I always thought my kids were pretty well-adjusted socially – both of them have been in a licensed, public day care since they were 8 weeks old. They play with other kids, have friends, and generally respond to others well. Lately I’ve noticed that day care drop offs are getting more difficult and their reaction to the kids in their room, well, less than desirable. I know it’s normal, and frankly have seen my son come in and out of the “I don’t want you to leave” phase multiple times in his three years there.
I have to admit, writing this blog makes me a bit more reflective of what my kids are going through. And there is the undeniable fact that when the kids get dropped off at day care by my husband, which is a novelty to them, things are fine. So, not only do I think my kids are “playing” me a bit, but I also suspect that the transition into their normal routine needed some “transition time”. When daddy drops off, it’s all fun and games and new. When mommy drops off, it’s the normal mundane ritual. (I should caveat the fact that I prefer to do drop offs and pick ups, and it’s “my thing” when I’m not traveling because it allows me more time with the kids)
It’s all about transitions. You know it well – it’s the 15 minute warning at the playground that you are going to leave in a few minutes, which is reinforced at 10 minutes, 7 minutes, 5 minutes, and the transition finally actually starts at 3 minutes. It’s the nighttime warning that it’s almost time for bed, and once the show is over (say 15 minutes from now) it’s going to be time for bed.
But morning transition time at drop off is different. It’s quick, grab the breakfast, get your child settled, now onto the next child. OK, they are settled, now onto work. It’s not because we’re bad parents, but rather because mornings are busy in general. Top it off with a 10 hour limit per day at day care and a 9 hour work day, plus commute time, there isn’t a whole lot of time left to spend at drop off.
So, what’s a girl to do? Too often we drop off our kids, and in the process are thinking “Am I going to get to work on time”. We stress about getting to the next place and getting out the door. But what if we didn’t stress, and instead turned that energy into brief moments of fun to help our kids through the transition?
And so the task began. My daughter, our 19 month old ‘baby’ daughter, entered her room and clung to my leg this morning. Getting her Cheerios out of her cubby, I began using them as a rattle and bopping her on the nose with the tip of my finger. Goodness knows, it wasn’t a sophisticated game, but it worked. Hmmm…3 minutes down and she’s sitting happily eating her Cheerios.
Then came the tough part – my 3-year-old son. He’d lately reverted to not wanting to enter his classroom, and when he finally did, he’d look at his friends and growl “Don’t look at me”. He definitely had a case of the meanies during drop off, but today was going to be different.
We entered his room, and I recalled yesterday’s note that he’d had trouble listening. Hmmm…instant game.
“J, before I leave, I have to check your ears”
“Why mama, I feel good”
“Well, to make sure they are listening ears”
And so the game began – I would pretend to screw his listening ears on, and he would pretend to take them off. Even a 3-year-old knows there are limits, so after the third time and many giggles, he decided to keep them on. And instantly, a happy kid eating his Cheerios as mom left the room.
As I watched the other parents sit their kids down, give them a kiss, and tell them mommy/daddy had to go to work, I recognized the lost opportunity. The opportunity to engage with, play with, and remind their kids just how much fun mommy/daddy could be and give them something to hold onto during their day. Let me say, this isn’t an entirely new revelation. When my son was 2, you would find me outside his room, making silly faces, while he sat at the breakfast table squealing to the other kids “Look at my mama – she’s so funny!” But it is a reminder that this should be an everyday habit – not an exception when the kids are having a “rough morning”. After all, as long as our workdays are to us, the kids are having long days of their own at daycare.
Just think about it – 3 minutes of giggles and play to start off your day and give YOU something to hold onto. Wouldn’t that just start your workday right?