It's a word that strikes a certain level of fear and apprehension in parents who require it. It's a foreign concept to parents who don't. To kids old enough to speak fairly well, it's school. Our kids have been put through a bit of a ringer in this arena. I have only our family experience to draw upon, so I preface this with the notion that this might not be out of the ordinary...but it feels like it might be.
When Paige was on the way, I was a graduate student at Georgetown and making very little money (based on the nation average I was doing OK...but in the DC area I may as well have been paid in rubber bouncing balls). We had a house to pay for, and other incidentals, when we started researching and interviewing day care providers as my wife would need to continue to work to make the household affordable (not to mention that she WANTED to continue to work...though she had and still has pangs about not being a stay at home Mom). We hit the usual suspects, the big national centers (KinderCare, La Petite) and a few local centers figuring that they were accredited and would provide a solid "care" base and a progressive scholastic environment for our kid when the time came.
We were BLOWN AWAY at the astronomical cost of these facilities, but figured that we could afford it and so we booked Paige a slot at La Petite to start when she was ~8 weeks old. We settled on it and let it be for a couple of days/weeks. Then, just to be sure we were doing the "right" thing for our kid, we decided to look into some home daycare providers in the area (no way in hell we had the space or $$ to do the in-house Nanny thing). We interviewed 2 or 3 providers and found one we liked more than we thought we would. Young-ish couple with two young boys (elementary school age). Father was a K-9 police officer for the county and the space was pretty good sized and our kid would be the only infant in her care.
The cost was dramatically different. Like lifestyle-altering different. Still a whopping sum of $ for the year, but about 60% of what the center cost was. We thought long and hard about it, deciding that when Paige reached a certain age (in our minds ~3 years) we'd move her to a pre-school type environment then and allow her to progress academically and socially at that point. So we cancelled our slot at the center, and placed Paige in the home. It was a tough transition for my wife, as I'm sure it is with all mothers.
(Side note: why is it that we fathers are sort of "programmed" to just be able to go immediately back to our full-time jobs after the arrival of a child? I don't think I love my kids any less than my wife does. Why is it expected, and almost biologically hardwired for us to leave our kids and forage?)
Things went pretty well with the situation. We even coaxed friends into placing their newborn at the same home. There were problems, sure (I am not going to point them out here, that is another post, down the road, when I'm sure that K9 Dad no longer has a service weapon - or dog) but we chalked them up to "every place has its issues...this is the best situation for our child".
When Taryn was on her way we were faced with a seemingly exponential increase in daycare cost (really, it only slightly more than doubled, but that's a whole lot of coin) and really didn't even consider a move from the home. She took her place there with her sister (and a growing list of clients and issues) at ~8 weeks and we were off and running (I was making a tiny bit more $ at this point as a post-doctoral fellow, but really only enough to cover the rise in care costs).
Then, when Taryn was 6 months old (Paige was just before her 3rd birthday), in the dead of winter (in the midst of the worst stream of snow storms the DC area has had in my 11+ years here now) we were summarily dismissed from the home care. The reasons given were spurious at best, and the method was utter cowardice. We were led to believe that our oldest daughter was Satan's own spawn. We were heartbroken and angry and cast our doubts on our collective abilities as parents. It was a very difficult set of emotions and logistical issues to deal with. Maybe the single most trying time of my personal life (and I've been through gradschool/postdoc hell AND had an engagement fall apart) to date. I will never personally forgive the woman and her deadbeat (we found this out along the way...) husband. I hope she rots in hell.
My sister came down from NY to help us out. Like I said, we were in the middle of awful snow which basically shut down the DC area for a week. We were able to be home with the kids the first week out of care (we elected to pull them immediately, though they were given a "two week" notice of sorts) and then my sister stayed with us for 3 weeks while we tried to sort things out. It was a mutually beneficial situation I think. We paid her a little, and provided all her meals...she watched her two favorite nieces during the day and got to change her scenery up a bit from the confines of upstate NY.
Since Paige was approaching the age of 3, we decided that we were going to eschew the search for home providers and put the girls into a center. We did some more interviews. Holy shizzoly. The expense was going to murder us. We figured out how to do it, realizing that in very short order we were either going to be moving to North Carolina to chase my career, or stay put with the prospect of my salary increasing a very healthy amount as a fellow for the National Cancer Institute. We decided to enroll the kids at a center in our town.
Free advertising plug: Little People Dayschool is a magnificent facility for care and nurturing of kids. Our kids both flourished, almost immediately. Paige potty trained just before starting, and this reduced our cost too! (If I told you what we spend on daycare, you'd jab a fork into your ear...let's just say that we haven't replaced our 11 year old Pathfinder...but we could have, every year, with a brand new one and had no payments...)
Paige learned her letters, numbers and all sorts of stuff. Taryn was the jewel of the the infant/toddler scene (OK, I'm biased...Tiffini and Ed, if you're reading this, Ty is pretty cool too...). Speaking of Tiffini and Ed...we made a new set of friends after being at the school for a bit. Super couple with two kids that our girls really like. We've done a few play dates, cook outs, birthday parties with them. Spent July 4th at their place. Would like to do more when we can find the weekend to do it too! Our kind of folks...(even though she's a Steelers fan).
So, this brings us to today. Paige and Taryn are spending their last day at Little People. We moved recently, remember? My wife has been trucking the kids down the interstate every day and dropping them at school, going to work, and picking them up in the afternoons. It's too much. It adds 20 minutes to her commute, each way, and it just isn't fair to her. Or the kids, really, to have them in the car so early and for so long each day.
We knew this was going to happen, but we wanted to let them adjust to a new house and surroundings before placing them in a new school (an opportunity they'd not have had if we moved to Carolina). But it's time. We toured a few facilities in our new spot, and found one we think (we hope) is going to be comparable to Little People. It's a crap shoot. We're sad that we have to pull the kids out of such a great place, where we've made friends and have a good relationship with other parents and the teachers. The kids were loved there, beside being cared for and taught.
Paige is excited to start at her new school. It'll be a short transition for her I think. I'd be surprised if she's not fully entrenched within 2 weeks.
Taryn, on the other hand, is a different story. She's a bit younger than Paige was when she moved situations, but is a completely different child. She's stubborn and does not deal with frustration well (it manifests as hitting and grumpy non-compliance...she's 2). I'm guessing it'll take a bit longer for her, but her big sister will be there so...
Here's hoping that we improve our batting average with this choice. We're at .500, looking to go to .667 and not drop down to .333
We'll miss you, Little People. Truly, you were the perfect place for our daughters.