The Five Kids You Will Meet at Daycare

1. The Bully.  This kid is super cute and baby-faced, but man, does he pack a punch. I once watched him beat up a girl at her own birthday party! In the past, I used to really like him, but Mama K, the better judge of character, has always been wary. How can you spot him? The teacher is always correcting his behavior and his cubby almost always has an incident report attached to it. Also, Lucie really likes him, so they’re often causing mischief together. Greeeeaaaat.

2. Egghead. Nice kid, just has a funny shaped head. His mom is gorgeous, though, so there’s hope.

3. Nora. Blonde, smiley, smallest kid in the class. Always watching you like a haunted house portrait. Her parents are engineers, so naturally she mastered potty training in a week. Nora’s dad: “We didn’t even tell her to go; she just went!”

4. Disney Princess. Like, all of them mish-mashed together. Or, rather like their costumes were layered upon one another as a means to keep warm in a Disney snowpacolypse, and then peeled off in a random reveal.

5. Scuzzy. This is my favorite one!! Why, you ask? Because the minute she ran across the room with her ratty hair and raisin-covered face, I knew I loved her. Maybe not when Lucie gets lice or hand, foot & mouth disease from her, but in the meantime, she makes us look like really responsible parents. And, in this age of Lucie picking out all of her completely uncoordinated clothes, we need all the help we can get to look good. Even if it’s by comparison.

They say it’s your birthday

Scene: a busy morning at our local Starbucks. Lucie has dragged Mama K to the bathroom while Mama C waits in line to order breakfast. It is Lucie’s 3rd birthday. Mama K and Lucie join Mama C.

Lucie: What’s that? (points to cake pop in the display case)

Mama C: Oh, nothing.

Lucie: Want that. (eager pointing)

Mama K to Mama C: She really wants it.

Mama C: She’s not having cake for breakfast.

Lucie: That! That! That!

Mama K: But it’s her birthday.

Mama C (sing song voice): She doesn’t know that.

Lucie: Mama. Mommy. Mommy. Mama. (pointing)

Mama C: No, Lucie.

Lucie: Mama! Mommeeeeeeeee!

Mama C: Lucie, I said–

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The villaining

So… you thought you were a decent human being, eh? We’ll try these things and then come back and let me know how good you feel about yourself:

– brush your kid’s hair while she cries and says “Mama, no.”

– take your toddler out past her bedtime and wake her up after you pull into the garage. You monster!

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“This is my tired pose.”

– tell your child the last yogurt is the one flipped upside down by her on the kitchen floor.

– pull her away from a birthday party because she’s potty training and you don’t want a big mess in public. Instead, you get a meltdown.

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Still feeling like a member of the human race?

– try taking her blanket away because she has FOUR already in the car.

– explain to her why the mamas can have beer but she can’t. Then consider giving her a little sip just to calm her down.

– take her to the dentist.

– scrub behind her ears.

– drop her off at daycare.

Meanie. Might as well call yourself Gaston or Ursula or Uncle Scar from now on.

The Heartbreak

Sometimes it is small. Like when she falls and cries, or even the times she falls and gets right back up. The almighty instinct to absorb her pain kicks in, or in the other case, it’s awe and astonishment. Pride. Swelling heart.

Other times the feelings are internalized, mixed and difficult for even the other parent to fully understand. It happened when I realized she suddenly learned to count to ten correctly (when did that happen?), or watching her gently pet our sick and dying dog with such kind and curious intent.

Lately it has been shameful and helpless. The heartache. Why is she behind others when it comes to vocabulary, comprehension, enunciation? How did we backslide in swim class to the point that she can’t make it 30 minutes without bawling and breaking down? And these two words: potty training.

Then there is the shared sentiment that plagues a generation. What kind of world will she inherit? Environment, society, global community. Can I protect her from the monsters both metaphysical and real? Oh, and the cost of college. Ugh. HeartBURN.

Finally is the sorrow of want. Things out of my control, or that I should have harnessed but didn’t. I wish I made more money for her, had a shorter commute to work for her, could provide her with a sibling, or simply put down the damn phone when she was dancing to the opening theme of “Superstore” last night. Instead of savoring that moment, I was deleting junk mail or reading a “Top ten secrets about broccoli” list. And none of those secrets pertained to getting my kid to eat vegetables, so…

Parenting is a great joy. Like falling in love every day of the year. And sometimes… parenting is just a series of heartbreaks: big, small, meaningful and fleeting. Worth it? Every single one.

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*Photos by Kellie O’Donnell