Back to School For the First Time

[dropcaps]T[/dropcaps]he time has come. It’s time for Amma (me) to go back to work! Time to loosen our apron strings and let the Little M&Ms venture out into the big world at the ripe young age of 21 months. All good things must come to an end. Being at home with them has been such a joy, yet at the same time I’m getting tired (physically and mentally). As if they sense that change is coming, our little cuties have become more rambunctious. This had the funny effect of making me more mentally ready for them to start ‘school’.

As my Chachi (aunt) says, no guilt. It’s been a great haul with them since birth and has been especially awesome to stay home with them for an extra 10 months without jeapordizing my job or career. Parental and maternity leave for twins and higher order multiples is still one year, just like everyone else. As many people have commented, it should be two years!

There is an Ottawa-area family of multiples that is fighting for this privilege. The parents of identical twins Athena and Lucie Martin took the federal government to court to change its benefits policy “to allow both parents of multiples to receive EI for up to 35 weeks”. They had won their court case but the ruling was later overturned.

So, once my Maternity Leave was completed, I took leave without pay from my job with the aim of returning to work once the twins were over 18 months and could more easily be integrated into a daycare centre. Living on one income takes some getting used to, but we had budgeted everything out and stuck to our plan. Thankfully Mr. Mama was very supportive and believes, as I do, it was the best thing for them to stay home at that age.

Now M&M are sleeping through (most) nights, walking, feeding themselves, able to communicate to caregivers, and show readiness to play with other kids. All these signs will hopefully make the transition easier… or so we thought.

We signed up on the City of Ottawa Centralized Waiting List, worried we wouldn’t hear back from anyone that had room for 2 toddlers at the same time. Within 2 months, we were pleasantly surprised to get over a dozen calls and emails from various daycare agencies and centres throughout the city. We had our pick! The CWL seems to have a bad rep when it comes to hearing about daycare spots. I think it matters when you expect to hear from them (we applied well after the kids were born) and which places you choose. My understanding is that cooperative daycares and nursery schools have a long waiting list, as do Montessori schools.

After toying with the idea of placing them in a Montessori, we chose a new daycare facility close to home. The plan was for me to take them in every morning a week before their official start date, to acclimatize them. An hour the first day, two hours the next day, and so on. Sounds like a good plan right? Well we didn’t take into account their different personalities and temperaments. In hindsight, Little Mister would’ve done better initially in a homecare environment.

Little Missy adjusted right away. Upon entering the daycare room, she ran straight to the wooden play kitchen and starting cooking up a storm with her pretend pots and pans. Little Mister took one look at the other toddlers – all boys – and got really upset at the idea of being left in the company of strangers. Some of the other kids were also new and crying for the same reason – which made our sensitive little man more upset. He cried on and off the whole time we were there and wanted to be held. By Day 3 when we were there for 3 hours – of which half the time they were without me – Little Mister cried.

On Day 4 I left them for most of the morning and when I came back, one of the caregivers was comforting Little Mister who was bawling his heart out in the playarea outside. Other than being overstimulated by the chaos that is daycare, I think what upset him more was that his sister was happily exploring and playing with all the new toys without him. Day 5 was more of the same except that Mr. Mama did the dropoff to give me a break. Pickup was even more intense as both of them would cry and want to be picked up.

By the time their first full day of ‘school’ came around, we were all very nervous. Sure enough, for the first week, Little Mister cried on and off all day long. We were all so worried and felt sad for our little guy. Every night that week, we had visitors come by in the evening to play with our M&Ms in the backyard. The visitors included family and some little friends their size, including one neighbourhood boy who is in their class. Little Mister would have none of it and stood by the living room window, watching from indoors until I went to get him.

After a fun-filled first weekend where they got to spend time with familiar faces, including grandparents, both M&Ms happily went off to daycare… this time being dropped off by Mr. Mama. Mr. Mama was impressed by what they’d learned already. Both of them sat in their cubby holes to remove their outdoor shoes. Then when the door opened, Little Missy scooted over to the breakfast spread, seated herself at the head of the table and started to eat as soon as a bowl was placed in front of her. Little Mister had to be carried to his seat and still cried when Mr. Mama left the room.

The good news is, he wasn’t crying off and on all day like before. Partly because he was getting used to the place and also because Little Missy was playing with him more. We’d given the daycare a rundown on his favourite toys, words, and his routine so they knew how to make him comfortable. It worked! They would encourage Little Missy to give her brother a hug, which she did. After nap, they didn’t force him to sit at the snack table with the other kids, rather they let him sit on the cot and brought snack to him the first day.

Now in Week 2, they are adjusted to daycare, except for the usual guilt trip at dropoff. Now our new challenge is how to handle two hungry, thirsty and exhausted toddlers in the evenings!

Leave a Reply