On the first day of school this year, I sobbed hysterically for several hours. I just couldn't get myself together. I dropped Gracie off at a great daycare with lovely, caring teachers, and none of it mattered. I was devastated to be apart from my baby girl.
A colleague with two small children herself tried to cheer me up. “You have to grieve,” she said. “You have lost something, so you need to grieve for it. But in a week or so, your grieving will end and you will feel better. Think of all the great toys and great experiences she'll have because of your paycheck.” I'm still reminding myself of the vacations to come and the cool toys, and it still sucks.
I'm not sure that it is better.
Granted, I don't sob every morning now. Most days, I calmly put away Gracie's things in a tub marked “Grace Z.”, hand her over to the smiling daycare teacher, and drive to school with nary a tear shed. Most days, I mentally prepare for my work day and switch gears from Momma to Mrs. Ziegmont, science teacher with no palpable emotion. It stinks, but it's just the way things are.
Not this morning. This morning, I was a basket case who held in her tears only long enough to hide them from the day care teachers. I had to sit in the car outside my building, hoping that no one would see. I've been here for four hours, and still, all I can think about is the smiling baby I left in Room 3. I'm blinking fast to keep my eyes dry. Still.
I know why I'm lamenting our separation today. Last night, Grace cried for more than ninety minutes. She so rarely cries that it was a shock to me, and probably to her. I think she was tired and hungry and her mouth was hurting, and she was unable to handle it all at once. So she cried. For a long time. Joe and I gave her a bath and put her to bed, and, by then, she was feeling fine. She slept through the entire night (a rarity as of late). When I went into the nursery to get her this morning, she was all smiles and giggles – the epitome of cute. And, when I wanted to nurture and tend to her, I had to leave her in another building with other people. I'm sad.
I know that Gracie is just fine in day care. She doesn't smile when I drop her off, but the teachers there have nicknamed her “Smiley,” so she obviously does it when I'm gone. She doesn't smile when I pick her up, but she appears to be engaged when I arrive. Her physical abilities have skyrocketed since she started there. I've read studies that seem to show kids in day care are more outgoing and flexible. I keep trying to tell myself that day care is going to be good for Grace.
It's just not good for me.
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