Without looking, without stopping, I walked quickly through the crosswalk and down the street. I had just dropped Joanie off at daycare for the first time and knew that if I didn’t get out of there I would lose control of the sob I had been wrestling with for the last twenty minutes. Despite my best efforts I was eventually tackled by tears, and I stopped, embarrassed and crying, in front of a group of tourists eating bagels from paper bags.
“As you’re enjoying famous Montreal bagels, look to your left and you’ll find an inconsolable weeping woman.”
The night before, as I wrote Joanie’s name on the tags of her shirts and folded them neatly into her new back pack, the purchasing of which had also made me cry, Eric and I repeatedly examined how we felt about sending our daughter to daycare so early. We agreed that is was the right decision though I still felt guilty. I realize only now that the thing that made me question my decision did not come from within me, but from the concerned looks and unsolicited “but she’s so young”’s that other people offered continuously.
Yes, she’s young. At four months she is among the youngest babies at her daycare. But this reflects a conscious decision we made as parents. At ten days old we brought Joanie to one of our favourite restaurants and in the last four months she’s been in more dining rooms than most food critics. She’s perfectly at home, sitting on a bar, watching chef’s work. Often, she prefers to be in restaurants or walking in her buggy in our neighbourhood than at home in her play yard. She smiles brightly as we meet friends in coffee shops. When we introduce her to other babies she reaches out to play. Joanie is boldly social. Everywhere we go people know her name. We’re not aiming for notoriety, that’s not the point, but it is important to us that she grows up an active and engaged member of her community, friendly and unafraid.
The daycare we have sent Joanie to is primarily French but its teachers sing to the children in Farsi, Arabic and other languages. At home she is spoken to in English. Our hope is that Joanie will gain an understanding of French and English in tandem while being encouraged to appreciate the beauty of other languages. So not only will she be introduced to other people but also their varied cultures, which will in turn contribute to our community-minded household philosophy.
When I pick her up at daycare I ask her what she got up to that day and her teachers relay her activities. They say: we ate and napped and had a big poop, “un gros kaka,” as they say in French, which I find a very strange expression as it is often used by healthcare professionals in the most formal of settings. And then I take her home and we carry on, a happy little family.