Keeping Mum
Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Venturing out


I hadn't sent my children to daycare, but I knew the day had to come eventually.

The momentous day, really, when my eldest born - formerly fused to my right hip - had a little Wiggles-themed backpack strapped to his back with a lunch box, drink bottle and change of clothes, and was sent into the paid care of other people for a discreet period of time on a regular basis.

It's hardly a huge step. Two afternoons a week (there's a year-long waiting list for morning slots), three hours apiece (eventually, when he gets used to it) at a kindy just up the road.

I'm certainly ready for it: a toddler in his "terrible twos" who's decided to stop napping in the afternoon is a tough proposition.

There is literally not a single break in the day for "mummy time" (except if you count jailing him in his cot while you simultaneously scarf down a chocolate bar and check your emails), and barely any at the moment for the second-born baby.

And yet, and yet. A few tears of mine were shed when we got the call up, a reaction deemed to be fairly pathetic by most of my contemporaries. But how did the little man take it?

Well, as I was explaining to the kindy teacher that my little boy had only ever been cared for by friends and family, and that he might be a little shy, and he may cry, and even pass out from the horror of it all, my little boy escaped his mother's fevered clutches and ran into the sandpit, only to emerge some 20 minutes later...

Um, okay, he's not that bothered about my presence.

Then came mat time. Not interested in that, it seemed, but he got up and danced in front of everyone - the only child to do so - when ABBA's Dancing Queen was played. Err right, he's not that shy either, apparently.

Maybe I should go then, teacher? Yes, please don't come back for at least an hour. In fact, call first.

A relief then, that a child cared for at home can make the transition. He didn't seem traumatised.

On his second visit he cried when I left, and stood by the gate in the pouring rain assuring staff that "mummy back soon". But again, it hasn't seemed to leave any permanent scars. He's back to kindy today.

My rationale in waiting until he was over two before resorting to some kind of care was so that he could communicate whether he liked a place or not, and I still think that for us, that's been a basically sound idea.

Of course, it seems to be about the right time, too, that he's socialised to be with other children and to not always consider himself the centre of the universe.

However, the hope that paid care would turn my rather reserved little man into a gregarious social charmer might be off the mark.

Although it seems to me children in daycare (or any group care situation) do seem to "come out" of themselves more, over-riding it all are the twin factors of nature and home enviroment.

Two of the most gregarious and boisterous little boys I know are kept at home - their parents can't even take them to playgroups!

And many I know who go to daycare are fantastic at keeping themselves occupied (a useful tool in later life) but are hardly scene stealers.

Ultimately, parents want their children to be everything they weren't, but as experts will tell you, children often display our worst characteristics in droves.

I am a reserved person and so, at heart, is my husband. We are hardly likely to ever be spawning a Dame Edna Everage mach 2!

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