Unease about the first day of daycare clung to my insides like a parasite months ahead of time. It was there in the beach house we rented that summer, and it sang at night while I lay sweating. It choked me as it grew fat and cocky, and during new parent orientation, it stood on my chest and screamed in my ears with all of its might.
Fears kept surfacing…
My rational mind knew that my husband and I had done the homework, and that our child would be well cared for. Still, it was those crude fears that kept surfacing. Would Sophie’s throat be raw from howling? Her nose stained red after hours of wailing? Would she be ignored? Scared?
Finally, on a clear, silent morning, we loaded Sophie into her car seat, and the sedan’s spinning wheels drew us closer and closer and closer to that eventual handover from parent to stranger.
But as Sophie cried and slept and ate her way through that first day, the bright light of truth would reveal that my worries were, in fact, needless to a large degree. When my mother-in-law picked up our baby that afternoon, she was…well, happy. Her teachers had rocked her, read to her and comforted her. She was safe.
That evening, as Sophie gleefully traversed the living room, the air was tinged with relief. No monsters were hiding in the closet; our 11-month-old hadn’t suffered. Instead, teachers who didn’t yet know us treated our precious baby with tenderness and with patience. Later, we would cherish these amazing providers, who always gave Sophie the utmost care and devotion. It’s no stretch to say she truly loved them.
Anticipation versus reality
Like so many things in life, the anticipation of daycare was far worse than the reality. Yes, most babies will cry on their first day in a new place. They might even cry the second day or the third. But change is a constant for all of us, and while our children seem fragile, they often are so much tougher than we expect. It was only after we adjusted to this transition that we realized how many positives came of it; Sophie grew developmentally by leaps and bounds, and she spent her days engaged in activities designed to help her learn.
Trust your instincts
But that was all the afterward. So this is my advice to justifiably nervous parents who can’t see beyond those first, tentative steps into a strange place, that leap of faith into the unknown: trust your gut, and keep a clear head. If you’ve done research and feel good about the daycare center and providers you chose, chances are, your child will be happy. Really, truly happy. Ask questions, but stay calm. Fear certainly won’t help your child, and is a mere deterrent to your own peace of mind.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL FIRST DAY OF DAYCARE:
- Be prepared with all of the items, forms and records your daycare provider has requested, likely including an immunization chart, and information on food allergies and medications
- Take a trip with baby to daycare in advance, to familiarize him or her (and yourself!) with the surroundings, including where to park and how to do drop off and pick up
- Meet your child’s teachers in advance too, and ask any questions you may have about the transition
- Get on your daycare provider’s schedule in advance (i.e. if baby will be napping at a designated time each day, try to adopt that nap time ahead of the first day)
- Label everything, including bottles, sippy cups and food
- Expect baby to cry during drop off, but know he or she likely will settle down soon
- Bring a favorite toy or stuffed animal to school for your child to hug
- Relax! Everything WILL be okay!
Now that your child is in daycare, here are my survival tips on Germs and Childcare.