One reason we wanted to spend the summer in Iowa City was because the summer daycare options are pretty much shit in Lubbock. Meanwhile, Iowa City has a daycare on a farm that we’d heard was totally cool.
I went to visit the farm with my parents when they came in town to see us last week and we were all impressed. They have a horse and a pond and chickens who run around chasing each other. They also have llamas, which have faces so sweet you feel immediately assured that your daughter will be safe among them. No staff members were at KinderFarm when we stopped by that day, though, so Marta and I only got to meet the teachers on Monday when we dropped Nico off.
And let’s just say they’re not as sweet as the llamas. Their nice-ish. One of the teachers is actually demonstrably kind (like they are at Nico’s regular daycare back in Lubbock), but the other teachers, including the one in charge of Nico’s room, fall much more soundly into the “efficient” category than they do into the “warm fuzzies” one.
For example: when we first arrived on Monday, Nico’s new teacher was showing Nico where to put her bag and indoor shoes when she arrives each day. After explaining this to Nico, she was explaining the procedure to another, bigger girl, and that bigger girl kept getting distracted. So the teacher took hold of her chin and redirected the child’s eyes at her and said, quite sternly, “Listen to me. Your shoes go here.”
By contrast, in Nico’s daycare back home, the teachers really are kind of like mini-mothers, even for the mothers themselves. My favorite one, Jonna, gave me a big hug when I told her about the miscarriage last year (we told them in case Nico was reacting in any way to the news) and continued to check in on me in the months to come and then be super excited for us when I got pregnant again. She and the other teachers practice breathing techniques with the kids so that they learn how to calm down on their own and if a kids yell or hit, they never react sternly, but instead talk in super calm voices, almost creepily clam, and say things like, “I understand by your touch that you want my attention, but I’m in the middle of talking to another friend right now.”
In other words, Nico has been a bit coddled these past two years and, to be honest, so have Marta and I. Which means that, transitioning to a farm daycare in the Midwest, where everyone talks in an efficient adult voice, and where there are twelve kids to one teacher, and where the there are many, many rules (Nico told us she got in trouble the first day for not having her hands in her lap while waiting for the lunch to arrive), has been hard for Nico–and hard for us too.
Yesterday as I was driving up to the farm, Nico started to cry and said she wanted to go home. That would have been difficult to witness before, but now that I’m pregnant, and sensitive to EVERYTHING, it was heartbreaking. So I stuck around with her in the playground until one of the sternest of the teachers come up and told me it was time to go (and also scolded me for parking in the wrong place). The rest of the day I was kept imagining her crying by herself beside a pile of cow poop in field somewhere.
When I came to get Nico in the afternoon, of course, she was smiling and happy. She’d gotten to ride a horse named Dallas and she’d met two new friends. She also informed me she only ate cookies for lunch. I’m hoping that last part isn’t true. The online calendar at KinderFarm says they were supposed to eat tuna casserole.
But she seemed content and my guess is we’ll all adjust soon to not being coddled so much. I know–or at least hope–that this slightly more hands-off approach will help Nico grow in new and different ways. It will probably help us grow, too, and teach us how to let go just a little bit and let her grow.
But god damn is it hard.
Here are some recent pictures of the heartbreaker herself. Two with my parents while they were in town. Two in a pair of ladybug wings Marta made her. One with a pair of underwear on her head. And then one of her on her first day of farm daycare (in our “outdoor” shoes).