Today was Minty's first proper day at daycare. We had orientation last week, but I haven't written anything about it here because my thoughts were so muddled and conflicted I was having trouble articulating myself. I wasn't expecting to have any great emotions about all of this given that she is only going to be away for one day a week… but (there always seems to be a but) I felt completely traumatised at orientation. We only went in for a little over an hour and I stayed with her the whole time but every motherly bone in my body was screaming at me to pick her up and run and never come back. There were so many little children to so few carers (mind you the centre was complying with standard practise so apparently this is completely normal) and it felt very much like 'Lord of the Flies' in there. I think my experience was coloured by the fact that within about two minutes of walking in the door one of the kids vomited all over the floor. I think the saddest moment of orientation was when one little boy had his hand shut in the sliding door and came to me (a complete stranger) for a hug because there was no one else on hand to comfort him. I felt sad for all the poor little souls in there who were clearly craving a bit more attention.
On the other hand, the centre itself had a fantastic set up and the carers seemed lovely and well qualified. Minty loved orientation and kept telling me she wanted to go back without me. Far from being traumatised by the experience she kept fondly retelling the story of 'the big girl who vomited all over the floor and the lady with the checked pants who came with a towel to clean it up' and told me that it was the 'most exciting thing that had happened all week'. I couldn't work out if I had genuine cause for concern or whether I was just being a hyper-protective crazy mum like this. So I decided, after much soul searching and trepidation, that we would give it one more try this week and if I still felt uneasy I wouldn't go through with it. I decided to move Minty to the room with the younger kids in the hope it might be a bit less wild.
I'm glad we gave it another go. The younger room seemed much calmer, with less kids and less of an expectation that they would be able to do everything for themselves. Minty didn't seem at all phased when I left her there alone. When I went to pick her up she didn't want to leave and the carers told me she had a fantastic time and really enjoyed herself (though the cynic in me wonders if they just say that to all the parents so they won't pull their kids out). Apparently she was very drawn to the room with the older kids and kept sneaking in through the adjoining door. The older girls apparently adopted her and much to Minty's delight spent the day mothering her.
So for now at least we're going to persevere with daycare. I'll take things on a week by week basis and if Minty stops enjoying herself we'll stop going.
I took these photos on our walk home from daycare. An ice-cream on the boat ramp and a ride on dad's shoulders made Minty one very happy little lady.