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time marches on

Ideally, we would have liked to keep Munchkin at home a little longer, but we don’t live in a perfect world; we live in the Washington D.C. area, where childcare costs are completely out of control. With both of us in language training and our parents far away and still years from retirement, we had no choice but to put Munchkin in daycare, a decision over whose pros and cons we agonized endlessly.

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Of course, this is not the first time that Munchkin is spending a sizable portion of his day apart from us, cared for by someone else. Initially, S had a part-time consulting job in Moldova, but when she accepted a position at the Embassy, Munchkin’s care fell to our nanny. Still, sending him to daycare feels very different. For one, he is now spending his days outside the house rather than at home in his familiar environment. Also, the nanny who worked for us in Chisinau started when Munchkin was just 7 weeks old, and she spent so much time with us that we quickly began thinking of her as family.

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Although he is not the youngest child at the FSI daycare — there is an entire infant unit — Munchkin is currently the youngest in his class. The transition has been a little bumpy, especially since he started mid-week and the following week was cut short by the Thanksgiving holiday. We are hoping that soon he will settle into a routine, make some friends, and even look forward to going to daycare.

Although he cries a bit when we drop him off, that is no different than when he sees us leave the house without him. Also, he does not seem to dislike daycare once he is there. The first couple of times D picked him up, he simply looked aloof — wandering aimlessly around the playground or sitting slightly bored during story time (truth be told, D was not all that impressed with the little he heard from that particular storyteller either). This week, he was in markedly better spirits, having settled into a good nap routine. On Tuesday, D came while the kids were outside, and Munchkin did not want to go home. Instead, he grabbed D’s hand and dragged him around from one end of the playground to the next to show off his favorite play spots.

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His teachers seem pretty nice, as is the rest of the staff at the daycare. At the end of each day, we get a little report sheet with the day’s activities and menu that also indicates how much he ate and slept. They always mark off “a lot” for both, regardless of whether he sleeps 40 minutes or 2 hours, leading us to doubt somewhat the accuracy of these reports. On his way out, Munchkin waves goodbye to all the guards and administrators, and they all enthusiastically return his farewells.

His teachers say he enjoys the activities, but does not really interact with the other kids yet. One of the times D picked him up, Munchkin was pushing another toddler around on a toy car, but it looked like he was much more interested in the plastic vehicle than its occupant.

Naturally, our biggest worry was about sending Munchkin into a germ breeding ground. This week he came down with a cold and an ear infection, but then again he also had a cold at the beginning of the month — before we sent him to daycare — and D has been sick on and off for most of the month as well, so we can’t blame daycare exclusively for his ailments. Also, this is a bullet we could have delayed but not dodged entirely. Sooner or later, he has to go to school, and in some ways it might be better to strengthen his immune system now than when he is attending structured classes.

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Also, this isn’t to say that there is no learning taking place at daycare. On the contrary, one of the bigger advantages we see in sending Munchkin to Diplotots is the opportunity to socialize with other kids. Right now, he doesn’t really play with others — when we take him to the playground, for example, he wants to play with us but is completely uninterested in his peers. We’re hoping daycare will change that. Also, the activities he does at daycare are clearly leaving an imprint on his young mind. Saturday morning, after three days of daycare, he surprised us by singing his ABC’s — he only got the first three and a half letters right, but he nailed the melody.

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Juggling all the adjustments that our recent move to DC entailed, Thanksgiving sort of snuck up on us this year. We drove 3 hours to northern Pennsylvania for a meal with D’s extended family before driving back home late the same night. The federal government is open today, so D had planned on reporting to class, but with him and Munchkin both under the weather and no one in the house getting much sleep as a result, D took a sick day. The resulting four-day weekend, at least, is something to be thankful for.

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