Friday, October 28, 2011


He is not in a concentration camp or sleeping in an alley.

I force myself to extreme comparisons attempting to manage my anxiety as I analyze every detail of the cramped nap room my son is struggling against sleeping in. It is a divided room with a half wall. Each side has five cribs touching back to back with narrow paths separating two more cribs. A window decorates each half of the room and on William's side a painted tree with falling leaves is back lit from the playroom lights glowing through green and orange tissue paper. It's cheery and festive for Autumn, but my mind can not focus on anything positive.

I can hear noise from the other room that attaches to the shared nap space; a daycare person bursts loudly through the door and upon seeing me looks apologetic, but still drags the miniature wooden seats across the playroom floor in preparation for lunch. Each screech winds my nerves tighter and tighter. I keep calculating how long William could possibly nap and still wake up in time for lunch, and wonder yet again how he will possibly be ready to be left on his own in this foreign world come Monday.

William pulls himself up on the crib bars and sits back down over and over. The odd time he emits a happy coo as I do my best to ignore him and look sleepy by leaning against the wall with my eyes closed. At one point he reaches through the bars and pinches the underside of my arm. I yank it out of reach and muffle my exclamation of pain. To anyone other than his mother, William looks pretty perky, but I know how tired he is and how much he needs this morning nap to process the day's events, and all the change he's been exposed to earlier in the week. I can't leave him because the staff to child ratios are at the max, and even if I could, it's too soon. It's day four of daycare transition and I am running on my second night of very little sleep. As each day has progressed, William's arms length radius with me has grown smaller and smaller.

That morning I am convinced we chose a substandard daycare, especially as I compare it to the daycares of close friends and how big and airy and fabulous (and clean) I imagine them to be. I try to remind myself what the priority is: caring people watching William and providing him with basic skills, nutritious food, and support for his growth in a safe environment.

But I can't stop asking myself what exactly my exorbitant monthly fees are paying for if it isn't for a better designed nap room that features separate storage of the highchairs for meal time. I can't stop asking myself who the hell designed such a layout of a divided room split by a half wall where not all children surely nap at the exact same time, and if they do, how the hell do 16 children reasonably fall asleep in the same cramped, warm room?

On day one I can't stop my eyes from lasering in on the bits of food left in cracks of the alphabet floor--bits of cheese waiting to be eaten by my dairy-intolerant son who, despite incessant admonishments of "yucky, yucky, don't eat that", and despite the purchase and consistent use of a handy vac at home, continues to find and pick up every speck he happens upon to immediately stuff into his mouth with all the enthusiasm of Templeton the rat. I see the staff vigilantly sweep up after every meal and mop with a bleach mixture; I know the rooms are cleaned each night, but those bits are there and I can't help but wonder how easy it would be for the daycare to simply purchase a Dustbuster to make everyone's life a touch easier.

Day two my eyes fall upon the grimy little people playhouse, minus all little people of course, whose floors look as though they've never seen the light of a little people mop. More than once I wonder if this playroom has a higher instance of sickness, as at least three kids have weeping noses, and one a deep bellied cough. A bottle of Robitussin is spotted by my eagle eyes on top of the mini-fridge that cramps the playroom entryway.

In the middle of the night after day two, I talk myself into a daycare transition sick day, convinced both William and I simply need a break to decompress, especially after sleeping very poorly the previous night. After much self pep talk, and knowing how little time we really have to successfully transition, I rush through getting ready the next day ending up with a sloppy pony tail and barely there make-up.

It took 45 minutes. William was sitting up sucking his thumb when he leaned forward, face first into the mattress, and promptly fell asleep. His feet were up by his ears and I had to peer at his back to make sure he was still breathing. At one point a daycare person popped in to check on us and whispered, "Does he sleep like that?" I had to shrug. At least he was sleeping.

Cut to the end of day five, the last transition day: William napped for an hour with the rest of a full nap room (both sides), and though he was pretty fussy in terms of not letting me out of his sight most of the day, he still managed to sit on his own with me just off to the side, and doesn't appear to be traumatized upon our arrival back home. I even managed to leave the site to run an important errand for my return to work on Monday.

Though the grime and food bits are still there at the end of meal time, today the little people house doesn't look quite so dirty, and today I see the warm smiles the two main women who manage his room have when they see my sweet son. I see them kiss the other children's heads (knowing how natural it feels to express affection for a child), and I hear the caring in their voices as they read to them and encourage them to play and learn. Although I fear these women may be grossly underpaid, and I still wonder exactly what my hard-earned dollars pay for at the top end of the company, I am able to separate the worries of being a new mom leaving my little one in the hands of strangers from understanding what the priorities are for his care, and I am ultimately able to trust my instinct versus my anxiety.

Transition is hell.

Oddly enough, I feel like a better mother for it.