“Phasing In” to Daycare – How It Actually Worked
I previously talked about why we decided to take a "phasing in" approach to starting D in daycare. (See here.) Here's how it actually worked:
Days 1 and 2 went as planned. But we had a bit of a hiccup on Day 3. I left D in the classroom to go to the bathroom toward the end of the day, and he FREAKED OUT. He was still a little uneasy even after I came back, but I stayed close to him for the rest of our visit. He definitely needed a little comfort and encouragement, but I thought it was important that we NOT just leave.
For Day 4, we had initially planned to spend 3-4 hours at daycare and then have D take his last nap of the day there. But after Day 3 didn't go as panned, we changed our plan and went into Day 4 planning for me to stick close by D for the first part of the visit, and then maybe fading away and giving him some space. We figured we'd try his nap at daycare on Day 5.
But D did great… so much better than expected! We actually ended up going with our original plan for Day 4, and before our Day 5 visit, we decided that maybe my being there was getting in the way of him bonding with his teachers and new friends. I really enjoyed the time with him in this new environment, but thought that if I continued to come, he might start expecting me there all the time.
We ended up accelerating our schedule a bit, leaving him there for a half day on Day 5. That went well, so we decided that on Day 6, we’d leave him there for a full day. That went well, too, and so did Days 7 and 8. Yay! Success!
I’m kinda bummed I didn’t get to spend some of my last few days of maternity leave with D, but planning for a few extra days to phase in gave us peace of mind and room to alter our plans if the adjustment wasn’t going well.
What We Learned
Our daycare phase-in gave me the chance to spot potential issues. I saw how many balls the teachers were constantly juggling. I saw how kids would sometimes not have an adult eye on them.
I saw kids hurt themselves and each other (accidentally, of course!) because an adult couldn’t be there to catch them before they fell or pull apart babies before one crawled over another one. ALL the kids had boogers in their noses. Literally, ALL OF THEM.
I knew these were likely scenarios in a daycare situation, but it was another thing to see it. As I say, it’s one thing to see a dish described on a menu; it’s completely different to see and taste it!
I can totally see how some parents might take the opposite approach – drop their kids off and not look back. I saw my sweet (and immobile and defenseless) baby get bitten by a toddler with teeth!, squeezed tightly and kissed hard by two two-year-old girls (maybe one day he’ll brag about that), crawled over by a much bigger baby, slobbered over by a boogery kid, poked at, licked, and kicked.
D definitely cried when he got bitten and fussed about the other forms of “affection” these kids inflicted on him. But for the most part, he just watched. And he seemed to be understanding, “OK, this is how it is here.”
But I really appreciated getting to see exactly what goes on. I’m learning that I find comfort in knowing. I can deal with pretty much anything, as long as I know what is going on. That knowledge lets me stop freaking out and adjust my outlook and/or any other factors I actually can control.
Plus, I know D will be fine. I learned from watching him adjust to this new setting that he is resilient and adaptable. I am guessing most babies (and people) are, if we give them the chance to be. Besides, I know that it’s just a matter of time before D is the kid that’s inflicting some kind of injury on another kid or grossing out some other parent. (I predict he’ll use his spit-up as a weapon!)
Has anyone else tried gradually phasing kids into day care or another new situation? How did you go about doing it? What were your experiences?