Thursday, March 29, 2012

Confession: Competition

My son went to daycare yesterday. So I have a confession to make: Every time he goes to daycare, I have a sudden urge to do a special project with him and buy him a new toy and take him to the coolest playground I can find. Because I’m secretly afraid he’ll like daycare better than home.

Yes, I know that’s ridiculous. No, knowing that it’s ridiculous doesn’t make a whit of difference. Sending my son to daycare brings out a competitiveness in me that is rarely brought out so strongly by anything else.

Why is that? Just think about it: At daycare, he has a huge roomful of toys he only plays with now and then. There are a whole bunch of other kids to play with. There is an indoor and an outdoor playground right there. They do some kind of project (like making jello or finger painting or baking something) every day. No-one yells at him or spanks him when he refuses to take a nap. At home, he has the same toys he always has. The only other kid is his baby sister who tries to pull his hair and eat his toys. There’s no indoor playground and the outdoor “playground” is sadly lacking a slide, Cozy Coupes, teeter totters, and a basketball hoop. Projects are sporadic and rarely include the use of jello or paint (and by “rarely” I mean “never”). And naptime is sometimes a two-hour ordeal involving raised voices and frequently a solid swat across a misbehaving tuchis.

I am a bad mother.

Except that I’m really not, and a certain part of me knows this. My son has an amazing vocabulary for a not-quite-2-1/2 year old, and I know it’s because I talk to him all day long and use big vocabulary words like “delicious,” “fascinating,” and “incorrigible.” (I’m kidding about that last one. That one, my husband taught him.) He has a great imagination and loves to play pretend and tell stories because I do it with him all the time and encourage him to use his mind that way. I teach him to be polite and say “please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “excuse me.” I teach him good manners like not taking other people’s toys and eating neatly and not interrupting a conversation. I’ve taught him shapes and numbers and colors and the alphabet. We sing songs together. We build railroad tracks together. We race cars together. We do puzzles together. I fix his books when he rips them and his toys when he breaks them.

And maybe the wonderful daycare teachers (and they are, truly, wonderful) do all that, too. But there are a few things that they don’t – or can’t – do that I can. They don’t give him a belly Zerbert when he’s in a bad mood. They don’t give him a big hug when he wakes up from his nap. They don’t snuggle him in their lap when he’s starting to get tired or cranky. They can’t fix a boo-boo with a kiss. And they don’t tell him, “I love you!!!!” That line is mine, all mine.

Yeah, I don't know why I'm worried. I totally win.

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