The value of daycare

This is my last week in the office.

Kyle had a closing scheduled last Monday night more than 75 miles north of us. Tonight, he has an appointment more than 75 miles south of us. These appointments serve as good reminders to us both that I am making the right move. We need the flexibility in our schedules to allow him to make – and keep – appointments like these.

(Fortunately, he ended up not going to the closing – which happened anyway – but took calls from home instead.)

Beginning next Monday, the girls will go to school in the mornings only. I will pick them up before noon. CJ will have already eaten and will be ready for her nap. In the afternoons, we will make trips to the museum and the park and the pool. And we will have playdates. Lots of playdates.

In the mornings, I will exercise and do errands and clean the house and write and work on side projects. I will have some “me” time that will allow me to relax and enjoy myself with the girls in the afternoons.

Why will the girls continue to go to school?

Sunday, we went to a party for one of Tacy’s classmates and her older sister. Tacy knew a few of the children there, but not all of them.

She behaved beautifully. Not just in terms of her manners, which were exemplary, or her mood, which was cheerful and whine-free. But her social skills blew me away as I mentally compared her to my childhood self.

She had a wonderful time at the party. Playing with children whom she didn’t know wasn’t stressful for her. She was patient as she waited her turn to jump on the trampoline. She raced from bucket to bucket, retrieving water balloons and throwing them at the hostesses’ grandfather, giggling and shrieking like the rest of the children.

Not me. Not on your life. Now – sure. But when I was four – not a chance.

I observed this same confidence even when she was much younger – such as on her second birthday when we took her to the children’s gym at Chelsea Piers. Another toddler was apparently fascinated by her big blue eyes, and he tried to pluck them right out of her head. She batted his hand away. No tears.

And when she was bitten by a classmate a few months after that – she didn’t cry, but instead she indignantly told the biter: “That’s bad manners!”

She asserts herself. She doesn’t push others around, but she doesn’t allow them to push her either.

I credit daycare/pre-school. I recognize aspects of my childhood personality in Tacy, and I encourage her to shed the fear and shyness. But it’s her daily routine that has given her confidence and comfort in the face of new situations.

Although CJ has the benefit of living with an older sister to help her learn to get along with others, I’ve seen how she has also benefited from her brief time in daycare. She’s always been more adventurous than Tacy, but she’s increasingly more social as well. I’m also impressed with how well she follows directions and picks up after herself (and us, truth be told).

Kyle and I have never been particularly concerned about the academic aspects of daycare/pre-school. That is, while we greatly appreciate the teachers’ curriculum planning and we try to reinforce at home what they are learning at school, academic advancement is not our reason for keeping the girls in daycare/pre-school.

More than anything else, the girls are there to learn how to function in a group – to follow directions, to adapt to a routine, to abide by rules, to resolve disputes, and to make friends. These are lessons that Kyle and I can’t easily teach at home, and that is the primary value that we’ve found in daycare/pre-school.

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