another end – and a new beginning

Today was Juniordwarf’s last day of daycare.

He’s been very excited about it, and had counting down the days to his last day since before school finished last year.
On the other hand, I’m feeling a little bit sad and nostalgic about it all. I shed a few tears when we dropped him off this morning – and a few more on the way home after we picked him up. I think his educators at the child care centre were also a little sad that Juniordwarf – and some of the other older children too – would be leaving this week. Apparently one of his friends was in tears last Monday because she thought that was going to be his last day and she wouldn’t see him any more. I think she was pretty upset today too.
Juniordwarf has been going to daycare ever since he was about nine months old. When he was a baby, I stayed at home with him full time for six months, and Slabs was a stay at home dad for the next six months. After Juniordwarf turned one, we both started working part time, three days a week, so we needed to put him into daycare for one day a week.
In preparation for Slabs going back to work, we started taking him in to daycare for an hour at a time, to get him used to being there and not being with one of us. Over the next three months, we gradually built up the time he was there until he was happy to spend a full day there. When Slabs changed his hours, Juniordwarf started doing two days a week in daycare, and last year, once he started 3 day kinder, he dropped back to one day. 
I say happy because, despite the fact that for at least the first two years he used to cry almost every single time we dropped him off, he has seemed to enjoy himself there, he’s done some things he never would have got the chance to do at home and has made some friends. His educators have all been fantastic with him, and he’s been attached to all of them, especially the people who have been his main carers during the time he’s been in their particular rooms.
Now Juniordwarf is ready to start full-time school, and his time at daycare has come to an end. He agreed to give one of his favourite toys to the little kids’ room as a farewell gift – he’s finally outgrown it and it’s time to pass it on to some kids who we hope will get as much enjoyment out of it as he has.
Daycare has been such a big part of his life for the past four and half years, it’s strange to think of him not going there any more. He’s leaving part of his childhood behind and moving on to the next stage of his life as a fully fledged schoolboy.
So while this time last year I was feeling sad that he was taking his first steps into formal education, and into the bigger ‘system’ that is our lives, there was still a lot of his life as a little kid in our lives – daycare, my Tuesdays off as a tryhard mum-at-home, kids under 5 get in free to most places, participating in the various preschool kids activities around the place and that sort of thing.
In just over a week that will all be over and he will be a full-time school kid. Kinder is over and real school begins. It’s an exciting time for Juniordwarf. I know he’s looking forward to it. I asked if he was feeling sad because he wouldn’t have his Tuesdays at home with me any more, and he said, ‘No.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘because I like school.’ I’m hoping that attitude will stick around for as long as possible!
Several parents have told me it’s a big jump from Kinder to Prep, because of both the increase in the time he’ll spend at school and the more formal atmosphere of the prep classroom compared to the kinder one. It will be interesting to see how he copes.
And it will be interesting to see how I cope too, because with the end of Juniordwarf’s ‘little kid’ days, I feel like part of my identity – that of mum-at-home, which has been part of my make-up since 2006 – will go with it. So in a way I am losing two things at once. It is an emotional time for me, and I want to acknowledge this as a significant milestone in my life. Not as significant as the transformation to ‘mum-at-home’ in the first place (and wasn’t that a shock to the system!), but still an event to be marked and reflected on.
I feel OK about being sad about it, and recognising it as an end, because too often I don’t take the time to properly process things and to recognise and acknowledge my feelings. The result is that those things have a habit of coming back and upsetting me all over again. And again. And, um, again.
Writing it down is part of acknowledging how I feel and celebrating the fact that I’ve had five years as a full time and part time mum-at-home. And it’s been the hardest role I’ve ever had to fulfil. Over the years it’s been challenging, frustrating, difficult, stressful, irritating, boring, aggravating. It’s made me cry, question myself, doubt myself, dislike myself and want to run away and never come back.
It’s also been fun, relaxing (occasionally), and enjoyable, has made me smile and laugh, and has given me the most wonderful moments I never want to forget.
Of course, I know all of this will continue as I continue my journey as Juniordwarf’s mum – and I would have had all of those feelings no matter what type of motherhood role I’d played up until now. It’s all part of being a mum – well a parent really I guess.
But despite it feeling like a loss now, saying goodbye to mum-at-home is not so much a loss as it is another change in my role as Mum.  That role has already changed and evolved many times as Juniordwarf has grown and changed, and it will continue to do so as he continues to grow, reach milestones and face the many challenges that are before him. But perhaps this feels different to the more subtle changes that have already happened, because, unlike the gradual changes, it will be a sudden stopping – much like the end of breastfeeding was for us. I guess it’s like the feeling that some mothers have when their children start high school. It must be a similar sudden and clear-cut change.
I really don’t know, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend as much time at home with Juniordwarf as I have over the past five and a half years. Despite how hard it’s been juggling work and home, I don’t think I would have done things differently. It worked for us. Mostly. So as well as farewell to mum-at-home, this is a time to celebrate everything she has done over the past five and a half years.
Juniordwarf’s educator very kindly took some photos for us today of his last day at daycare. Thank you K. They are great, and are a wonderful memory of his last day.
Thank you to all of the wonderful people who have worked with Juniordwarf both at the centre and through Family Day Care. We will miss you.

Walking out the gate for the last time.
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