Today, my newest daughter, attended daycare for the first time since her adoption. I have been off of work for over 2 months. In the next two weeks, I will work 2 days a week and then it will be FULL time. I knew this was coming, I have gone through it with my other 3 children as well, but somehow it was different this time.
When I first adopted my two older boys (in 2003), I read all of the information about child care options for adopted kids – how most people felt that large day-care centers were counter productive to attachment because it just put the child back into an institutional setting and that they wouldn’t learn what it meant to be in a home or family. But, working in a large medical center that had a wonderful and caring on-site daycare center, I decided that having my new kids close was going to work for me. I made the committment (to myself) to never allow them to have 3 meals at the center and 3 months after I brought them home from Russia, I enrolled them. For my younger son, the transition was relatively easy. He was a laid back baby of 12 months who could weather any storm – as long as there was a bottle within reach.
For my older son (21 months at enrollment), it probably was one of the top 3 best decisions I have made for him. He was used to having a lot of children around. During my 3 month leave, he would regularly go to my back door and stare out at the neighbor children playing. His first English word was “shoes” (as in “lets put on some shoes” meaning we were going outside and he might have a chance to play with those other kids and not be only with me and his (at the time) pretty boring baby brother! On the day I brought him to the daycare center, he literally ran away from me to play with the other kids and the toys. Ultimately, it was the other kids who taught him what was the difference between a family and the center and he readily followed their lead.
When I brought home my older daughter 2 and 1/2 years later, I never had any doubts where she would go for daycare. She also was a young baby and adapted well – no doubt aided by the fact that her two very protective older brothers were also there for the first 6 months or so. A few months later, after my older son started school and needed a different center for after-care, I switched all of the kids to a program nearer to my house.
So now, I am home with daughter #2. Things are a little different. I spent a large portion of my allotted leave in Russia because the 10 day waiting period wasn’t waived. My time at home with her has (literally) flown by. With 4 kids now, I have been seriously considering whether a nanny would be a better (or at least cheaper) option for daycare. In the back of my mind, I remember the recommendations from my reading 5 years ago. But something about having only one other person spending more hours a day with my child than I do …something about that just seems like it would be counterproductive to me.
And honestly, her adjustment has seemed to be going better than I can even expect. This girl who was described to me by the orphanage director as “someone who will always have trouble with transitions” and who cried bitter tears each and everytime I visited her in Russia (19 separate visits of 1.5 – 2 hours each) and who, in Russia, was always trying to get me to leave and wanting to go back to her room – she shares more kisses and smiles and giggles than almost any other child I have encountered. She has displayed more signs of attachment in such a short period of time than I could even imagine. I truly believe that she was “waiting” for a mother to shower with love – and am blessed that I am that woman!
So, it is with great anxiety that I brought her to the daycare center this morning…Would she feel rejected? confused? angry? In the last month, she has been accompanying me to her older sister’s class and has progressively become less timid and more interested in playing with the toys. We have been spending about 1/2 hour each morning and afternoon at the center. When we arrived this morning, her class was going outside. I went with her and put her into a swing (one of her favorite activities) and after about 10 minutes, I left.
Those tears which I haven’t seen and sobs which I haven’t heard for over a month were there as I said goodby…but her teacher picked her up and started to comfort her. Later, when I called, she was running around in the sprinkler! When I arrived to pick up the children, I walked into her room and…
WOW!!!! her eyes lit up, she ran to me and said “mama” and kissed my face about 20 times! I can honestly say that I have now seen pure JOY. I wish she had the words to express what she was feeling because I can only put my own spin on it. What I do know is that even though our “exclusive” time together has been shorter than I wish, we are definitely on track for a healthy and loving attachment – and I don’t think that daycare could interfere with that!