As part of our new morning routine, Andrea leaves for work before I do. It is my responsibility to get the kids together and deliver them to daycare. After Andrea left I gathered them on the floor and lightly tickled their feet. We giggled and laughed at each other. I gave them kisses as they smiled up at me. I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Little did they know that in less than 30 minutes I’d be leaving them with a total stranger.
As I gathered them up to put them in their infant carriers for the 10 minute ride to
prison daycare I held each of them close and told them how much I loved being with them the past five weeks. TheMonk nibbled his fingers and then reached out with his slobbery hand and grabbed my nose. He smiled as I mockingly grimaced at the slimy fingers on my face. I gave him a big noisy kiss as he squealed in delight and set him into his carrier. Next, I picked up Swee’Pea and she clung to the back of my neck and nuzzled my cheek with hers. I held her a little more tightly than usual and inhaled her familiar scent of lavender lotion with a hint of breast milk. I kissed her as well and soon she was buckled into her carrier. I stood up and took stock of the room. All the bags filled with diapers, formula, changes of clothes and similar items were already in the car. I gave them their stuffed monkeys that they have grown to love – the same monkeys that Andrea and I had slept with the night before to make sure our scent lingered on the one toy they would bring with them. I glanced down to see two little faces looking up at me expectedly. I smiled and they smiled back. “We’re going bye-bye, babies.” I said. With that I picked up both carriers and took them out to the car.
Before I knew it we were on our way. The drive to the daycare seemed long and short at the same time. Thoughts of my past five weeks flittered through my mind. I tried not to think too much about all that I would be missing in the coming days, weeks and months. Milestones yet to be achieved that could easily happen in front of someone that we’re paying to watch our kids. Crawling, first steps, first words. Would we hear of these from the daycare provider? I hoped not.
As we arrived at the house I gathered them up along with all of the bags. I must have looked like quite a sight as I struggled to gracefully carry two bags and two infant carriers to the door. Once inside we were greeted warmly by the daycare provider. Two one-year olds were already there. I set the carriers down on her couch and we got them out one at a time. I held TheMonk first as I gave him kisses while he surveyed the room. Soon enough I handed him off to the daycare provider’s eldest daughter who helps her mom at the daycare. TheMonk didn’t seem to care who was holding him (Couldn’t you care a little TheMonk?). He smiled away as he took stock of his surroundings. Ever the curious one, he was in heaven at all the new stimulation. I now turned my attention to Swee’Pea. The daycare provider and I huddled around Swee’Pea in her infant carrier. As I reached down to unbuckle her she was eyeballing the daycare provider something fierce. “Wow, look at that look she’s giving me!” says the daycare provider. It is a look of uncertainty mixed with skepticism. She almost looks angry as she stares up. I take her out of her seat and give her kisses. She isn’t sure what’s going on and I don’t get my usual smile. I hand her off to daycare provider. Swee’Pea accepts this but her expression doesn’t change.
The next 10 – 15 minutes were spent going over their schedule and their likes and dislikes. I presented daycare provider with a printed schedule and tips on how to get them to sleep. I also gave her a small spiral notebook and asked her to write down when they nap, poop, and if anything neat happens that day. She says she will.
While we are doing this, TheMonk has forgotten all about his old man. He’s being entertained by the daughter and is checking out the two one-year olds in the room. I come back and kiss him goodbye. He smiles and I smile back – bravely. I don’t want to smile but I do it anyway. I turn to Swee’Pea as we get closer to the door. I take her in my arms, raise her above my head and she smiles at this. I feel better having seen her smile and I give her one last kiss. I hand her back to the daycare provider and say my final goodbye as I head out the door.
I get in my car. I sigh heavily and sit there in the silence of the chilled morning. After a few seconds I start the ignition and drive away. Two blocks later a single tear falls down my face. I take a deep breath and continue to work. I tell myself, “This will get easier.”
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