Especially in the early days of being a working parent, I found morning separation time gut-wrenching. Daycare and school pick-up at the end of the day has always been a moment of glee-filled reuniting, but not so with morning daycare drop off.
Loving my job and my daycare provider really didn’t seem to make this separation any easier. As working parents, we all know that horrible feeling of handing crying children over to their caretaker, or prying them off your leg. There’s probably nothing so filled with potential for inducing guilt as that exact moment.
I also discovered moving through this experience wasn’t a once-and-done thing. We may have weeks on end of happy daycare drop offs, but a new phase—be it a developmental milestone, the first day back after a vacation, or bad nights of sleep—then comes and brings new tears.
Establishing a routine
When we first did the daycare transition with our oldest son, our daycare provider gave us great advice not to linger and to establish a predictable drop-off routine. Traditions and rituals can make all the difference in the lives of our little ones (and in our own lives as parents), as they provide a sense of predictability and stability. Our drop-off ritual has evolved over time, though.
One day when my oldest was about 3 years old, my husband came home and informed me that “he LOVES pushing me out the door when I do morning drop-off!” My first thought: “You let him push you?!” and then, upon reflection, “hmm…that actually sounds pretty cool.”
The big push out the door started as a bit of a game between my son and his daddy, but it quickly became an important part of the daycare drop off routine for the entire family. There is something about little hands on my butt pushing me out the door that makes me smile every time. The teachers crack up watching it, so it lightens the mood all around. And my youngest sometimes even recruits his toddler friends to help, and they shout “Teamwork!!” while giving us the big push.
Empowering your child
I love that the act of pushing seems to give the kids the feeling of a little bit of power over that moment in the day when we all go our own ways. And that our tradition of “big squeezie hug, big squeezie kiss, big push out the door” really highlights for me that fundamental tension between attachment and independence that parenting is all about.
My oldest still does the big push even though he’s now in Pre-K at our local elementary school. Of course, there are days when both of us want to hold on tight. But the push makes us—and bystanders—smile as we head to work and school for the day.