I have been going through a surge of emotions these last 2 weeks, often swinging wildly from one end of the spectrum to another, so much so that DH thinks that I am finally losing it. And I think I agree with him this time.
The whole turmoil started in early June, when I started sending DD to a play-school. I know that most people consider 1 year 10 months too early to start a kid even on playschool, but considering that my MIL was going back to Kerala, and the fact that I could not digest the idea of leaving DD alone with her nanny all day long, this was the best I could do. So, after agonizing for many days and nights and contemplating leaving my job (for the zillionth time since DD was born), I decided to (a) send her to play school for a few hours every morning and (b) move to a lighter role at work, something that would allow me to get back home by 3-4 PM and continue working from home. This way, I planned that DD would be alone with her nanny for a window of only 4 hrs, of which she would be napping for 2 hrs.
After filtering through half a dozen schools in our neighbourbood, I had narrowed down to 2 schools. One was a play school running out of a house, had a small play area with sand, slide, caged rabbits et al for the kids. But the insides of the school were a bit weary with age, not so bright. But I was okay with the teachers that I met. Now this school's philosophy was that any kid below age 2 should be accompanied by a parent or nanny during the session. Initially this did not sound like a big problem to me, since the nanny could anyway be with DD.
The second place was even closer home - actually on the same street as the first one, both being 5 mts walk from my home, one of my first criteria during the filtering. This one was a full time day-care that provided half-day options. The curriculum was U.S based and the entire place was done up very bright and in cheerful colors. It was centrally air-conditioned and very clean, provided CCTV and promised to make live feeds from school available on the web - a la US style. The only thing I felt it lacked was a bit of open space for the kids. The other thing I viewed with mild inhibition was the fact that this day-care insisted on providing its own snacks and food for the kids.
And so after long debates and discussion,most of which involved me talking animatedly on the pros and cons and DH nodding silently and thoughtfully with his cuppa chai (so much so that I felt the debate and discussion was actually with myself), we decided (he finally opened his mouth and gave his view) that the first school had an edge over the second because of the open play area and because they have been around for a longer time and have the experience. So what if the nanny had to accompany DD for 2 months?
And so we started. On the first day, I went with DD and sat with her through the session, which was short and sweet, conducted by the head of the school - a very seasoned, experienced lady who sang and danced with the kids. From Day 2, the other kids were on their own while DD continued to be accompanied by me or her nanny, since she was the only one below 2 years in the group. The days that I went in, I found, much to my disappointment, that the teachers that handled this group were not the ones I had originally met!! I was completely shocked - these teachers had a language/diction problem, could not handle the crying children well and totally lacked the ability to hold the kids' attention. To explain what I mean, whenever I sing a song to DD, I sing it in a loud voice, with a lot of expression and action - and she stares at me, trying to absorb it all. Children love exaggeration and need to see a lot of action/expression to hold their interest. The teachers in DD's class would start singing "Old Mc Donald" in a whisper, with an expression that one has at a funeral - and whatever little attempts they were making at singing, would promptly be drowned in some unsettled kid's tears. DD would sit glued to me or her nanny, and refuse to get off our lap.
At first I thought this would change with time, but as weeks rolled by, and DD started even resenting the word school, I realized that this will not get us anywhere. To add to the complications, MIL had already left. I had taken a month off from work, anticipating that DD would take that much time to settle in school.. and now was soon running out of that time.
3 weeks into the school, I decided one day that this was not working. I had to take a chance and try putting her in the second school cum day-care that I had considered. That was the only option I had, apart from giving up my job and staying home with her. Well, the nanny was great with her and she too loved her nanny, and many friends pointed out to me that I could leave her with the nanny, but to me, that was ruled out - for a few hours, yes, but not for the whole day when I was at work, close to 9 hrs. You could ask me what difference it makes - but I guess it is in the mind, and my mind concocted all kinds of stupid images. And so, the decision was made to shift her to the new school. At least I thought, it looked more bright and cheery inside.
We went on a week's vacation to Munnar in June end. I really needed a vacation, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but well, that is fodder for another post. To come back to this, DD started going to the new place after we came back. The first day, when I left her inside, she cried. And I had to come out, since this place insisted that kids will cry the first few days and that they will take manage the kids. They would call the parent only if the kid got into uncontrollable crying or wheezing. I felt a tear rolling down my cheek as I went out - it was so damn difficult to let go. I felt I was the most wicked parent in the whole world, leaving my baby to cry in a strange place, with strange people. I sat waiting for the clock to tick away and ran back to pick her up after 2 hrs. She came out smiling, but told me she had cried in school (yes, she definitely knows how to make me feel guilty). Day 2 was better than day 1 - I had expected her to protest loudly and cry on day2, since she knew from the Day1 experience that she was going to be left alone. But she only whimpered a bit as she was taken over by her teacher. DD continued to get better each day, and today, when DH dropped her at school, she actually turned back, gave him a sunny smile and walked away into the play-room. He came and reported this to me, and I felt a barrage of conflicting emotions - can you feel happy and sad at the same time? I felt just that.
Happy that she had settled down comfortably- something I had prayed so much for. Sad because in a way, she has grown up. She was not my clingy baby anymore.. I could suddenly visualize her growing up, passing many years and stages and leaving us with a smile, to build a life of her own. I remarked so to to DH, half-expecting him to say that I was mad, but he calmly said " Yes, she will. And why are you feeling sad for that?". It wasn't me wallowing in sadness, but some part of me missed the loss of innocence that came with her growing up. Some really selfish part of me that wanted to enjoy that innocence that is portrayed in her deeds like biting my nose (yes, she does.. and proudly says "amma mookku kadichu"). If growing up is about making her own decisions, then also I think she has taken the first big step - by going to the school of her choice, rather than ours!