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May 6 2014

Turns Out I Don’t Have a Monopoly On My Toddler’s Love

By at 1:08 pm

toddler-daycare

I visit the toddler’s room first. After seven months of day care drop off trial and error, I’ve discovered that this routine works best. The 3-year-old runs ahead. I follow her into the classroom, hauling two massive tote bags and a squirming 16-month-old.

The toddler waves frantically at her lunch bag. My 3-year-old finds a toy to play with while I locate her sister’s breakfast. I hand the toddler off to *Miss Jane, the teacher, and dig out a container of mini pancakes. I relay the morning’s events: wake-up time, last diaper change, and the most recent meal.

“She didn’t sleep well last night,” I add. “Teething, maybe? I don’t know, but she might be a little cranky this morning.” Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 4 2014

Every Time My Son Eats a Cheeseburger at Daycare, It Makes My Mother Cringe

By at 11:53 am

cheeseburger

I grew up keeping strictly kosher, both inside the home and out. My husband, on the other hand, grew up eating pretty much everything from shellfish to pork. These days, we work hard to maintain a kosher household, but do not keep kosher outside the home. For me, that means sticking to vegetarian items, but for my husband, it means all bets are off. And I don’t have a problem with that.

But a friend raised an interesting question a few years back when she observed that although I freely admit to not keeping kosher outside the home, she’s yet to witness me eat anything other than dairy and vegetables in a restaurant setting. “So what are you guys going to do if you have a kid?” she asked. “Will he follow Mommy’s rules, or Daddy’s rules?”

We didn’t really give it much thought until about a year ago, when our then 1-year-old moved up to the toddler room at our daycare center and became eligible for free breakfast and lunch. The idea of not having to pack up two meals on a daily basis was enough to convince me to go for it. However, when I casually mentioned this to my mother, her initial response went something like this: “But have you seen the menu? And just how unkosher is it?” Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 21 2014

Not to be Cliche, But Raising a Child Really Does “Take a Village”

By at 10:35 am

day-care

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Vayahkel. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

I was recently hanging out with a mama friend who’s been staying home with her toddler. She’s starting to look for day care, to her own surprise. As she put it: “Before I had kids, I thought, why even have kids if you’re going to give them to someone else to raise them? And now I’m like, oh yeah–he needs to do his thing and I need to do my thing and then we’re both happy to see each other in the afternoon.”

I didn’t think I expected myself to be a full-time mom. Although my mom stayed home to raise me and my two sisters, we were taught we could do anything boys could do. Which by implication means we could grow up to be a parent and still continue our careers, right? Just like our dad. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 15 2013

When Will This Dreaded Separation Anxiety Phase End?

By at 2:06 pm

little kid crying separation anxiety

Almost every morning my heart is broken. OK, five days a week to be exact. For almost all of last year and so far this year too, dropping my 3-year-old son off at school is a tragic affair, unequaled in torment and misery–until the next day. It reminds me of Prometheus’ punishment for stealing fire from Zeus, but why I deserve this public flailing I’m not so sure.

The sweet little girl who also had a tough time parting from her mama now runs off to play with her friends. The other boy who clung to his father’s neck now runs from him at break neck speed to join everyone at the breakfast table. Long after all the other kids have adjusted to daily day care drop-off, there is my son, clinging to me, crying, nuzzling into my neck; covering me in snot and tears, pleading desperately, “No mama, don’t go. No mama! NO MAMMMMMMAAAAAAA!” Yes, we are the scene makers; the ones the others parents stare at, glad they are not us. The teachers look at me like I am the cause of the problem.

Sigh. Go ahead, judge me. At least we steal every scene we make. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 12 2013

Saying Goodbye to Our Beloved Day Care Provider

By at 9:53 am

day care in blocksWhen my daughter was 12 weeks old, I dropped her off at her new home daycare.

It was not the calmest of days. My grandfather’s shiva was concluding, my husband and I had flown back from our impromptu trip to Canada on the first flight of the morning, he was returning to work at the end of his paternity leave, and I was returning to work (late) after President’s day vacation. My entire family had some horrible flu-like bug we think we picked up at the hospice and my blissful 12-week-old was the only one not hurling. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 30 2013

We Need Better, Affordable Jewish Day Care Options

By at 2:06 pm

hebrew alphabet magnetsWhen my husband and I moved our family from Brooklyn to the wilds of the Long Island suburbs eight months ago, our chief concern was securing great childcare for our twin toddlers. In Brooklyn, from the time they were 3 months old, Avi and Maya had been cared for part-time by Charlotte, a superhero dressed as a 25-year-old aspiring opera singer. Charlotte (Sha-Sha, to everyone in our family who loved her, which was everyone) could do anything our two babies needed, including arrive at our apartment at 8 a.m. so that I could hop the subway to Manhattan while the girls splatter-painted the walls with oatmeal. Charlotte glided into our lives and made it infinitely better. Alas, Sha-Sha wasn’t interested in moving to the ‘burbs with us. Go figure.

And so, when we landed on the (north) shores of this island, we weighed our options. I would still be working part-time, but really, it was more like three quarters when you considered the longer commute. We didn’t know many people in our new town and worried that a nanny wouldn’t have much to do with the girls, what with the whole everyone-needs-a-car-to-get-anywhere culture. We didn’t like the idea of the girls sitting in the house all day. In addition, at 18 months, Avi and Maya were starting to pick things up, and it seemed like they might just benefit from being in a Jewish environment.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 5 2013

Notes From a 9 Months Pregnant CEO

By at 11:00 am

pregwbriefcaseI had only just met this woman, and our conversation, as I heard it, went like this:

Her: What do you do?

Me: I’m a rabbi. I direct a national Jewish human rights organization that. . .

Her: No, no—when are you due?

Me: Oh. Beginning of July.

Her: That’s so wonderful! Do you know what you’re having? Is it your first? How are you feeling?

And so on.

Since I’ve become visibly pregnant with my second child, I’ve often felt that others perceive me not as a capable CEO and religious leader, but instead as a walking, talking uterus. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 1 2013

Separation Anxiety Sucks, Can You Help This Mom?

By at 11:55 am

Toddler cryingEvery morning on our way to daycare, Charlotte starts crying “no mommy” in her soft sweet voice as soon as we turn the corner off the main street, several blocks away from the synagogue where she attends their Early Childhood Center.  By the time we arrive, her eyes are red and she’s snuffling and mumbling “no mommy” with tears streaming down her little cheeks. When I do finally make my exit (whether I do a quick pass off and wave, or sit for 15 minutes to read stories), she usually gives a dramatic silent scream as I leave the classroom.

I hear her sobbing uncontrollably as I head back to the parking lot.

During the first few months of daycare, she cried when I dropped her off. I was told this was the transition phase. Then for a magical month she would smile, wave, and say “bye-bye, mamma” after we put her lunch bag and jacket in her cubby. Now we are back to crying, lots and lots of crying. The rational side of me knows it’s “just a phase” of separation anxiety. And yet, my heart breaks anew every morning as the tears stream down her face and I question why I don’t just keep her home with me, all day, every day.  Of course I know I would go crazy and that I am a much better mommy because she goes to daycare a few days a week and she gets a lot out of being with early childhood educators and kiddies her own age. But still, sometimes her profound separation anxiety feels like a karmic punishment for my selfishness at needing “me time.”

She likes her school and teachers, she talks all the time about Eli, Natalie, Zoe, Nitzan, Hannah and the gang of kiddies in her Tootim (strawberry) class. The vast majority of afternoons I pick her up, after checking the board to see her nap and diaper stats, the teachers tell me that aside from the first 20 minutes or so, she had a wonderful day.  So what gives? Why the water works at drop off? She’s almost 2.

I’m not, nor have I ever been, one of those moms that spends every moment of everyday with their baby. Happily, I have let anyone who wants to, hold her since her baby naming. My husband spends a lot of alone one-on-one time with her so I can run to the gym or go out for drinks with my girlfriends. Her Bubbie puts her to bed at least half the time and spends lots of afternoons and evening with Charlotte and her Zadie while my husband and I go house hunting and out for the occasional movie and dinner date. She had a nanny from month 3 to month 10.  I don’t like or use the term “stranger danger” around her. Intentionally, I have done all these things with the hope that it would prevent just the sort of separation anxiety we are currently dealing with these days.

Admittedly, I’ve resorted to giving her a pacifier at drop off, something she hasn’t been interested in during the day for months. Perhaps I need to sweat all over her Cyclops alien “lovie” and have her hug it while I seemingly abandon her. We talk about going to school the evening before, how much fun she’ll have –going for a buggy ride to the library, having challah for snack on Friday. Her lip starts to tremble at the mere mention her going to school the next day.

I know a mom who ended up postponing sending her kid off to preschool because she couldn’t handle the crying at drop off.  I get it. As a mom all you want to do is make your kid happy and not cry.

So what are the tricks of the trade? Is there more I can do? Or do I just have to wait until this wave is over and we’re onto the next emotional dip of the toddler roller-coaster? I am at a loss and it makes me sad.

Apr 19 2013

Ancient Chinese Wisdom Got it Right About Postpartum Women

By at 1:30 pm

woman overwhelmed at work with stacks of papersChinese ancients may have something on us modern Westerners. An old Chinese acupuncturist told my husband that back in the old country, women were made to stay in bed and fed soup for two solid months after giving birth.

Old-style Yiddish mamas have a special name for the postpartum woman: she’s a kimpeturin and is chided for lifting a finger to help with housework.

Modern-day America doesn’t seem to have the same respect for the recuperation needs of postpartum women (which explains why so many of them never heal properly from the experience of hosting a live baby in their wombs and then ejecting said baby in a miraculous but painful process that puts their bodies through extreme stress and acrobatics). Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 8 2012

What Do Epidurals Have to do with Day Care?

By at 10:13 am

Recently I sat down with forms for my daughter’s new day care, ready to answer endless questions about whether she uses bottles or sippy cups and how we get her to fall asleep.

I was not expecting to have to answer any questions about my pregnancy and delivery, which happened nearly 15 months ago. But in a section labeled “Part Four: Pre and Post Natal,” there were a few shocking questions including one that made me stop in my tracks: “Did you have any anesthesia or medication during delivery?”

Really?!? What does a day care need with that information? Here, I thought I was moving past my birth experience, enjoying my daughter walking, talking, and climbing, and day care was throwing it back in my face, effectively saying: you may have damaged your child with an epidural.

Read the rest of this entry →

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