Monday, June 4, 2012

First Day Blues

This morning was Lea's very first day at daycare. Since I went back to work after she came home, she's been staying with an in-home sitter whom I've dubbed the "baby whisperer." Lea loves her, and dropping her off every day was a breeze. Each morning, Lea couldn't wait to see the only friends she'd ever known. She never cried. She was happy, very loved and felt secure.

I work at a college, and a child-care center was opened a year ago on campus for children of students and employees. The center is state-of-the-art. The children do art projects, have a ton of toys, playgrounds, a water area and fresh, nutritious meals and snacks. The facility is spotless and well equipped with everything you can imagine. As I toured the facility last week, all of the children seemed happy, just as Lea was with the "baby whisperer."

I decided to enroll Lea into this child-care center on campus because she is ready for more structure and new challenges. Plus, its very convenient to be able to bring her to work with me every day. Typically it is pretty hard to get a spot and the center due to the ratio of teachers to students, but since the summer months are less crowded, we got in. We had a long list of supplies to get in preparation of Lea's first day, including jumbo crayons, glue sticks and construction paper. 

Lea with her big bag of supplies - 6/4/12
Today was Lea's very first day. I listened as my sweet girl sang along to the radio in the back seat and giggled as I drove to work. I felt so guilty knowing that in a few short minutes I'd be handing her off to a complete stranger in an unfamiliar place. I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I used to get on the first day of school, or right before a job interview.

We walked in, and were greeted with smiles. I signed Lea in and walked her down to her classroom. I could feel her little body tensing up as we neared the door. When I set her down in the classroom, she clung to my leg. Her teacher, Ms. Coffee, picked her up as Lea kept her eyes on me. She stuck that lip out and reached for me, and it broke my heart.

"She was a preemie..." I began to tell Ms. Coffee. I don't know why I felt the need to tell her this, considering how well Lea is doing developmentally. But I told her anyway. Maybe it was an unintentional ploy to score Lea a little more patience and love from her new teacher on her very first day.

As I gave Lea kisses and hugged her goodbye, I assured her that I would be back later. I hope she understood what I was saying. I waved bye to the kids, and one little girl even told me "buenos días." (The kids in Lea's class are learning Spanish.) I closed the door, and could see that pouty little face turn into a full-on, gut-wrenching cry.

My eyes exploded with tears as soon as that door shut. As I walked down that hallway and back across the front desk, the receptionist had a tissue waiting.

"She's gonna be fine, momma!" she assured me. I knew she was right.

I remember exactly what a first day feels like when you are young. I was definitely that child who cried and clung to my mom when she brought me somewhere new. For the first few days of first-grade, my mom drove behind my school bus so I could see her out of the back window. Looking back, I realize that couldn't have been easy on my mom. Now I know that being the mommy in this situation is one-hundred times worse.

Lea playing, far left
By ten, I was still sitting at my desk in a puddle, so I walked over to take a peek in Lea's class. When I got there, they were on their way to the playground. The one year old class was lined up in the hallway, and she wasn't hard to spot with her big purple bow. She is by far the smallest in her class. All the kids followed in line as they made their way out of the back door, and I could hear Lea's loud mouth exclaiming "ooooooohhhh!!!," as she grabbed a ball, then made her way to the water fountain which sprays out a light mist of cool water for the children to walk under.

Its was such a good feeling to see her playing and smiling. She walked hand in hand with one of the teacher's aides, and kept close to a couple of the little girls in her class. I know in my heart this will be a great transition for her. I know she is a strong little girl and that she will be fine. I just need to come to grips that my baby won't be a baby forever, and we'll have lots of transitions like this in life. Its just another reminder to enjoy every second, because nothing stays the same for long.


  1. Thanks for the great post! I am starting my preemie son (32 weeker) in daycare in the fall. In fact, he is currently upstairs reaking havoc on his room as we try to transition to napping on a cot (instead of a crib).

    Oh, and don't feel bad...I have already played the "preemie" card :) Way to stay strong, mama!

  2. Thanks Smithers! You will have to let me know how he does on his first day!

  3. Very thoughtful and loving words Jessica. Lea is progressing as though she came into this world at 8 bouncing pounds and at full term. At 1 lb 14 oz and 11 weeks early, we have so much to be grateful for. Thank you God from whom all blessings.

  4. Hi I am also a preemie mom though not of a micro preemie. My daughter was a 34 weeker. But I love reading about other preemies and how they are doing. Your daughter gives me hope that my daughter will catch up some day.