Hello, Backpack

Ingrid had her last day at the old day care Friday (“It’s closed now,” she said, driving home that evening. “Closed like a library.”) We gave each of the three teachers plus the director a photo of her in a handmade frame (She decorated each with meticulous, evenly spaced dashes, front and back.) We said goodbye, and it was sad and a relief to have the ending over with.

Today she was to have started at the small in-home day care. But about ten days ago, I got the nagging feeling that we’d made the wrong decision. Ingrid seemed, suddenly, so old and so ready for “school”, and the uncertainties around a one-woman day care business suddenly seemed huge.

As set as I’d been—for weeks—on the in-home day care, I couldn’t shake the feeling that what she needs now is something more structured and more official than even a super experienced and educated caregiver can do in her home. The march-like song from the “School” Signing Time video stomped through my head all day: “Time to pay attention, time to pay atten-CHUN!” And my nagging, nagging gut kept demanding atten-CHUN right along with it. A, on the phone from Germany, admitted to the same doubts.

I obsessed about this for several days straight, to the point where in order to sleep I had to envision myself throwing a big clay pot, putting all of my day care thoughts inside it, and letting it float away on the blue ocean.

And then we started to look at the other options again.

We looked briefly into an extremely dogmatic Waldorf place (lovely, but the more single-minded and unfortunately more vocal of the two proprietors had a creepy gleam in her eye that brought me back to my days hanging out with fundamentalist Christian missionaries in the Himalayas. She said something about “the opportunity to meet like-minded parents” and I almost ran screaming from the soothingly arranged, newly low-VOC-painted room.)

And then we found out there was still room at the co-op day care center that I’ve loved for years (Ingrid had been on the waiting list to get into the younger kids’ room for ages) and where her good buddy H (of the fingernail polish) is going now. We signed her up, and today was her first day.

I feel lousy—completely lousy—about backing out on the original plan with the in-home woman. I never would have done this before having kids: Backing out! Of a Plan! A plan that I myself had decided on and agreed to. Backing out because of no particular concrete change other than that my gut was telling me it was the thing to do. But I did—as gracefully (not very) as I could—and today was Ingrid's first day at "school".

And I feel great about what we’re doing, about this new day care that my suddenly super grown up daughter calls school. I think it’s a great little community. There is so much that I know she’ll love: a garden, pet hermit crabs, a play kitchen. Her buddy H is an outgoing kid who draws everyone out—including even Ingrid at her most shy. And her teachers are kind, smart women who seem to love their jobs and love the kids.

Ingrid came home today exhausted but full of stories (“We made pizza for snack. With sauce and cheese. And VEGETABLES!”) and full of imaginary games about cousins (she has no real ones) and a song about speckled frogs. Apparently some little shit child who shares a name with a Wyoming town hit her over the head this afternoon, but I am pleased with how the teacher handled both the hitter and Ingrid’s (distressed, very upset) response, and for now I am going to believe that this won’t be a regular occurrence. She seems to have recovered fine.

As much as I’m trying to fight it, it’s starting to feel like fall: Cool weather, rain, the sad, sad closing of the park wading pools (closed like libraries, I guess), and a girl—after all her parents' strange and convoluted decision making finally sorted itself out—starting school.


  1. Starting school! That is big! Well, you gotta do what is right for you guys. I have recently been having my own freak-outs about childcare, but my little girl seems to really be enjoying the in-home place for now. When I come get her, she has to be coaxed to leave.

  2. Oh, I'm so glad it went well. And it's been a pretty good summer, hasn't it? If we could only can the warm, ripe sun...

  3. Funny about those gut feelings you get as a mom--I think they're always worth listening to. It sounds like a great place for her.

    P.S. Thanks to you, that school song was stuck in my head ALL DAY. :)