It started with the color-coded stickers that we were given to label your bottles. Your bottles, which we had mixed and blended each night with care and attention to detail, would now hold a purple sticker with your name on each part, so as not to confuse with the other sweet babes in your classroom.
When you were first born, I would sometimes lose count as I put each scoop of formula into your bottle. We’d toss the batch and not feel guilty for a moment. Because you are our precious one, our dream, our girl. And, so there I was, methodically attaching each purple sticker to every item, convincing myself that we would be ready for daycare and all would be well. Fast-forward to two years later and all is well. More than well, if I’m being honest. But undermining the process would do little to acknowledge your remarkable baby strength and your ability to trust your dad and me. That is, trust that we have chosen the most amazing place, with the most amazing people to spend time with you while we have to be away.
At nine months we dropped you off for your “trial run” and I will not be speaking in hyperbole when I say that it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my body. The months we had of pure and uninterrupted bonding during my maternity leave did so much to pull at my emotions and make me question (oh how I questioned) why we were doing this. I went through the entire contents of my phone and tried to piece together a jigsaw puzzle of people who may be able to watch you for the days you’d normally be at daycare. Your incredible grandparents were already going to watch you two days a week; three more, I thought, would be easy to fill as I went through my list of contacts. And then I called your grandma, my mom, who assured me in the most soothing way that everything would be great, and to trust her, which I always do. I sobbed into your blankets (a flair for dramatics) during that first “trial run,” and picked you up and did everything to spoil you. In hindsight, I don’t think you needed it. You seemed to be having so much fun with your teachers. Your weekly curriculum guide showed us that not only did your teachers love you, but they were also teaching you really incredible things at such a young age. They celebrated your milestones just as loudly as we did. They rocked you to sleep for as long as you needed. We started to think of them as family. And you know what? The days somehow got easier. Drop-offs are still hard, but in my concerns about your emotional development and the toll daycare might take on you, I think I forgot about something significant: I never took into account just how resilient and incredible you are. Your ability to trust adults who love you like their own, how you bond with your classmates in a way that looks more like a sibling than a friend, your strength and resolve in knowing that “Mama pick me up soon,” your genuine curiosity and interest in the “pandas who hib-a-nate in the winter and live in ‘Shina’ and eat ‘bam-bew.’” You would be well versed in Target, Starbucks and HomeGoods had my Google searches ever come up with anything substantial. (Although, having been in dance class since you were 18 months, I won’t sell myself short in the world of ballet slippers and the walking song.) Being a working mom is hard, but it is also a gift. We are fortunate to send you to an incredible, diverse, thoughtful school. You have two days a week with grandparents who revel in your every word, move, dance, song; they love you with such fierceness it’s hard to put into words. I find that my time with you after work is focused and centered. We go out for ice cream, we hold hands, we do chalk… All things I imagine we would do if I were home with you all day—along with Target and cake pops, to be honest. And as you hold my hand after your bath, staring off into a book or chatting with me in your crib, I find myself question less the decisions we’ve made. It can be hard. But you are so worth it, my precious one, my dream, my girl. And those sticker-labeled bottles? You now use them to feed and rock “your babies,” as I watch you play on the floor in your tutu and crown, and sometimes doctor’s coat to boot. And I am at peace. Because some day, I hope that, like me, you believe you can do anything with a tribe of those who love you (and maybe some purple sticker labels, too).