The times they are a-changin’. Allison is now officially a pre-K graduate and after nine years we are done with day care. Are we elated? Yes. Are we nervous? Yes. Are we sad? Maybe a little. Putting your child in day care is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t decision. But if you want to raise your kids, have a career, and have a life, you need some help. For the last nine years, we’ve gotten lots of help. The girls had a routine. They made friends. They grew up. They prepared for school. They built up ironclad immunities.
While day care was for the kids, it also ended up giving us, as new parents, a lot, too. Before day care we lived among the community, but not in the community. Before day care, we were those strangers that walked their dog and lived in that quiet house with well-tended flower beds. Before day care, we left on the 6:20 a.m. train and rarely returned before dark.
Leaving your 8-week old infant with virtual strangers is beyond hard. Day care provided us with a group of people going through the exact same thing. Oh, look, that Dad is also carrying his crying child inside by the ankle and his shirt has 4 different stains before 9 a.m., too. That weird red and purple rash? Don’t sweat it, my kid had it last week. It provided a safety net and a soft landing on those days where it seemed like the world was coming apart at the seams.
Most importantly, it turned many of those strangers, parents and teachers alike, into friends. It gave us dominoes nights and taco parties and the tumble bus and Oktoberfest and showed us every day that we weren’t alone or unique in this strange new journey called parenthood. It made us part of a community.