About Amy

This blog is about my wife's and my experiences making a baby and then raising the child. I'm a PhD candidate trying to balance dissertation work, parenting, marriage, and home-maker endeavours. I also dabble in urban homesteading, and sometimes share stories about my chickens and gardens. I'll candidly share my successes and failures in this balancing act.

An Avery update (and more on the Waldorf School)

Avery has been making up songs a lot lately. Here’s a sampling of the lyrics from one little ditty:

“I can help you
But I don’t know where you went,
You went for a walk in the dirt,
And you found a worm”

She’s also starting to be able to carry a tune, and I noticed her doing arpeggios last night as she sang to herself while brushing her teeth… It’s adorable, and I always want to record a video of her songs, but never want to leave the moment to get my phone.

Avery has also been talking a lot about how she’s going to get (or she wants) a baby sister or brother. She told my mom the other day that she was going to have a baby sister, and my mom had some questions for me after their conversation 😆

She has been saying she wants to share her room with a baby, that she’d get rid of her toys so we could buy baby toys for a sibling, and that she’d help them learn to walk and talk and she’d love them so much. C’mon, kid… You’re making this hard… We had just finally settled into a phase of BOTH my wife and I being on the same one-and-done page, but this kind of thing makes us open the damn conversation again.

******

Yesterday evening we went to Avery’s new daycare for an outdoor soup dinner (the daycare kids made bread to go with it), and the parents and caregivers got to go on the forest walk the kids do every day. The terrain isn’t exactly smooth, and once they reach the end of the path there’s a large clearing full of climbing trees and ripe walnuts and little structures and paths made by the kids with branches and logs. They spend 1 to 2 hours here every day, rain or shine, even in the cold, snowy winter months (accordingly, we’ve invested in wool clothes and need to shell out for a serious snow suit and boots).

I watched Avery climbing a tree without hesitation and I couldn’t believe this was the same 3 year old from early September who didn’t want to go down a slide unless I checked it for safety first… This Waldorf school has been so great for her so far. And last week when she was stuck at home sick (AGAIN), she was sad about not being able to go to her daycare. Most evenings when I’m putting her to bed she says she’s excited to go to school the next day.

That said, she still says she misses her old daycare provider. We’ve done two playdates with two of the kids from the old daycare, and while Avery loved it, we’re already too socially stretched to make a regular thing of it.

Advertisements

Cuddling to sleep

We’ve always physically assisted Avery in the sleep department. She has always required either nursing, rocking, or cuddling to sleep. We now talk to her about how she’s old enough to go to sleep on her own, but since I love the quality cuddle time and am not eager to end it, we’re leaving it up to her to decide when she’s ready. There have been a couple of times where she wanted to feel like a big kid and tried going to sleep on her own, but she would just end up whimpering so sadly, and when we would go to her she’d tell us she was afraid of ghosts and/or missed us so much.

I’ve been happy with how we’ve done bedtimes – in retrospect. When she was a baby I heard a lot of messages of the importance of sleep training and how damaging it is to be a “sleep crutch” for your baby and you shouldn’t breastfeed to sleep and they’re going to be sleeping with you when they go off to college…. All that garbage… those messages made me doubt my instincts – and of course we occasionally tried gentle sleep training approaches. But now I’m totally over meeting expectations and just want to cuddle my kid before she doesn’t want cuddles anymore. ESPECIALLY now that she’s in daycare for 9 hours a day and I’m hungry for quality time for which there just aren’t enough waking hours in a day. Sometimes we’ll cuddle in her bed and talk for an hour about her day or about her hopes and dreams or whatever ridiculous and hilarious ideas she has floating around in her head. I love it.

What really brought home this sense of we’re doing the right thing for our kid is when Avery mentioned to me – during our bedtime cuddle last night – that she remembered sleeping in a crib (which was over by the time she was 7 months old).

She said, “when I was a baby you kept leaving me alone because you didn’t fit in my bed, but I was scared and I wanted to cuddle with you.”

It’s amazing what young kids can remember about their first year of life…

“I’m going to have a baby sister one day and I’m going to share my room and all my toys with her!”

It’s no secret that I’ve wanted another baby, but I’ve been so ridiculously stressed lately (I had a horrible panic attack last night while working on my dissertation edits at 10:30pm). My wife is happy that we finally have two incomes and we are finally making more meaningful contributions toward our house downpayment fund, and even toward retirement savings… She has also come out of her depression, and she isn’t ready to disrupt this newfound “easy life” that she’s experiencing. And of course, I’m just learning to balance full time work with wrapping up my dissertation and a teaching assistantship I naively took on, and I’m feeling not ready for another baby for opposite reasons than my wife’s reasons.

But Avery seems to be wondering why she doesn’t have a sibling yet… She keeps declaring to us that she’s going to have a baby sister one day, and promises to share with her and keep her from putting things in her mouth… As if she’s trying to prove to us that she deserves a sibling 😆

Maybe we’ll be those people who have kids 6 years apart. I need to get my head above water before I can think about entering down that will-we-or-won’t-we emotional path again.

The new daycare

I have a ton to update on work/school, but I’m about to crash for the night and need to keep this succinct. So here’s an update on Avery starting her new daycare.

Leaving her long-term daycare friend and her provider was sad. There were big hugs, real tears, and varying degrees of understanding about what was happening among the kids. Because we had been talking a lot about the fact that it was her last day with these people before starting at the new preschool, Avery seemed to get it. The older kids got it. When I picked Avery up at the end of her last day, everyone had red eyes it was all I could do to choke back the tears. Avery has been going there – and building a best-friendship there – since she turned 1. It was her first place to spend time without me outside of our home. It was hard to leave.

But we had the whole weekend to process our emotions and get geared up for a new experience. So sweetly, that weekend Avery played a lot with toys her old provider had given her, and chose to add books to her bedtime routine that she’d gotten from her old provider. I guess when you’re 3, one weekend is long enough to feel nostalgic about the life you had 3 days ago 😉

On Monday morning my wife took her to the new daycare. She gets dropped off early – at 7:30 – so she was one of the first kids there. She cried, but wasn’t inconsolable. Very soon a little boy was dropped off who was more upset than she was, and she took it upon herself to help him. She made fast friends and made herself feel better by making other feel better on their first day. That’s how she started her friendship with her old daycare bestie, too…

She didn’t cry all that first day, until I picked her up. When I hugged her she let everything out that she’d been holding in all day. But actually, after the cry, she was pretty happy. She told me about all the fun things they did, and was looking forward to day 2.

The next day was great. No tears. But she also got sick that night. So for the rest of the week she was stuck at home with us… Today she was back again, and she had a blast. They take a walk through a nearby forest every day, where they play on a fallen willow tree. Her favourite toys are the wooden animal blocks. She’s not sold on the vegetarian meals yet (didn’t touch the lentil stew…), but she’ll get there.

I think this place is a great combination of mellow and wild. She can be her mellow self and go at her own pace, but in a wild environment of outdoor space, freedom to move about as she pleases, and LOTS of kids to be friends with (we had told her there would be 9 kids at her new daycare, and she promptly corrected us after her first day, saying “there were only 8 other kids. With me there were 9.”

So bottom line, we’re happy with the change. I still look back at pictures from her old daycare and feel sad that her relationships built over the majority of her young life were ended so abruptly, but we’re not sure if it’s worth trying to schedule a playdate with the old friend when there are so many new friends to be focusing on…

Work update

I don’t know if this is really worthy of a blog post, and I don’t even really have concise thoughts put together yet, but we just had our enrolment interview with the Waldorf preschool that Avery will be starting at on Monday, and right before that I was offered a full time job with the people I’ve been sub-consulting for. The job offer was not official, and came at the end of a staff meeting I’d been invited to. They said they still needed to work out the terms that they could offer me, and then we’d meet, but they wanted me to know that they wanted me.

Yesterday I spent a few hours in a car with the employer (on our way to a meeting in another city), and I talked about how my priority was Avery, and I loved being able to have flexible hours and work 4 days a week right now. The employer said he’d never want to run a company that forced its employees to choose between work and family, and that they pride themselves on supporting their employees in every way possible. I’m curious if he’ll take what I said into consideration and offer me a 4-day a week position, or if I’ll have to give up that precious weekly Friday with Avery sooner than I’d hoped…

But what a privileged situation I’m in, to be able to decide that: Do I want full time employment with an amazing company, doing work I enjoy, or do I want to continue to work on contract and get a 3-day weekend with my kid until she starts school…

I’ll update when I’ve actually discussed terms with the employer, and I’ll also update after Avery has started the new pre-school.

New and Improved: the daycare trade-up

When we chose to put Avery in a home daycare, it was because she was 12 months old (6 months when we chose where to send her), and I desperately wanted a mother-figure in a cozy home environment who would give her snuggles and treat her with patience and kindness while we were apart. I assumed that a daycare centre would be too school-like for my tiny baby, and that a home daycare was the only way to go. Although our daycare provider was great for Avery for her first two years independent from me, our provider’s untimely notice that she was closing her doors turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Last night we completed a whirlwind tour of 5 daycares in the area – 4 were home daycares all very similar to the place we were leaving, and the last was a Waldorf daycare centre. The centre blew us away. I had been familiar with the Montessori style of learning – we even interviewed a Montessori preschool in the Spring when we were concerned that Avery’s academic intelligence wasn’t being stimulated enough at the home daycare. But Waldorf was new to me… For those who don’t know, it essentially treats childhood learning as holistic, combining learning through the body, the mind, and the spirit (as our new centre puts it), or integrating intellectual, artistic, and practical learning (as wikipedia puts it). The children learn by moving through their environment, problem solving and exploring as they go.

The centre is bright and airy with very little decoration, but a lot of natural textures. There are silk scarves fashioned into forts that the children built using wooden frames that they can manipulate (apparently named a Waldorf play frame). There are baskets upon baskets of wooden toys that are designed to inspire imaginative play, rather than prescribing how to play, and there are comfy child-sized couches and pillows and shelves full of books. There is a play kitchen, and while we were there the 3 year olds were having a tea party with little metal tea pots and real glass cups. There is an art room with different coloured crayons all wrapped in the same brown paper, and a bathroom where everything is within a child’s reach to foster complete independence. Naps and quiet time take place on organic material cots lined with natural sheepskins. The outdoor play space, where the children spend up to 3 hours a day, was filled with sand, rocks, grass, trees, and gardens that the children cultivated and harvested from at will. The vegetarian, organic meals and snacks are prepared on site by a cook and the health ministry does frequent checks. The caregivers are quiet, calm, sweet, and loving, and the director is a grandmother who absolutely fits the stereotype.

The price reflects this. It’s $25 MORE PER DAY than what we were paying at the home daycare. But my wife and I talked about it all evening and decided that it’s absolutely worth pinching our pennies for the next 11 months to give this experience to our daughter. Then, she’ll be starting kindergarten in a public school with the traditional Western institutionalized learning style, and she’ll never again have the opportunity to learn in such a holistic way, or to have such plentiful free-play and imaginative time in a day.

Despite how idyllic this setting felt, I still had some concerns. I asked more questions than I had at any other daycare, and I pushed and pushed until I got a satisfying answer. One concern came up when I asked if they had any books that featured families structures besides a mom and a dad. The director of the centre responded by saying that they encourage the children to see the world as a good place, and that children don’t see the differences in each other anyway. Unsatisfied, I argued that Avery has already been asked many times by fellow children if she has a dad, and our last provided ungracefully stumbled through such a question asked by her own child. It’s bullshit to say children don’t notice differences in others, and I believe we need to positively model how children react to seeing differences between themselves and others. The director then responded that they keep the books about experiences the children are likely to have, maybe thinking I was suggesting they have a propaganda book called “My Moms are Here, They’re Queer, Get Used To It.” I finally convinced her by saying that a book with a mom and a dad isn’t an experience Avery can relate to, and it doesn’t cause any harm to have a sweet story book that happens to feature two moms. I could tell it finally clicked for her because she recalled that her niece is a single mom and it would be nice to see that family structure represented in books for her niece’s daughter, too. She also mentioned that another child at this centre had two moms. She said she’d look into their book selection. Success.

Another concern came when she told us about the Waldorf philosophy of no formal learning through books or otherwise. Avery LOVES practicing writing right now. She can write her own first and last name as well as a couple of other words, and the other day in the bathtub she used her bathtub crayons to sound out and write the word “baby,” all by herself. She often asks me how to spell a word that she’s trying to write. She also does addition for fun by either counting her fingers or just reciting “2 and 2 is 4,” or “2 and 3 is 5.” When she gets stuck and wants to be taught the next steps, we teach. I was worried that the Waldorf philosophy would prohibit this kind of formal learning among 3 year olds, but eventually I got a satisfying enough response that the caregivers observe the children carefully to know what their individual learning needs are, and will meet the children where they’re at. Avery will get plenty of writing practice, math games, puzzles, and reading at home.

Currently we’re working on filling out the 12 page application, which includes odd and offensive questions like whether the child’s birth was “natural” or C-section, whether the baby was fed by bottle or breast, and how much screen time the child gets and whether or not we’re willing to limit that. Despite feeling like these questions are pretentious and exclusionary, we seem to be giving the answers that I think the Waldorf centre is looking for, so I guess we’re the right kind of family for this bourgeois-hippy institution.

As long as we get paperwork and deposits and everything straightened out without issue, Avery’s first day will be Sept 23. I may have my own personal nervousness and uncertainty about the transition, but I’m pretty sure Avery will make the move seamlessly and confidently. During the hour we were there for our tour, she was fully engaged in the toys and the outdoor space and with the other children. She barely noticed we were there. She’s definitely ready for this, and she deserves this kind of top notch environment.

Daycare gave her 2-weeks notice

On Tuesday last week we put down a deposit on a new-to-us used car. Although I work from home, I drive Avery to daycare every day, in a car that just isn’t safe anymore. The hours my wife works mean it doesn’t make sense for her to do drop off and pick up. So we traded in our old rust bucket for scrap and we paid $20,000 (a nice portion of our house downpayment savings….) for a newer model.

An hour after we got home from the dealership, our daycare provider of the past 2 years sent me a text saying she was changing careers, and was giving us 2 weeks notice of the termination of her daycare business.

So there we were with a new car, $20,000 poorer, and potentially no need for it anymore (if we could find a new provider within walking distance, or closer to my wife’s work). I drank several glasses of wine that night and laid awake with my brain racing until 2am.

Since Tuesday, though, we’ve set up 5 interviews with new potential daycares. One or two of them I’m particularly excited about. It’s going to be shitty to have to transition Avery with just 11 months left until she starts school, but I think she’ll be great with the change. Leaving old friends will be hard, but it’s something she’ll have to learn to do eventually, anyway.

We’re seeing the last of the available daycares tonight, so I’ll be able to update on what option we went with by tomorrow. Wish us luck!