The other day I visited the daycare that four of our six kids went to after our home daycare friend closed up shop. I was called in to help the owner who is my long time friend replace some of the flooring in a couple of areas. It has been years since I have been there. When we had David our fifth child, I called UNCLE and found someone to come to our house to help. It was just silly the idea of hauling the older boys to grade school and three little ones to daycare every morning. It was not only exhausting, we were pretty much going broke. So for several years we added high school and college ladies to our tribe, some of whom now have grade school age children of their own. Our last life saver, had two babies during her time helping us and got to bring them with her to work, which was a win win. We only had one bad experience with our eclectic mix of support: we call her the ‘almost let the house burn down nanny’. But that’s a different story.
Walking in the doors of the daycare I was brought back instantly to how it felt to leave my kids every morning. I pretty much cried every single day but I’m not going to lie, some days they were tears of relief. Raising kids is HARD and my outside the house job back then was WAAAY easier. So I’m probably pretty lucky I had to work inside AND outside the home to help make things work.
The walk through started with the infant section and it was all I could do not to plunk down on the floor and get a baby boy fix.
But that would have been weird. And frowned upon since there are probably rules about who gets to hug and smooch on the babies in a public daycare.
There were six of them, all boys, yummy and soft with their bottles and their binkies. My friend started this infant division twenty years ago for me and another family who just kept popping out babies. Infant care is an expensive thing to provide as a daycare owner: Washington State Law says the ratio of caregivers to babies has to be 1 to 4. Which is why it’s so expensive for parents. The going rate per baby is now $1600. Yikes!
We toured the toddler rooms next. They had just finished up lunch and were getting ready for naptime. The eating area looked pretty much like a tsunami had hit but one little boy was still contentedly eating at the table all alone closing his eyes with each bite, savoring, until he got in trouble for being slow. The teacher gave him a choice in her detached teacher voice: he could take his plate to the sink or she would do it for him. He didn’t like either of those choices and pretty much pitched a shit fit. I don’t really blame him. Eating fast is bad for your digestion and he was clearly still enjoying his applesauce. The enabler in me wanted to sneak him a cookie to put in his pocket and eat under his napping blanket but I didn’t have any on me. Plus I suppose that too would have been frowned upon.
Next up was the pre-school section, ages 3 to 5. If you ever need an ego boost, go visit a herd of four year olds and you will leave feeling like like you are the coolest person on the planet. I’m pretty much famous now. Every single child came up and asked me what my name was and told me theirs, along with a fun fact about themselves. Things like “I just washed my hands.” “I hate applesauce.” “I have a fish.” One of them asked me if I was a police officer. I said “NO! Even cooler! I sell floors!” And they all oohed and aahed. Children are so perfect. I’m not sure I realized that when I was raising them. I was just so crazy busy surviving. I wanted to sit down on the floor and hug every single one of them and tell them how perfect they were and that their parents LOVED them.
But they too were getting ready for naptime. The younger ones had already gathered their mats and had hunkered down with their blankies, some conked out within seconds, which I found fascinating and wondered what was in the applesauce. But one little girl just didn’t want to comply and the teacher was talk-yelling in at her in this on the edge of hysteria voice to “GO TO SLEEP”. I wanted to ask her if she would instantly fall asleep if someone was talk-yelling at HER. But I reminded myself how desperate I was sometimes for my children to JUST GO TO SLEEP.
Still, I wanted to start a mutiny. Gather them all at the craft table and make glitter signs that said: “Say NO to NAPS!” or “We can sleep when we’re 50 and OLD.” or “Naps are for Pussies.” But I didn’t. Because that too would have been weird. And for SURE frowned upon.
But some things occurred to me during my visit.
First, I really miss little kids. So much.
It took me awhile: fourteen years in fact. I simply had to get over the exhaustion. But now? I want to hang out with little kids again. I want to tell them they are perfect every day and hug them. I want to make giant messes in the kitchen with them and not care about the clean up. I want to not feel pissed off and robbed when they won’t take naps and just maybe lay down with them and tell them stories till I fall asleep. I’m different now, rested and more relaxed and a little less in a hurry to push through things like I did in my thirties, which I honestly don’t remember much of. It’s probably because I was running through life with my eyes closed and my breath held.
Mind you, I don’t have much guilt over how we raised our kids. My husband and I did our absolute best and all six of them turned out PERFECT in their own unique and awesome way, even if I didn’t TELL them they were every single day. BUT I hope that someday in the future, I get to make big messes in the kitchen with THEIR kids, because no matter what you hear from wise old women when you’re in the middle of raising your babies, a messy kitchen is gonna bug the shit out of you.
Until one day it just doesn’t.
P.S. To my mostly grown up children who are still living at home: I do NOT mean that you don’t have to clean the kitchen when it’s your dish night. When you don’t it bugs the shit out if me. So make note. 🤣