We set off, Laddu and I each morning. Today she is in an orange dress, a ball of sunshine herself. I belt her in, put her lunch bag on the passenger seat, slide in, turn the radio on and off we go. My fingers keep time with the music on the steering. Her silver anklets do the same against the passenger seat. I point out a school bus, falling leaves and random birds. She exclaims with the same joy each time.
She charges ahead on the pavement, her green dinosaur lunch bag swinging from her short arms. I follow suit admiring this spunky girl. A gust of wind takes her by surprise and she stops unsure if she should plough on. I offer my hand and she takes it. We march up to the front door and she waits politely, patiently while I punch in a code and open the door for her. As we cross the front door and make towards her classroom, she stops, the joy draining from her face to be replaced with fear. She lets go of the lunch bag and reaches out for me. I carry her the rest of the way in. The tears begin inevitably when I leave. I wave bye, blow kisses and slip outside. Some days I stand just beside the door out of sight until her tears give way to smiles.
I walk outside into the crisp fall air and drive back home, the radio now tuned to NPR. My morning routine is fairly the same. I clear the kitchen, organize closets as needed, pick up strewn clothing, run a load of laundry and sit down with my laptop. Some days I write, other days I read. Time seems to fly when I am doing something I love and before I know it my phone beeps letting me know it is time to pick her up.
I am smiling when I walk in. “Amma vandhachu!” she says without fail, her arms outstretched as she runs to me. We pick her bag up and I look at the board where details of what she ate, her potty routine is marked for me to know. Sometimes, I stop and chat. Mostly we walk outside stopping to admire bugs, the grass, falling leaves, red berries and cracks on the pavement, We reach home and snuggle as we nap.
I realize ever since I put her in care all days of the week for half days, I have been feeling happy. The remnants of guilt are washed away when I hear her talk about her classmates, playing at the water table, walking to the pond to see fish and dabbling with paint. At two and half, she seems to be able to express quite a bit about her day. She seems to love the idea of school even as she hates that I leave her there. The four hours each morning after the house empties is my time to recharge, dabble in things I love and look forward to seeing my child again. The brief separation gives me perspective. It allows for me to be fully present when I am with my child. It gives me the energy to stop and stare. It gives me the time to lie down with her each day just rejoicing in the physical closeness without thoughts of chores to interrupt my time with her.
For all the studies that debates the merits of outsourcing childcare, I find that it works for me. In the grand scheme of things, that is about all that matters.