My son has just started daycare and it’s AWFUL! Does it ever stop being awful?? He’s so sad and moody, and even went on a hunger strike when he was there yesterday. Any tips for how to deal with the transition? I think he might be teething as well, which isn’t helping. - K
Ahh choice. Integration to daycare. More commonly known as "Parental Guilt Tipping Point" or "Temporary Life Hate".
They are dark times. They are savage times. Thankfully, as the saying goes, it is the darkest before the dawn. And your dawn is coming. Soon.
In fact, I guarantee there's a chance of it. Here's some #Dadvice that will hopefully make the sun rise faster.
I found avoiding morning hype sessions about how wicked daycare is going to be a far cry better than doing the opposite.
A kid's stubborn dial goes up to infinity. We know this.
So if they've decided that daycare sucks, then that's that. Until they decide daycare is more Disneyland than dungeon, don't tell them otherwise.
No amping up about the awesomeness of slides, sandpits and zombie tag. Just keep it chill. And by chill, I mean be super deflective if they bring the topic up...
Them: "Daycare today?"
You: "Yeah..." *nonchalant shrug* "...Wow that hoodie looks mean on you!"
Them: "I don't want to go to daycare!"
You: "It's all good..." *nonchalant shrug* "...Whoa look there's birds outside. Let's go feed the birds."
If your mode of daycare transportation is car, also avoid being the parent that looks at their kid in the rear-view every 30 seconds listing off cool things about daycare and why the day is going to be so amazing.
More likely to result in tears and shouting than a Eureka mindset shift.
Downplay the ride, play some music if that's your vibe. Talk non-daycare things. Or cruise in silence.
But whatever you do... Don't. Mention. Daycare.
But what about when you get to actually get to daycare? The masquerade is over... there's nowhere to hide! You're toast.
Keep reading hombre.
During the whole integration period, I found swift drop-offs worked well (“k-love-you-bye” fight the tears back and jet).
Pick-ups though, different story. Draw em out.
Yeah, I know you’re probably shattered. Yeah, I know how intoxicating that late afternoon daycare aroma is. Strong enough to wilt alligator skin. But this is an important time to block your nose and open your curiosity.
Show maximum interest in all the wonders the young buck's day has had to offer.
Marvel at their “paintings” (those are those A4 bits of paper that all end up the colour of week-old baby spinach).
Read the dog-earred copy of "The Lion In The Meadow" with them.
Say “whoa that’s so cool” when they tell you a random red triangle block is their favourite toy.
Use this moment to transform daycare into an end of the day celebration. You’re there now. They know it’s home time. Try to leverage off of that relief and comfort by giving them an end of day reminder that daycare, in retrospect, is pretty choice.
Less silver bullets, more Nerf missiles.
Relinquish control where you can. Let him suss his outfit each day, even if he chooses to go full Julian from "Big Daddy". Sneak a toy or alternative source of comfort in the backpack. Little things like that, until he feels ready to rule the kingdom on his own.
There's such limited control he has over anything, so find those little places to give it up where you can.
Locate your Miss Honey. Every young boy and girl Matilda needs one.
Understand who the teacher is that finds your kid low-key adorable. Ideally, we want the feeling to be mutual.
Link in with them daily for a snapshot of the day ahead or the day that has been. If the comfort level is there, get an email address so you've got a periodic check in point during the rough patches.
And ALWAYS hit them with the home baking, kid-made cards and Nestle Scorched Almonds.
Say no more man. I get it. I got you.
Drop off tears are NOT endless.
Theirs, not yours. Those are up to you.
But theirs pretty much evaporate the minute you depart.
I know, I’ve spied like a creep (like, genuinely peeking through shrubs) with both of my own kids during their intro to daycare ... and it validated my hypothesis: turning on the face sprinklers is less about purebred sadness, more about emotional blackmail. Sly little punks.
With this stuff, sometimes it's easy to throw your toys and proclaim “Okay, everything sucks”.
Catch yourself in that moment, and try laugh at how much of a victim you're being.
Because actually, this daycare sadness... doesn’t matter. It's just the yuck part of a common cycle, that will soon pass.
Big picture, this is nothing. A memory that in time will be forgotten.
After all, your head needs to make room for all the other joy and suffering that is to come in parenthood. Joy. Mainly joy.
The current post-pick up moodiness is all part of the adventure. No different to you or I having a punishing day at mahi... it’s hard to turn off right? Even when it's over and you've returned to your sanctuary and the people that make it so.
Added blessings like teething/nap embargo/hunger strikes certainly add layers to the challenge. Your kid's “let's make things harder” dial – like their stubborn one – also goes up to infinity.
The guile our kids possess in ruining our parent confidence riiight?
But overall, the best thing is time. Being brave and sucking it up because it legit won’t be like this forever.
Remember: your dawn is coming.
Your dude's little world has had this big change introduced to it... a little WTF and evil "you are traitor scum" eyes as a response kinda feels like fairplay to me. All part of the journey.
The time will come where he won't give two sugar honey iced teas about emotional goodbyes. He'll just chuck up his deuces and go get up to mischief with his fellow mischief makers.
You'll probably be sad.
But just remember, this is what you wanted. You asked for this.
Ps. Naturally, telling you to "Drink Concrete" is ONLY in context to feeling like a train wreck with daycare integration. If you feel like your headspace is coming from a deeper, darker place... make sure you listen to that and reach out to people way more useful than me for some aroha and support.
Jay is a local Wellington dad, and Plunket's new Dadvice columnist. He's here to answer your questions, give you some laughs and a digital bro hug, and offer some occasionally helpful advice.