The decision to go back to work was easier than figuring out who will look after R when I do. I read a lot. All the articles had one message only and that was that first few days will be hard, the child will cry but she will get over it in a few weeks. Parents gushed about how much their children loved childcare once they got used to it. I hoped R would love her daycare too and help salvage any guilty feelings I have about not being a stay-at-home mum.
As expected, she cried every day at drop-off. For a very long time. In fact, I think it went on for so long that I got used to the idea of feeling bad every morning. When did she stop? Well! R likes her daycare. I know she does. Friends her age, all those activities the carers come up with to keep the children engaged, the tennis and dance classes. What’s not to love? Mummy gets to go to work and little miss has fun. So, what is the problem?
The wailing at drop-off never stopped. Two years on and I still head to work with the sound of her crying in my ears. The drama starts from the moment she wakes up.
“I don’t want to go to daycare today. How about we go to London?”
“Mama, I don’t want to go to daycare. Can I stay at home and do some painting?”
Then the epic discussions on clothes begin and my negotiation skills get a full round of testing.
“The Elsa dress is in the wash! How about the pink dress? Maybe the cowgirl skirt? The polka dots top is so pretty. The panda pants that you used to love?”
Everything from underwear to hair clips must be right. It used to have to be the same colour but now she has a style that I have given up trying to understand. It has to have the right amount of twirl, must be a dress (not skirt), should look like something one of the characters from her favourite books or movies wear… the list goes on. Once that is sorted, there is the hair.
“Mama, can you do Elsa hair for me today?”, is the easiest request of all. A simple braid. If she is wearing the Elsa dress, we attach a blonde braid to her black.
“Why are you doing my hair up? I don’t want baby hair”. What on earth is baby hair? I’ve now learned that it’s when you tie all the hair at the top, in a pony tail.
“Are you doing Georgia hair for me?”
“I don’t want Laila hair”
“This is not how you do Anna hair. Take it off! Take it off! I want Anna hair”
“Is that Maisie hair? Are you doing Maisie hair? I don’t want that”
I have no idea what hair styles these characters sport. I have taken to interpreting all such statements as one of two things – she likes it, she doesn’t.
I looked up toddler braids on Pinterest the other day but since none of her favourite characters or friends sport those styles, she vetoed them all. Sigh! From start to finish, the process takes close to an hour. I’ve taken to doing her hair on the commute, off late. We usually manage to get a seat on the train – woman with child and all that.
When we finally make it to the daycare, the fussing begins again. Crying, pulling my hair, tugging at my clothes.
“I want to go to work with you”
“I don’t like my friends”
“She called me R. I’m Elsa! I’m wearing Elsa dress today”
I know she will be fine once I leave but I am loathe to leave her crying. Even though I know they are crocodile tears, I try to comfort her.
I can’t wait for her to start school! I picture her standing at the gate, yanking at my work clothes while I hopelessly try to convince her to go in. There will be all these children waving at their parents as they run inside. I’ll be standing helplessly with a screaming young girl, pretending that there is no one around us. It should be fun. Yeah.