Some people might say one of the best decisions of their life was marrying their husband/wife, or going back to school to continue their education, but my most recent "best decision" was putting my child in day care and being a working mother.
A little bit of background about my day care. I did shop around, I checked out another center and an in-home day care facility and decided to "go with" the one I have always used for many reasons, but mostly because, it's "right next to my office." When I say this, I mean it. I mean my boss owns the building and rents the second space in our building to my day care. The back doors are right next to each other, I go out one door and into the other. I can take breaks and visit my daughter while she is playing indoors or out. The sad realization is that my boss pays me, I pay day care, day care pays my boss. But that's life!
While visiting my daughter twice a day to nurse her, I quickly learned that almost all good day care caregivers, or teachers as I refer to them, are just plain awesome. Awesome to be able to spend their entire day with small children, no matter what the age. Awesome at calming a cranky infant, awesome at working with toddlers and their feuds and breakdowns, awesome at giving me the tools I need to be a better a communicator and parent to my child. Sure, they all have bad days, and I'm certain that kids get on their nerves and when the last child walks out the door and there is silence, they are relieved, but we all go through this, and no one is perfect, even I have bad days. But no matter what, my daughter's teachers always smile and are very happy to see her and me.
I would love to be able to slip each of my daughter's five teachers a $20 bill every month, but it isn't in my budget, so instead, I often make them goodies to let them know how much I appreciate them. Of course they aren't always healthy goodies, but they are usually homemade, so that has to count for something. I write them thank you notes when they send cute projects home with my daughter, and I let them know when they leave cute notes for my daughter on her report sheet that it makes me smile.
But what I most love about my day care, is the things my daughter's teachers have taught me that have enabled me to be a better parent. Most of these things seem so normal to me now, but it was foreign territory at first, and sitting in a room with infants and toddlers while nursing helped me to quickly pick up the things teachers say that toddlers and children listen to. Some examples are:
Avoiding the word "No."
Not for your hands, mouth, face, head, etc. Referring to books, toys, etc. Books are not for chewing with our teeth but for reading with our eyes. Chairs are for sitting, not for standing. Hands are not for hitting, feet are for kicking a ball, not a person. Or simply "not for your mouth" when a child is chewing on a toy not meant for chewing. I use this all the time, and it's especially helpful instead of using the word "No." I firmly believe this route for telling my daughter "no" makes her rarely use the word no. I also think this has enabled us to not have to use the time out chair yet. I'm sure it's coming, but so far, she hasn't done anything harmful to require it (those are our rules for putting her into a time out).
Two choices and Two More Minutes.
I recently have begun to use this when my daughter doesn't want to eat what I offer. I give her choices. You can have this or that. Or you can eat lunch or say no thank you and walk away. You can bring this or that into the store with us.
Two more minutes is perfect to get her ready to clean up, or get dressed, or brush her teeth. I say things like, "You have two more minutes before we need to get our PJs on and get ready for bed." A few months ago, my daughter began to say this as she was playing alone, thus making me realize she was mocking her teachers!
(She also loves to repeat what she hears on the playground, "Preschool friends, time to line up.")
Listening to her needs.
Day care has taught me to say things like "I hear that you are not happy, but right now we need to go home. Tomorrow we will go outside at the park when it isn't raining." Or, "I know that you are sad that you cannot have the book/toy, but (insert name here) is taking her turn with the toy and when she is done you can have a turn." This also makes her say "we can share the coloring book" when the two of us color and it's made me hold my ground when I am using a toy/pencil/crayon and she wants it. I tell her it is my turn to use it and when I am done I will let her use it.
I never, ever, ever thought my daughter would say "Excuse me, Rock" to our dog when she was 1.5 years old. Of course my dog had no way of knowing what she was saying, but it was so sweet to hear those words come out of her mouth. Even better when she uses them with her parents. She has been repeatedly using her manners to say please, and thank you and now you're welcome. All I can say is THANK YOU DAY CARE for teaching those things to her!
Sensory Toys and Play-Doh.
I have never been a parent before, and I know I would have never given my 6-8 month old play-doh (The package at the store says ages 3+). But the teachers at day care do. And at an early age she learned how to pat it and flatten it and pound it. Now she loves it and I love to watch her get excited about making a snake or a ball or help me stack three balls to make a snowman.
I never would have thought to let her put her fingers in (dry) flour and cinnamon and oatmeal or play with shaving cream and paint on the table. But day care does, and because of this my daughter loves to get messy.
Takes away the guilt.
Day care helps me not feel so guilty about not going outside with my daughter when I get home from work, because I need to be indoors to make a dish I agreed to bring to the office potluck, or had to run to the store and didn't get home before dark. I know that this one day I had something else to do, she went outside at day care and played all day long with friends, so I don't feel so bad at the end of the night.
Being there for me.
I do not hesitate to communicate with my daughter's teachers. For example, when my daughter was hitting me, it was somewhat funny, because I really didn't notice it because she wasn't hurting me. But I knew this behavior would not fly with another student or teacher at day care, so I made sure to ask the correct words to be used to "discipline" her for this behavior. It wasn't a time out in the corner, it was simply a talk that hands are not for hitting and we need to use soft hands. She has now cut back on the hitting, but when she gets upset, she will begin to hit me (again pain and harmless to me) and then slow down her hitting and gently pat me and say "soft hands" reassuring me that those teachers know what they are doing and they know how to communicate with children!
A few months ago, while dropping of my daughter, I heard a 3 or 4 year old girl say to another girl, "M, you hurt my feelings when you told me you didn't want to play with me." I instantly knew she learned this from that day care, the one I was standing in, the one that my daughter attends. Because I had heard the teachers tell students to use their strong words instead of hitting or pushing a child because they were upset. Instantly I knew I had some new tools to help my daughter with conflict and her feelings!
Most people comment on how great my child is, and of course she has her moments but all-in-all she is a very good kid. I often reply with, "We pay day care for her to be this way." And part of me means it. Because they helped my husband and I to reinforce the excellent behavior she demonstrates in the classroom at home. I also believe communication with my husband is key, so we are both on the same page with discipline and parenting. Most of the time we are, and rarely argue about what we do and say to her, but I'm sure we'll have a difference of opinion as she grows older.
In two weeks my daughter will be moving to the preschool side of her day care. She'll be 2.5 years old and will have "new" teachers (she's familiar with them, but will be spending all day with them) and I honestly hope that I can blog about how awesome they were with her and potty training. I hope that she is a star potty student and demonstrates all of her excellence at home and at school. If she is not, I'll certainly communicate and talk to her teachers so we are all on the same page and using the same lingo and tactics to get her out of diapers, but I'm not going to fret over it or rush it, when she's ready she'll go.
So as one school chapter of my daughter's life closes and another opens, I hope to continue to learn as a parent and make her teachers feel special and let them know I appreciate all they do.
One of my favorite photos of her at school is below, and although it's 8 months old, it always makes me smile. I can still hear the teacher telling me how funny it was and how it made everyone in the room laugh.