|The sad face gets me every time|
He has only ever missed one day on account of a public holiday. So, twenty one times (not including the initial play/introductory sessions) he has walked up to the gates and every single time it has been the same.
Much like grief has stages, so too does Tricky day care morning routine.
It starts as soon as he realizes what day it is. A helpful clue is that we're getting dressed before 9am.
"Are we going to Perth Pop's house?"
"No, it's Thursday. What do we do on Thursdays?"
And it hits. His eyes widen and then his face crumples. The lip quivers and tears start to well up, threatening to tip over and fall down those still chubby cheeks. Oh, those cheeks.
"I don't want to go to day care."
If he said it in an angry voice maybe it wouldn't be so hard, but instead he whimpers it, dejected.
"I just stay home" he grizzles.
"But nobody will be here! You can't stay home by yourself, who will make your lunch?"
"I can go to Dad's work" (how he manages to speak with that lip so far out I have no idea)
"Awww, we can't go to Dad's work, mate, the day care ladies will miss you too much"
"I don't like them. I don't like day care. I miss you. And I miss Dad. I neeeeeed a cuddle"
And he collapses in to my arms a sobbing, heaving, mess.
It continues the whole car ride. Little sniffles from the back seat. Sometimes from the front seat, too.
When we get there, he holds on tight to my legs. A dance of avoidance that now pulls my hips apart and has me grimacing in pain. He refuses to put his bag away, won't look at the other kids and remains my shadow.
"One more cuddle?" he mewls and buries his head in to my chest, inhaling deeply, "Will you come and pick me up?"
"Of course! I will always come and pick you up. I'll be here at four o'clock, let's look at the clock and figure out when that is"
We go to the clock and he tells me that it will be four o'clock when the big hand is on the twelve and the small hand is on the four. He looks up and with the hint of hope in his voice says "You could pick me up at two o'clock?"
As I die a little bit more inside, I give him a final squeeze and walk out as he attaches himself to the nearest limb of his two favourite "ladies".
This kid has never had a problem leaving me to go with other people. Granted most of the time the other people are related to him, but sometimes they aren't. Sometimes they are MapGuy's work colleagues and he will take their hand and wander off with them. Yet every Thursday, his anxiety is huge.
Right now you're probably wondering why we are still persevering or possibly even thinking that I'm cruel for wanting one day a week to do work and chores (which really isn't happening lately, it is all birth appointments!). It's because he will have kindy two or three days a week next year and we figured this would be a slow, steady introduction. But most importantly, within a few minutes he is fine. He ends up having a pretty bloody good day and is all smiles when I pick him up. He runs up and hugs me then trips over his words as he tells me all the exciting things he has done.
Without fail he invites me in to see where he has been playing and despite it being the same every week I go in and fawn over how cool that train is, or how he makes the dinosaur stomp so well, or how he has "baked" the best cake I've ever eaten. He is positively joyful. You cannot wipe the smile off his face... and he doesn't want to go home.
When we leave he hugs his "ladies" with gusto and runs out, still nattering away about what he has been doing. He is still somewhat reserved and doesn't really play with the other kids... and he refuses to go to the toilet there, preferring to hold on all day and make his kidneys almost explode. But the enthusiasm I see every time I pick him up, and the way he talks about his caregivers all bloody week long makes me feel sure he does actually like it when he is there.
So we keep going.
And I keep getting my heart ripped out every Thursday morning.