Is my child ready for childcare?


It’s easy to write about things with the benefit of hindsight.  It’s easy to pretend to be well-travelled when you’ve already lived through, experienced, managed, failed, juggled, drowned in or triumphed over certain of life’s offerings.  So I’m challenging myself to write about something while I’m right in the middle of it, tripping over it and all wobbly about it.

I’m not certain that my baby boy is ready for nursery.  (Well here in Australia they call it childcare, but eighteen months after arriving here from London, we still call it nursery because that’s how our daughter refers to it.  It’s easier.)  My daughter started nursery in London at 13 months.  It was a very last minute decision.  We weren’t on any waiting lists and hadn’t really considered it in much depth as I was freelance and could choose when to return to work.  I wasn’t beholden to anybody. It became abundantly clear when she hit the one year mark, that Maple was rearing to go.  She was walking and talking and hugely sociable.  We felt that a day or two at nursery would help meet her needs in addition to swimming, music and playdates she attended every week with me.  On her first day, she ran off without even glancing back.  I was left standing there, waiting for my hug and feeling a wee tug at my heart strings.  But she was off.  That was that.  She has loved every single day of nursery and after a seven month break between London and Melbourne, she started nursery here with the same vigor and verve.

But my boy?  He’s a very different bundle of baby blubber.  He started nursery a couple of weeks ago at just over 14 months old.  He has just started walking (it is far from fluid) and he is miles off talking (some of his blurtings include strange versions of boobie (a serious priority in this wee lad’s life), mamma, ball, book, woof, no (which sometimes means yes…it’s subtle!) and yes…other ‘words’ sound much like bitch, sex and shit so I’m not counting those!).  His arsenal of words is really not sufficient to communicate his needs and he is far from showing any signs of seeking out any level of independence.  In fact, as far as mummies’ boys go, this wee sprog is right up there.  On top of the very typical needy baby boy, Zeph is also super tiny.  He is off all percentile curves and is growing extremely slowly with a preference for boob over solid foods.  His pediatrician is unconcerned and his mother is frustrated at the sporadic interest in her lovingly homecooked meals.  Yet I digress…

Let me cut to the chase.  I had it easy with my first child.  She didn’t cry when I left her.  Quite the contrary; she appeared to revel in it.  As I mentioned earlier, she was an early walker and talker and by the time she started nursery, she was breastfeeding about once a day, before bed at night.  Zeph has three solid breastfeeds and would take more if I indulged him.  He is all baby.  And through the roof cute.  He’s a killer.  I’m so in love, it makes me cry some days!  So when his bottom lip curls under, and his eyes rush with tears, I very simply fall apart.  And when I hand him over into the adoring arms of the ladies who care for him, his screams and his arms reaching out for me, are almost more than I can bear.  I wasn’t ready for this.  And maybe he isn’t ready for this.  Maybe I’m rushing things.  Or am I projecting?!  I know some kids start childcare far younger than Zeph and in many instances parents have to return to work and there is no choice.  But every child has different needs right?  I signed him up for January because it was the beginning of a new year, because Maple started nursery at the same age, and because I need to get a handle on my life and find out what’s out there for me here in Melbourne.  It is supposed to be a year of really looking at whether our move here is the right decision and to properly assess that, I have to get stuck in.  But as well as this, I truly feel that Zeph needs interaction.  He has missed out on so much of what Mae had in London; endless play dates with my incredible mum group; music groups; swimming lessons; play centres and so on.  Here, with no mum group, he has not been surrounded by little bubbas his own age who he can grow with and play with.  He has a big sister and that is a great thing.  But I think that nursery will bring him into a world of little ones and fun play, and watching other sprogs eat so he might become a little more enthusiastic about it on a more regular basis!

The first week was dreadful.  One hour on the Wednesday and one and a half hours on the Friday.  Nothing right?  He was devastated and had to be held the entire time.  He bawled when I returned to collect him and has clung to me ever since.  His clingyness is through the roof.  The next week we upped his visits to two hours and some of the same behaviour persisted, but they did manage to get him to sleep, and they showed me some photos of him positively beaming out in the playground walking about.  But he would not touch any food.  Not a crumb.  He missed a boob feed too, so the lack of calorie intake stresses out this here mamma.  Instead he devoured everything I put in front of him when we got home.  Perhaps he made up for it.

During all of this, every bone in my body was saying “scrap it, take him out, nurture him, hold him to your bosom, keep him with you, take him to fun activities and return to this later in the year.  He’s not ready…he’s not ready…you’re not ready…”…ummmm.  But last week he did a half day and then a full day.  Yes his bottom lip curled over, he cried so that every ounce of me ached as I left, but apparently he toddled about, he joked, he laughed, he was naughty and cute and funny and seemed to really enjoy himself.  And on one day he even helped himself to some lunch and ate, and ate well.

So I will persist.  My gut now tells me this could and will be a good thing.  We’ll give it a few more weeks and if the trend continues to be an upward one, then we will know that this is the right thing to do.  In London I briefly researched childminders, but it wasn’t for Mae.  She thrives in the big group setting.  I’ve been told that family daycare exists here too, so perhaps that is something for me to keep in mind.

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