The Emotions Of Daycare Drop-Off
The daycare drop-off blues is a real phenomenon for parents, at least for me personally it is. Dropping my son off at daycare, at times, seems to violate every biological mechanism encoded in my DNA for being a parent.
From leaving him in a building with “strangers” to the gut mangling moment when a daycare staffer needs to physically peel my distressed son off of me, daycare drop-off can be an emotional process.
Thankfully, my son’s daycare does a great job and the staff is warm, welcoming, and trusted, but the actual act of drop-off can sometimes feel like a punch to the gut.
Daycare drop-off can also serve up some incredibly sweet moments with my son, though, too. Moments like getting to see my kid interact with all his little buddies and finally realizing they have their own little world going on in there.
Then there are the times when I separate from my son to exit the daycare only for him to turn around and yell “one more hug and kiss” as he scampers back to me for one more big embrace. Daycare drop-off can be painstaking at times, but it provides plenty of special moments too.
Mornings Can Be A Pressure Cooker
Our morning routine getting ready for school can often feel pressurized, but it is also some of the most important time with my son there is. We have completely bonded over the shared trials and tribulations of him acclimating to and attending daycare. It is something we both had to adjust to and I feel in some ways he was there for me just as I was there for him during the ongoing process of our weekday drop-offs.
I, like many parents, put in significant hours away from my family working at my primary job. I am often required to work into the evenings, through and after dinner time, as well as every other Saturday for a full day. It is a grind and it keeps me away and distracted from my son quite a bit, even though I am working mainly from my home. So when it comes to our morning routine together it truly does serve as a special time for the two of us.
My favorite time, in particular, is the 5 minute period spent in the car after getting him out the door, clothed and fed. It is often my favorite 5 minutes of the day. We both seem to exhale a bit that we got him dressed and out the door, but are also both a little pensive regarding the drop-off looming over our heads.
We listen to local Philly sports talk, pop music, or the Pearl Jam channel on SiriusXM. We look for trucks to point out to each other and I field a never ending flurry of questions from my son about football or random life topics. It is only 5 minutes, but it feels like a secluded block of time we get to enjoy together. We both seem to need it and appreciate it on a level deeper than just a car ride.
Once we pull into the parking lot of his daycare both of our emotions can be all over the place. I try to remain stoic and centered for the both of us. At times there have been faint whimpers from my son stating “I want to stay with you Daddy” accompanied by watery eyes. There have also been unbridled exclamations of “my school” getting yelled with a joyous anticipation. Typically it is right down the middle with my son being sweet, pleasant, and ready to get on with his day.
I try to acknowledge to myself every single instance of a positive and tear free drop-off because there was a time, and can still be times, when he literally clings to me, sobbing, and not wanting to be separated at all. Those moments are hellish.
I try to stay centered, almost dispassionate about it, for the sake of achieving the actual physical separation and quickly getting out the door. Having my son peeled off of me as I turn away from him to leave goes against every single biological urge firing off in my body as a parent. It is one of the most painful gut punches I have felt as a father and I have felt it numerous times.
Transitions Can Create Angst
This past Fall and the start of the new school year, with my son now 4 and moving up into the preschool room, I was caught off guard when the drop-offs reverted back to being difficult for him.
I somehow mistakenly got it into my head that since my son was now 4 and heading into the “bigger kids” preschool room, he would be the big man on campus and would return back to school with ease. That was definitely not the case. There were a solid 3 weeks of angst and uncertainty again at the morning drop-offs.
He was off for the whole summer prior, so it was a typical seasonal transition from a long vacation back to school each day, so I probably should not have been surprised.
It was excruciating at times and created some sad mornings for me having to leave him while he was still upset. Even during those tough moments I tried to remain thankful that I got to be there for him as best as possible to get him transitioned into his day. He did eventually find his groove again for our drop-offs and has been mainly all smiles and excitement since.
It is hard to believe my son is in his final year of attending daycare/preschool. He started going there while in his 2’s. At times it was a painstaking transition for all of us, but truly a positive step in his growth and development.
My son needed to start socializing around other kids and the confidence he has grown through daycare has been incredible to see. He speaks up now when spoken to by adults and he is assured and engaging with other kids when at first he was more quiet and reserved.
Gratitude As A Guide Through The Blues
Our morning routines getting my son readied for school can and have been unnerving and pressurized at times, but I feel lucky and incredibly thankful for every single morning we spend together. I have been there to support him and he has taught me much about being brave and handling adversity.
Daycare drop-off can be rough at times and certain situations can bring about the daycare drop-off blues, but I am truly grateful for each experience and every ounce of growth it has brought about for the both of us.
If you as a parent are ever encountering the daycare drop-off blues, try to quickly call to mind 3 things you are grateful for regarding you child's daycare experience. Expressions of gratitude can produce a powerful change of state almost in an instant. Also, try and give yourself a break emotionally. Recognize you are doing the very best you can as a parent and provider for your child.
Does your kid attend daycare? Please share any tips or experiences you have had in trying to make morning drop-offs as easy and tear free as possible.