It’s the start of the working day. Everyone is up, dressed, fed and has brushed their teeth. You make it out of the door on time, and no-one loses their shit on the way to nursery. Then comes the drop off. The one from hell. The one that makes you question every decision you’ve ever made about parenting, career, and trying to combine the two.
My two year old is settling in to a new nursery and now that the novelty has worn off, she is not very impressed about it. This week I had the worst drop off to date. We arrive at the building and she is already clinging to me, her sweaty little hands wrapped around my neck and her head tucked beneath my jaw as if she might be eaten alive if I were to put her down. We find her peg, hang her bag and coat on it, and walk into the danger zone. The danger zone is a children’s paradise. It is light, airy, full of well behaved, well mannered other two and three year olds, and there are several members of staff playing with children, reading stories, or serving breakfast. There is a vast array of toys, an interactive screen, a quiet room with books and teddies, and a messy play activity already set up. None of this appeals to her. She wraps herself around my leg, making it nearly impossible to walk, and we stumble further into the room. I make the mistake of crouching down to her level, and she clambers onto my lap like a limpet once more. The tears begin (at this stage, only hers, not mine). She will not be consoled by offers of any activity or breakfast, or a cuddle with one of the staff.
After much reassurance from me, lots of cuddles and kisses, I accept that I am only delaying the inevitable. My daughter is peeled off me and into the arms of someone I pay to look after her, wailing uncontrollably. My five year old looks up at me, obviously disgusted that I would leave her little sister in such a state, and even more baffled when I proceed to walk us both out of the room.
We walk quickly to the main doors, and I try to block out the sound of my daughter screaming “Mummy!!!” through her sobs as we leave the building. I feel wretched as I walk my eldest to school, knowing that she too is feeling uneasy about leaving her sister in such a state. I try to hold back the tears. We walk quietly and I try to reassure my eldest (and myself, more likely) that the little one will be just fine once she starts playing with her friends.
I spend the rest of the day feeling guilty at abandoning my youngest somewhere that she is not happy, and hope that she will forgive me when I collect her.
I arrive back at nursery that afternoon and my daughter is full of smiles. ‘Oh, she’s had a lovely day,’ the staff member tells me. ‘She was absolutely fine within about a minute of you leaving.’ We walk home, me feeling slightly better about my life choices, and my daughter her usual self.
The following morning I wake up, ready to experience the guilt all over again.