When I realized going back to work after a year and a half maternity leave was inevitable, I started touring daycares. Since most people add their kids to waitlists for the best ones when they find out they’re pregnant, that put me well over two years behind.
In my 20s, I was much better about being on time; in fact, sometimes I’d have to wait in the car to avoid being the first one to the party. As I got older, I’d sometimes show up late to dinner dates or doctor appointments. I guess I’m just more relaxed now--and have different priorities.
Happily, when I’m late these days, I have someone else to blame. Autumn was napping, or finishing lunch, or fighting her diaper change. She is my reason for being and, I am learning, an extremely convenient scapegoat.
Alas, I have to take responsibility for not seeking childcare options for my daughter while I was pregnant, but I blame her for at least 15.5 months of our tardiness in the search.
The truth is — and I am kind of afraid to jinx it by writing this — I really lucked out. In life they say you get what you deserve, but we all know that’s not usually the case. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to jerks and really there’s no rhyme or reason for it all.
As a kid, I was a brat; very stubborn and always tattling. At the height of my mischief, I remember my mom wishing upon me a child just like myself. I would respond like this:
“Good! I hope I get one who’s smart and funny and cute, too!”
But I don’t think that’s exactly what she meant.
So when I got pregnant, and especially when I got pregnant with a girl, I knew I was in trouble. If there ever was a look that said, “Ah! Sweet revenge!” it was my mom’s at my gender reveal when I cut into my very pink cake.
She was smirking from ear to ear and said, “I’m not saying a word,” and continued smirking.
It was pretty funny.
Ugh. What would I do if I got a mini-me? I am not nearly as easy going as my mom, nor am I as loving and forgiving. My mom is the matriarch of our entire extended family, but more importantly, she is the jackpot in the mom lottery. Not only would she throw herself in front of a bus for any one of her children or grandchildren, but she’d do it for yours, too.
She could handle baby/toddler/teenage Jill. We didn’t butt heads too often because she’d always give in, which probably didn’t do much for my development in some ways, but for sure made me a better person in others. Because I rarely had to take no for an answer, I thank my mom for my ability to go after--and keep going after--whatever I want.
Anyway, there’s no way I could handle a hard-headed kid with even half the grace and warmth that my mom had raising me.
And fortunately for me, so far, I haven’t been put to the test.
I’m sure Autumn will continue to change a million times over, but from what I can see right now, I totally got the kid I did not at all deserve.
Of course she sometimes whines and cries like every toddler, but overall she’s pretty even keel. No one is interested in hearing another mom wax poetic about her daughter--unless maybe they get to wax poetic back about theirs--so I will just leave you with one example that says it all.
One morning, my mom walked into the kitchen looking sad. I hugged her and then Autumn, who was sitting in her high chair witnessing my affection, started signing more, and then pointing at us. So I gave Grandma another hug. She pointed to Grandpa, then Grandma, and signed more, so they hugged. It went on for a few more hugs.
And that’s my daughter.
And she’s why I put off the daycare search and kept fantasizing that something magical would happen allowing me to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.
I blame Autumn.
And then an email smacked me back to reality. Less than two weeks before I was supposed to meet my 4th graders, a daycare spot opened up. They were asking if I wanted to put down a deposit.
One of the enormous pluses of working where I do is that nine years ago, when I started, I met Ki there. We survived our first-year in the trenches as educators together, and it’s a bond that’s maybe similar to soldiers who’ve fought side-by-side in battle. She’s a mother of two college-aged boys and while she’s only slightly older, she’s a ridiculous amount wiser. She’s my Yoda and together, we are yin-yang; her thick skin to my sensitivity, her logic to my neurosis, her calm to my storm.
And so when I called her to say that I was having a breakdown thinking about leaving Autumn, she told me that it’s normal, and that it will keep happening, and that it’s okay. She said I should switch my perspective from that of leaving my daughter to giving her the opportunity to go somewhere to learn, socialize, and play. And then some other really sensible things that I wish I could remember well enough to repeat verbatim.
Being upset starts to get really old and so do I, too old to pout. And so I’m taking a page from Ki’s book and trying to think logically. If I don’t leave Autumn in daycare now, she’ll be leaving me in two years anyway to go to preschool. The only way to avoid anyone leaving anyone is to never have had her in the first place.
And so I’ll take the leaving in order to have the reuniting, and I’ll gladly buckle up for the roller coaster of emotions that comes with motherhood; the ups and downs in all their glory.
Two years ago this week, I was waiting to find out if my embryo transfer was successful and whether I was, indeed, pregnant. And now, I have the privilege of anticipating the next chapter of our journey.
Again I blame Autumn, and then I cry as I pay the daycare deposit.
But only because it’s expensive.