Filling out the questionnaire for Maren’s first day of daycare next week. It asks, “How will your child show distress?” I’m wondering if it is considered a faux-pas to write: “She will bitch.”

Back when I was pregnant– which seems like a far and distant memory, kind of like the last time I completed a sleep cycle and the last time Mitch and I had intercourse and the last time I was able to write a blog entry in one sitting– I asked Maren’s future daycare providers how they handled a baby’s first day. I teach in the toddler room, which is down the hall, and whenever I see a new family walking in, I cringe. From my vantage point, it looks like this:

Mom and Dad come in, and Mom has that stony, still face of a woman who is in mourning. Dad is usually one of two people: either he is there utterly for support, and is fidgety and bored during the entire transaction, or he is just as attentive and freaked out as Mom. Invariably, they are carrying with them an arsenal of baby stuff– just in case Muffin needs something from home. They always stop before they get to the baby room and Mom takes a deep breath.

Occasionally, we get one of those Moms who is able to keep a hold of herself at least until she gets into the room. But usually, this is when Mom bursts into tears. I have yet to see a Dad cry, but I’m sure it happens.

And Muffin? She is passed out for this entire experience– which sometimes makes it worse, because then the Moms are all “Oh my God, what if she wakes up and is scared?” And so then they insist on waking up their 6 week old baby to say goodbye to her. And then, because Muffin is awake and staring at her, Mom is suddenly immobile. It is now impossible to leave her until she falls BACK asleep, when Mom and Dad can sneak out without being detected.

Sometimes, because Muffin is sleeping, Mom and Dad just put her car seat down in the room and stand there awkwardly. Then they say something like, “Well…. okay… I guess that’s it.”

I’ve seen this interaction probably over a hundred times in my life. By the time they get to my room, even the parents who have always stayed at home are so ready to have some alone time and adult conversation that they have barely put their kid in my arms before they are hightailing it for the door. By the time they get to the front door, they are shouting, “Freedom! Sweet, glorious freedom!” While mentally picturing the sublime beauty of a car ride that takes place in total silence. They might even run some errands, taking their sweet time stopping in at a few stores and going about their day in peace and quiet and without the fear of getting chocolate covered fingerprints all over everything.

Sometimes I want to tell the brand new Moms– Just wait. About the time that they are 18 months old, this place will look like Mecca and I will be your best friend.

But when they are dropping off their 6 week old, all you can really tell them is: “It’ll be okay. Don’t worry. See you tonight.” Until they leave.

So, here’s the thing.

I go back to work on April 1st, which means that Maren starts daycare. She will go with me to work, and be in a room just down the hall. I will be able to visit her every single lunch break if I want, and peek at her through the window, and when she gets a boo-boo I can go and kiss it if I feel like it (although her teachers would get REALLY sick of me if I did). AND I have the virtually unheard of advantage of the fact that I know her teachers. Known them for years. Went to Suzy’s wedding.

And still? Even with all that?

I’m just a mess.

I had this whole plan– I started taking classes a week ago, so that I could get used to leaving her. I have been taking little jaunts out here and there so that I can practice focusing on other things than Babydom. AND I’ve taken her to the daycare about six times, to try to build up her immune system to the germs they have, let her get used to the sights, sounds, and smells. I’ve kind of done everything I can think to do to get us both ready for the day that we go back.

Have you all heard that quote that they tell you about having a baby? That when you have a child, it’s like your heart is walking around outside your body? Dude. It’s so cliche– but so totally true. It’s not my fault. It’s BIOLOGY.

While I was pregnant, I had this recurring nightmare that I would leave Maren places and forget her. Like that I would pack her up before work but then forget to put her in the car. Or the worst one, I put her, in her carseat, on top of the car while I unloaded groceries and then left her up there and drove away. Yup.

And now that she’s on the outside, occasionally I will still get this weird panicky feeling and saw, “Where’s the baby?” The other day, she was resting comfortably in my friend Elicia’s arms when I freaked everyone out by asking where she was. One time she was in her crib sleeping and I sat up at 2 am, waking Mitch up by yelling, “WHERE’S MAREN?”

Dude. I KNOW, OKAY?

I keep trying to picture when I will walk into daycare and put her down, smile bravely at her teachers and say, “Okay– I guess that’s it. See you later.” And then LEAVE. FOR TEN HOURS.

So, I imagine, that on April 1st, Mitch is going to walk in with me, holding my arm, trying to secretly check his watch, while I explain to her teachers that MY baby has to be fed in this super important exclusive way that only MAREN uses, and that she hardly EVER cries so if she does, you should really pay attention to her because it must be SERIOUS, and PLEASE call me if you think she needs ANYTHING….

And I’m sure that Suzy will probably step over to me and say, “It’s okay, she’ll be all right. See you tonight.”

You spend your whole life thinking that you’re different and special…. but biology always gets us in the end.

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