First Day of Daycare (The Tale of Running Mascara)


Yesterday was my little boy's first official day of daycare. I have to be thankful that I've had as much precious time as I did to stay with him for most of his two years of life, but this year, with the increased burden of new credit card bills and unexpected expenses, I had to add additional hours to my schedule and secure new adjunct positions to teach a few more courses. (Ironically, I added one additional course just to cover the expense of daycare--Ugh!)

Instruments in Lewie's Toddler Room for Music and Movement Hour
I'm sorry to say that the working mommy guilt reached an all-time high today. As my husband and I brought Lil' Lew to his special toddler room at the college we both work at, we greeted his new teachers and other parents with pleasant smiles but watery eyes. Of course, my eyes only blurred more as we unloaded the car.

"Okay is everything all here? We have our large box of diapers, a tub of wipes, bed sheets, his favorite blanket, his striped blue and white tiger, and extra sets of clothes. Oh, and here's today's lunch with our first check to cover the month of September."

Looking at all the bags and boxes, I felt like I was preparing more for a camping trip or a sleep-over party, than daycare. It felt surreal--like my little boy was moving away from home. The teachers helped us put everything in their rightful place and tried to soothe Lil' Lewie who was now crying because we shut the door behind him, and he realized that he wasn't allowed to escape.

I brought my camera thinking I would capture the moment and the essence of his big day. To me, it was like his first official day of school since we were meeting all of his teachers and classmates for the very first time. Unfortunately, I never had a moment to compose myself to take his picture, and my little boy never stopped crying as long as I was there. After everything was stored in its rightful place, my husband and I were encouraged to keep our goodbyes short and sweet. We both gave him a hug and kiss, and we left the room with drooped heads--my husband expressionless and me sobbing.

As we walked down the hallway further and further away from the toddler room, Lil' Lewie could still be heard screaming in the background. "How could I do this? How could I leave him and let him think that mommy and daddy have abandoned him?" As the thoughts rushed through my head, my heart sunk into a bottomless pit. My husband gave me a hug, which only triggered me to cry harder and smudge more mascara--so much for getting a special mommy and me photo today.

Three hours later, my husband and I picked up Lil' Lewie. Normally, he would be going to daycare for a full day, but we decided to start him off slowly. Before rushing into the room to give him a big hug, the nurse recommended that we go into the observation room (nicknamed the "crying room") to watch our little boy in action. With a huge window that only looks like a mirror to little Lewie, the observation room let my husband and me watch him without being detected.

"There he is!" I exclaimed, noticing my little boy sitting next to one of the teachers with his "blankie" on his lap.

The lights were off in the room as the teachers were trying to prepare the eight toddlers for naptime. Lil" Lewie looked like he might be winding down for a nap too, but then, getting a quick burst of energy, he got up, ran, and squealed like our happy little boy.

"Oh, I so needed to see that," I said with more tears, confirming the "crying room" nickname.

"Yeah, I came here an hour ago, and he was having fun. He was playing with a pair of sunglasses and talking to himself," my husband replied.  (It was great that both our offices at the college are within walking distance of the daycare.)

To my delight, the teachers told us that Lil' Lewie did great. He made some of the other kids laugh, and he entertained himself with their toy telephone and bead maze. They gave me a cute little "report card" to take home and then opened the toddler room door to let us greet him.

I was glad my husband and I had the opportunity to watch him smile and play from the observation room. It was enough validation for me to realize that he'd be okay without us and perhaps...(gulp)...even enjoy some time away.


  1. Oh...what a tough day for you but SO glad you had a chance to see him having fun. It's so hard to let go but you're right, he will enjoy having some fun time away! How nice that you and your husband are so close and can drop in from time to time. I hope as the days pass, it will get easier for you and that you don't feel too guilty. You're an amazing Mommy...taking care of your family :)Have a wonderful day.

  2. Ugh! It sounds to me like you did awesome! I am always worrying about possibly having to pick up extra hours at work and I know I would feel the same as you. Congratulations on surviving your first day. =) I'm sure it will get better after that.

  3. He's off to a great start! He's going to love school. How lucky you are to have a preschool like that right where you work. That is so fabulous!

  4. oh bless your heart...its always hard when they cry. He probably LOVED it as soon as you guys walked away :) glad you were able to see him enjoy himself today too! And good job on starting off with smaller time periods, that probably helps. I should have done that to ease into things, before just dropping him off all day when I was teaching. You made it through the first day, so it'll only get easier!

  5. I sympathize with you, I have a hard time leaving Scotty anywhere...even at his auntie's! As someone that has worked at a daycare before, the first few days of daycare are usually the worst and the tears stop pretty fast! Sometimes I think Scotty would benefit from something like daycare or preschool just to socialize more...then I remember drop-off's while I worked at the daycare and I'd be just like you, crying and feeling guilty all day while he's probably having a blast and pushing me out the door! Good luck and I hope the drop-off's get better, it sounds like he had a good first day!

  6. I remember when my son was an infant, he slept in the bed with us even though his nursery was all decked out and ready for him. It was just easier in the middle of the night if he wanted to nurse or whatever. When he was about 9 or 10 months old I listened to everyone saying, "You'll never get him out of your bed if you don't start putting him in his own bed!" and decided to put him to sleep in his own bed. He stretched out and slept...well, like a baby! He seemed to be glad to not be squished between daddy and me. All of that is to say, Little Lewie was probably very glad to be around other "little people" iwth several ladies to dote on him like his mommy does-NOT to say they could ever replace you. I'm glad (1) he adjusted so well to his new environment; (2) you and the hubs were able to witness him at play; (3) you guys are both nearby and can visit often. I feel your pain about the having to work; having to take on an extra class just to afford the daycare seems so unfair!

  7. I totally sympathize with you! It's so hard to leave them, especially that first time. But that's *awesome* that you're within walking distance - you can pop by and see him anytime. That will help a ton.

  8. Oh Annette I just wrote about the same thing. It is the hardest thing for us mommys! I cried and cried! I am sorry you had such a rough day! I hope you will be able to work through yout tears my friend. Have a good night!

    Mama Hen

  9. Oh this post took me back to every "first" day I had like that. It's SO hard. I cried a lot too. I do hope it gets easier with every day. We all struggle with that mommy guilt but I am sure he will be fine. Hugs to you!!

  10. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm your newest follower now too!

    I can't even imagine how hard that was...for you...sounds like he did great! Hang in there and just be thankful you guys are both so closeby! What a blessing!


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