Wednesday, January 9, 2013

From one end of daycare to the other

The news came in an email. The content of the message was clear right away thanks to the subject line including my daughter's name and punctuated with three exclamation marks.

Roughly three years ago today, the wife and I first set foot in the daycare on our tour not sure what to make of the strange sights, sounds, and smells battering our already tense senses.  The deluge of brightly colored things, obvious child-made art adorning the walls, and safety gates triggered a rush of Oh, crap. This is really happening panic-ridden thoughts.

The wife, the smart one, masked her tensions with pertinent questions you're supposed to ask about nap times, feedings, curriculum. I nodded like I was paying attention but was really memorizing teacher names to cyber-research later. Sure, Susan has her B.A. and working on a Master's in childhood education but how do we know she's not running an underground toddler fight club on the side? HOW CAN SHE AFFORD SCHOOL ON A TEACHER'S SALARY?

After enough annoyed glances from the wife, I did ask one question, one I assume only a Dad would ask. What if there's a fire?  You've got multiple rooms full of infants and toddlers, a handful of adults, and there's two feet of snow and it's ten degrees outside. It was January in Minnesota, so seemed like a logical concern.  Had the Director not shown anything but complete confidence in her answer, her response would have sent us out the door and looking for Mary Poppins' cell number before she could show us the cafeteria.  Turns out, if there is reason to evacuate the building, they dump 3-4 infants in a crib, grabs some blankets, and wheel 'em out the front door. No big deal.  Welcome to Minnesnoda.

Moving down the hall from the soft music and soothing voices of Infant Pleasantville, we hit Realm of the Toddlers.  It was like going from a museum and then stumbling into a Kid Rock concert. The rush of sound and smells was oppressive. Seeing the little big people running around, using real words while manipulating opposable thumbs was surreal. The may have been just two and three years old but they may as well have been college freshman. Our little kidney bean or pear or watermelon or whatever size fruit the your baby is now this size of this fruit email the wife sends weekly could never get that big in two years, right?  Maybe five, more like six years old I thought as one greasy-faced boy looked at with an index finger firmly up his nose. "Hi, I'm free years old" he said. Sweet Jeebus, they can talk?  When did Dr. Moreau start up a daycare?

Deciding this place was the least likely to do her harm or force her to make wallets during "circle time" two and a half years and a good sized yachts worth of tuition later, we're still dropping her off there. Through the years (Years? When did this happen?), she's risen through the daycare ranks, moving from class to class, from little infants to average size infants to big little infants to entry-level toddlers to intermediate toddlers to plain old toddlers.  Along the way we've seen our first little kiddy art projects - like all daycares I'm assuming, most of these are just hand prints on something, a little glitter, and maybe something that was once edible that no longer is which ensures your kid will eventually eat it later.

Daycare brought a whole new world of firsts. A petting zoo. Santa. A magician. Climbing in her first real firetruck. Her first time being pulled sweaty, kicking, and screaming from a bouncy house. Her first crush. Her first bite.

But here we are now, looking at the end of the hallway that was once so far, far away. Preschool.

That's what the email said. I read it three times to be sure. We knew it was coming and despite saying we wanted it and it was best for her I really didn't want it because I hate change as much as I hate getting old. I was just getting to enjoy our Lego building sessions at night, I'm not ready for Algebra homework and driving lessons.

But alas, her parent's mother's dynamic genes produced a superhuman and she was moving up ahead of schedule. So far ahead of schedule the email included words you don't normally associate with good news like "legally" and "waiver" and "the state."  She's a head taller than anyone else in her class, can sing the first verse of Jingle Bells like a coked-up Janet Jackson, and count to ten in German but I know the real reasoning was the obvious safety concern over the potential for her pummeling someone half her size into the racetrack carpet for the last pretzel at snack time. Again.

That's it, one more class to go and next she's on the curb waiting for a big orange bus. God help me.