybe we should start setting that alarm a little earlier each day, right honey? Or maybe we should just set the alarm for something, period. Baby steps.], Brooklynn will be going to a new daycare. And honestly, this is one of the hardest decisions regarding Brooklynn that we've had to make.
Up to this point, Brooklynn has been in an in-home daycare. Considering we set up that arrangement about 5 months before Brooklynn was born in about 5 minutes at a Super Bowl party, it worked out better than we could have hoped for. We knew Jamie and her family through a softball team and some mutual friends and knew how great her kids were. When she mentioned that she was thinking about opening a home daycare service and Rhiannon half-jokingly asked if she wanted to watch ours and she said yes, that was the extent that we looked into daycare.
I know that some people tour multiple places and get on waiting lists and even then, it doesn't work out. Rhiannon had a coworker who went through a couple different in-home daycare locations because she didn't feel comfortable with leaving her child with those people anymore.
Before we had a kid, I didn't think much about the childcare industry. Yes, people went to work and needed something to do with their kids during the day. I went to a babysitter / daycare provider[2. I think official titles and licensing of in-home centers was a little looser back then.] with a bunch of other teachers' kids when I was little and I turned out ok. And then we had Brooklynn. As we got in to a routine, I would see her for 20 or 30 minutes in the morning and then maybe a few hours in the evening on the weekdays. Daycare saw far more of her than we did on those days. And it was ok.
By the time Rhiannon did go back to teaching full-time, Brooklynn was almost three months old, and I know that people commented on how hard it must be to leave her baby with someone else after three months at home. Speaking for her, I think her response was something along the lines of, "Not really, because we have a great daycare that we trust." I know that I never gave it a second thought. There was never any talk of Rhiannon quitting for a couple years to raise the kids. We felt good about our choice.
Jamie and her family was an extension of our family. We knew that Brooklynn was safe and cared for and loved, which is really what you want to feel with a daycare. You want your kid to be with someone who loves kids. I love Brooklynn, and for the most part, I like other people's kids. I couldn't watch four or five of them every day. Most days, I feel like I do well to handle one. The times when I would pick up Brooklynn and she would run away from me because she wanted to stay and play - those are the times that just confirmed we had her in a good place.
We came around to the decision to move her accidentally. There is another couple we know that has a boy close to Brooklynn's ago who goes to a preschool style daycare, and they stopped to pick him up one day when Brooklynn was along. That daycare invited Brooklynn in to play with some of the kids her age in one of the "classrooms" and Brooklynn loved it. When Rhiannon commented that sometimes we think it would be nice to be at a place like this, the director checked, and yep, they did have a spot open. We took her back again the next week for a couple hours, got a full tour and watched Brooklynn go out for recess, sing songs, and interact with a group of 10 kids her age. There are activity centers and a full playground just out the back door. I met the teachers of the room she would be in, and after shaking the teachers hand, one little boy walked up to me to shake my hand. And then another little boy came and shook my hand. And Brooklynn looked around at them and back and me, kind of saying "Meet my new friends, Daddy" and we were sold[3. "Sold". Let's not forget that a place like this, in the end, is a business. Just as all daycare centers are, I suppose.].
And so, we decided to make the switch. It wasn't about the money. And it wasn't about not feeling good about our prior arrangement. It was about doing what we feel is good for Brooklynn. I know that Jamie takes her kids to a preschool program. I don't expect an in-home place to offer the same structure as a commercial location. I felt good when Brooklynn had matching clothes when she was with me, and I know that they did playtime and art projects at daycare far more than we ever did at home. But, somewhat unfortunately, kids need to start learning that structure at some point. We chose to make that switch now.
It isn't without regrets. Brooklynn won't be exposed to the older kids that were at the old daycare. As much as we feel it will be good for her to be around a larger group of peers, there is also something about having the "big kids" to look up to and emulate. I also know that I won't be getting text messages with pictures of Brooklynn at the park during the day anymore or seeing Facebook posts about how her day was going. As much as we liked the director and teachers and the new place, they won't feel like family. I'll miss that.
So, I just wanted to say thank you, Jamie. Thank you for being a part of our lives, of Brooklynn's life, over the past two years. Thank you for visiting us when Brooklynn was in the hospital and we were barely holding it together. Thank you for learning how to work her oxygen tanks to keep her going when we brought her home. Thank you for the schedules of naps and diapers and feeding times when she was a baby. You have no idea how valuable that was when Saturday would roll around and Rhiannon and I realized we didn't know what to do for a full day with an infant.
Thank you for pictures and the toys and the homemade birthday cards for Mommy and Daddy. Thank you for the extra outfits when Brooklynn went through her backup clothes and for indulging my foray into cloth diapers. Thank you for coming up with meals and snacks so we didn't have to. Thank you for doing Brooklynn's hair as it got longer, because let's face it, we didn't get up nearly early enough at home to get that done. Thank you for adjusting your schedule to getting up early in the morning when Rhiannon changed schools this past year. I'm not sure how much in coffee we cost you, but I know the couple of Starbucks card we picked up for you didn't cover it.
Thank you for welcoming our baby in to your home and loving her like a member of your own family.