Are you there yet?
Are you waiting in the car?
Scrolling through your phone while you savour the last few minutes of togetherness?
Are you listening to your toddler hum along to The Wiggles tape in the backseat, or your pre-schooler babble about Shopkins and Pokemons and Spiderman? (It’s always Spiderman isn’t it?)
I was there, right where you are, eight years ago. And as I come to the end of my journey in this phase of life you begin yours.
For the last eight years my three children have moved through daycare and pre-school before transitioning on to “big school”. Here I sit, on the precipice of my last child off to big school, while you begin your first foray into day care.
I imagine for you the last 24 hours have been a blur of schedules and organisation: bags packed, spare clothes folded and neatly placed in a brand new backpack, bottles, blankies all bundled up.
You’ve timetabled and coordinated and spent so much time on soothing your child about being a big kid now, about Mummy still being there even if she leaves for a little while, about oh how much fun it's going to be.
You’ve smiled and laughed and talked up just how wonderful it will be, when what you feel, really, is an empty kind of grief.
As you sit before the doors of the day care, ready to drop your little one off for the first time, so much runs through your mind. Will there be tears? Will they hold you tight and refuse to go? Or will they run towards the toys without looking back? You can’t decide what will be worse. Either will break your heart.
How do you take those first few steps?
I want you to know that while this seems like the hardest thing you’ve ever done, it's only the first in a non-stop series of goodbyes. Goodbye at day care. Goodbye on the first playdate. Goodbye at pre-school. Goodbye at big school.
So many goodbyes. While that sounds hard, each one has a silver lining so bright your eyes will dazzle, because each goodbye comes with an opportunity for them to grow and blossom and form into the most exquisite of little human beings. And each goodbye comes with a reunion of warm squishy hugs and soft butterfly kisses.
Besides, your child will fill your mind all day long. What are they doing? How are they going? Are they hungry? Tired? Happy? Confused? Will they reach for me when they see me at the end of the day? Will they smile or be angry? Am I doing the right thing?
That’s what it’s all down to, right in the very depths of your heart, isn’t it? Whether or not this is the right thing. That's what nags at you and gnaws at you.
Have we done the right thing? Is this the right thing for her? Will he be OK? Have I done the right thing?
You know what? You know the answer. You know, because you’ve been over and over and over it. You’ve laid awake for nights on end. You’ve Googled and asked around and researched and debated. You’ve been back and forth over it. Discussed it for hours on end, and you’ve come to the conclusion that for you, and your family it is. You know it is. It's right.
Now you just have to believe it.
As you hover there on your first day care drop-off, whether your child is a baby or a toddler or a pre-schooler, know that what is about to happen is the start of a journey with benefits far outweighing the anguish of peeling off a clinging child.
It’s the journey into the outside world for both of you. The journey into new friendships and adventures, new opportunities and challenges. A journey where joy will overrule heartbreak, where fun will overtake sadness and where at the end of every day a tired, satisfied little body will be delivered back to you safe, cherished and cared for and that’s the right thing for you.
So go ahead take those steps.