Caoimhe wakes up every day and asks, “Is it a Chris day?” The answer defines her dress, her mood, her pace. This morning I replied (making a special effort not to let my voice crack), “Today is your last Chris day—ever.”
Chris is Caoimhe’s daycare provider. As of today at 4 p.m., we are daycare-free. We are $500/month richer. Yet, my stomach is tight and it’s everything I can do to keep from crying.
There’s the obvious reason: Caoimhe’s no longer a baby. She’s going to kindergarten this year. Our baby years are officially done.
I’m nostalgic about that, but I don’t think that’s what’s making me cry on a dime for the past two months at the mention of this last Chris day.
I think it’s because we’re saying goodbye to Chris.
Chris has helped parent our kids since 2011. We were reluctant to send them to daycare. We had enjoyed having them at home, hard through it was. We were of the mind set that sending our kids out every day to be cared for by another person that wasn’t family didn’t make any sense. Why did we have kids if we weren’t going to see them grow up ourselves? People kept telling us, “These early years go so fast.” Well, we were going to be there for every moment…until we couldn’t.
A friend recommended Chris and his was the only daycare we looked at. I was in Nanaimo working on the day Richard went to Chris’s to investigate if our kids would be safe and cared for there. Richard was especially uncomfortable about moving the kids into care because it was he who cared for the kids at home while I was working.
When I called home to find out how the visit went, I expected Richard to be overly critical about Chris. I’d had reports from friends who had visited prospective daycares only to walk out in tears at the thought of leaving their children in such an uncomfortable place. Yet Richard had nothing bad to say. “Nothing?” I asked. “No, it’s fine. Chris is great with the kids, especially the boys. The house is tidy, there’s no TV, lots of toys, he insists on healthy snacks, there’s a nap room, there’s a big yard to play in, they do crafts.”
Our undefined, unspoken checklist had all the necessary boxes ticked.
Our girls have spent as much time at Chris’s house as our own. He has changed their diapers, read them stories, cuddled them when they’re sad, reminded them of their manners, fixed scrapes and kissed bumps. He witnessed their growth, their lessons learned, their friendships blossom. I was sometimes regretful that I couldn’t witness these moments too, but I never doubted they were getting the same level of care as they would have received at home. In fact, another parent and I laugh about how Chris is a better parent to our kids than we are.
We no longer have daily access to those moments, not that we did anyway. At pick up, we never asked him for a break down of the day’s events; those are just details. It’s being present for the sum of the minutiae that connects us with kids in the most special way. We have this with our kids because we feed, clothe, bathe, play with, discipline, and teach them, but, other than their grandparents, no one else does. Except for Chris.
I felt this a little bit at each year-end of kindergarten for the older two. I was unreasonably sad saying goodbye to their teacher, Louise. On the one hand, I’m no more than an acquaintance with Louise, or even Chris—we don’t socialize outside of the pick ups and drop offs; on the other hand, they are special to me because they shared in the daily details of those who are an extension of my heart and soul: my littles.
Caoimhe starts kindergarten in September. We found out her teacher is going to be Louise. We couldn’t be happier.
Next June, bring on the tears.