When Aidan was born, we were lucky that both sets of grandmothers were willing and able to look after him while we were at work. The arrangement worked well as they split the caregiving duties during the weekdays, and neither were overly taxed by the responsibilities of looking after an infant.
But when he turned two, we made the decision to place him in the full-day childcare centre near my office – a decision that certainly did not endear us to our parents. In fact, I am still getting guilt-tripped about it! But we persevered and managed to get a spot for him about a month after Zac was born (Dragon babies can be so much trouble!). And four months on, I can say that we made the right choice.
Ever since Aidan started daycare, he has been growing in so many ways. He comes home singing songs and reciting nursery rhymes, and we can see that he really loves warbling those tunes! He makes up lyrics as he goes along and it just shows us how creative he can be.
At the same time, his self-feeding skills have improved. He can now slurp up noodles on his own and is happy spooning food into his mouth. Before he went to school, he was proficient in self-feeding but he hardly had practice, because the grandmothers insisted on feeding him. And when we allowed him to self-feed at home, we were admonished for doing so because they feared that he was not getting enough food into his tummy that way. They then started feeding him dinner at 430pm, which meant that he was not interested in eating with us come 7pm, which meant that he didn’t have a chance to self-feed at all. Talk about a vicious cycle.
His communication skills have improved and his ability to express his feelings and thoughts have also grown. He understands instructions well and can mostly follow them. He is most definitely more independent too, and his latest trick is to empty the bath water and put the tub back in place. In school, he can go to sleep on his own and when he wakes up, he is able to play quietly by himself.
The biggest thing, to me, is that he is always happy when I pick him up. No, not just that he is happy to see me at the end of a long day. Whenever I go get him, I try to observe him a little before he spots me. And in those few moments, I can see that he is truly comfortable where he is. Nay, he is, in fact, thriving.
It’s not all a bed of roses at daycare, of course. I know that the food he has there will never rival those lovingly prepared by his doting grandmothers. Ever since he started school, he has been sick (and infecting his little brother too) more often than we like. There was also one instance where he came home with a bag of soaked laundry and we had no clue what happened (he apparently threw up all over himself during a coughing fit, said the teacher when we asked). On some days, he says that he doesn’t want to go to school (but well, neither do I on most days!).
But when I look at the overall picture, I think we made the right decision.
You can say that a lot of these attributes are occurring because it is all part of his development. True, but I strongly believe that the social norms that exist in a group setting have helped to accelerate his growth. These are things he wouldn’t have been able to learn while being at home with his grandmothers, who would most likely just let him play with his toys and watch TV anyway.
At the same time, my frustration level has gone down significantly. Honestly, the two years that he spent with both grandmothers have been fraught with tension and conflict. They did whatever they wanted – such as feeding him solids at four months, letting him use the walker, allowing him to watch TV, steaming his food till he was two although we encouraged baby-led weaning, peeling and quartering his grapes etc. – and scarcely heard what we wanted to say. They love him, true enough, but they also did not accord enough respect for his parents. With Zac, my current motto is to “close one eye” and just wait it out until he is out enough to join his brother in school.
There was this week when Aidan was sick and we kept him out of school. He stayed home with both grandmothers and when the weekend rolled around, we realised that we had a monster on our hands. He was constantly throwing tantrums, exceedingly whiny and terribly inconsolable. We gritted our teeth and got through the weekend, and sent him right back to school the following week.
And what do you know, he was an absolute angel and a delightful child that weekend!
Coincidence? I think not.
So yes, sending our son to daycare has worked for us and I am very glad we decided to do it.