A knot starts building in my stomach sometime before 7:00 AM, as I sip coffee at the computer and clean new spam and newsletters from my inbox. My 3-year-old stirs in his bed: I hear the covers slide on to the floor and then the thud of little boy on the hardwood, the patter of small feet running over to me. He smells sweet, like milk and honey, and his hair is damp and stuck to his perfect peach forehead. He climbs on to my lap as he does every morning, leaning into my neck, allowing me to curl my body around his and remember what it felt like three years ago when he was protected, inside me. We’re quiet, as we are every morning, content in our perfect satisfaction with each other’s company.
And suddenly I blink back tears. I’m going to leave him screaming in horror and turmoil in just over an hour from now, and I don’t know whether I can stand it anymore.
Nolan has been in daycare for a month and a half now. I drop him off four days a week, from Monday to Thursday (my angelic mother takes him on Fridays) - and each drop off is an exercise in torture. It starts in the morning, before we leave the house.
“Am I going to Sham’s today?” he asks, big eyes imploring and fearful.
“Not now, in a little while,”I say,”You can play cars there, right? Or maybe play basketball with Thomas?”
“No, no!” the tears have already sprung to his eyes,”I want to stay with you, Mommy.”
I sigh and brace myself for the scene.
The daycare is nice and clean, the kids are friendly. There is French class and yoga and a room full of vibrant, happy children. Nolan clings to my leg, shaking, whimpering. He has to be pried off me physically, and his screams reverberate through the room in anguish as I fight back tears myself.
“I’ll be back in 7 hours!” I say feebly, staggering away,”I love you very much.”
He tries to run after me, squirming with terror in the arms of the kind daycare Director. I know this place is a good place, I know it could be anywhere and he would still struggle. I know, in my heart, that he is fearful that I will go and not come back for weeks. It happens with his Daddy, why shouldn’t it happen with me? For that I feel an extra measure of guilt: my separation from his father is causing a big component of his unmanageable fear.
The daycare team tells me he is fine about ten minutes after I leave, and indeed, when I pick him up at the end of the day he is inevitably playing on the swings with his friends, holding hands with a doe-eyed little girl who has taken him under her sweet wing. But the next morning, it will be the same scene, and I don’t know how to make it better.
If anyone has tips on how to make the day home landing softer, I sure would appreciate it. I leave there every morning blinking back tears, dreading tomorrow’s drop off.