I’d be headed back to school tomorrow for the new year to begin. Normal is not in my vocabulary right now as I ponder what is really normal? Is normal putting Tatum in day care from 7:45-4:15 five days a week? Is normal moving back in with my mom after being on my own (thank you very much) for almost three decades? Is normal going full throttle into my career in education, obtaining a doctorate in three years and teaching passionately for the past ten plus years…and then putting it on hold for…a what? A child?
Yes. It should be normal. It should happen without a bat of a questioning eye or a fearful wink. It should just be…normal.
I have a choice here. Do I focus on what I’m giving up? OR do I focus on what I’m gaining? This is a choice I will make every single day as I’m with her e..v…e…r…y s…i..n..g..l…e day from dawn to dusk.
Oh, there is one more choice. I could go to my classroom every single day and teach my heart out. I’d be fulfilled beyond professional measure because I’m working with my favorite middle school age group with a fabulous staff and a phenomenal school. My career would be going swimmingly as I continue to learn and grow as a professional educator. Then, I’d pick up Tatum from her school at 4:15ish, rush her home and force that “quality time,” making sure we’d have fun fun fun. If she acted out (which she often does by the end of the day), our fun would turn into the magic of “undoing.” The undoing (discipline) would be the focus of our evening instead of the relationship we would have built in the time she would have been with me. (Of course she is going to act out if I’m home all day, but at least we’d have a strong foundation of a relationship. Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.) Then, I’d have to get her to bed quickly by 6:30 so she could have a quality 12 hour night’s sleep. The next day, then, I’d have to get her up at 6:30 and rush her to school so I could get to school on time myself. The weekends would be “our time.” Isn’t this what is normal these days for working professionals?
Normal. Hmm. Just could not do it this year. Not when she is going from the age of two to three. Just couldn’t do it. (I will give a caveat in that there were incredible benefits from having her in daycare/school for the past 18 months. She made friends, learned to be very social, and gained some skills in learning).
Learning so much about the crucial first three years of life, I opted to make an gargantuan change this year. Case in point:
Girl child starts to exhibit little un-lovely behaviors. (not uncommon for any toddler) Now, some would say…”NORMAL.” Perhaps this comes from an unmet need…. or is it something she has seen in the daycare? The child never ever ever acts out at school, so she comes home and tries it out on mom. What will she do? Will she notice me? Give me attention? Yes! I got a rise out of her!
Moreover, what about the intense feelings the child gets when she walks into school. (some do and deal with their emotions with shutting down or winding up) Her cortisol levels rise and this much activity among peers can be overwhelming to an under two year old. Navigating through this is scary without mommy. THEN, when she is confronted with any stress or negativity, who is there to guide her with feedback? The childcare giver? The childcare giver is navigating 5-10 other toddlers! Plus, how does one know it’s positive?
Finally, when mommy is with said child, it’s “quality” time. This means mommy is constantly attending to her. When mommy is not, it’s not natural for her, and she gets clingy. Also, it’s difficult to discipline her when mommy sees her so little. Then when mommy does, this is the vision and memory of the mommy…the disciplinarian.
I again will repeat, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Without the depth of a tight relationship (through time spent together) ,what I tell her or how I guide her may not stick and may lead to worse rebellion. This way, she learns to trust me and know that I truly love her enough to discipline her. The “OTHER” hours I’m with her, we can have fun and she’ll WANT to be with me. SO, why would she want to act out?
“Pay me now or pay me later.” It may not be “normal” or even popular and most people put their child in daycare. These three years must be foundational and crucial. Otherwise, I pay it later in the teen years and so will she. How else can I help her to embrace Jesus and her Father God as much as I do? By trusting and believing in Him as I step out of the boat and walk in faith this year. Normally.