So, the Small went to nursery today. She only went for ‘settles’ which is nursery talk for ‘let’s see how she goes before we commit’. I’d made the cardinal mistake of assuring every member of staff that she would be fine.
“She’s never had any attachment issues,” I gushed. “When I leave she waves me goodbye. In fact, a few cursory tears would be nice!” Hahahaha. Oh, how we all laughed.
As I entered the nursery for her first ‘settles’, I was mentally punching myself in the face for being so cocky. What if she did that thing that ALL babies do, you know, when you say something like, “No don’t worry, there’s nothing she won’t eat” and then your baby decides that she’s not going to eat ANYTHING you offer her? Or when you say, ‘Look! Watch this! It’s so cute!” and then, when you issue the command, the Small stares at you blankly as if you’re a mad woman? Well, I was pretty sure the Small was going to show me up in the most spectacular way.
I genuinely hadn’t been that nervous about the whole thing and it’s probably because I have it easy. I’m self employed and, up until now, have only taken work that I can do around the whole motherhood thing. I felt ready to take on a bit more work so it was my choice to put her into nursery. Also, I only have to put her in for one day a week so that obviously made a difference too.
[Side note: big love and kudos to all those mommas who are contractually obliged to put their Smalls into nursery whether or not they are god damn good and ready.]
When it came to choosing the nursery, I became bamboozled pretty quickly. I used to be a teacher so I know that Ofsted reports mean fuck all; the reviews on Mumsnet and Netmums et al. were no help – 50% thought every nursery was amazing, 50% had shit stuff to say about every nursery. In the end, I took a recommendation from a friend, turned up and let my gut decide (LET YOUR GUT DECIDE). Everyone who worked there was lovely, they loved the Small, the Small liked them, they didn’t think I was the worst mother in the world and, as far as I could see, every child was still alive at the end of the day. Done.
Anyway, back to the ‘settles’. I decided that I would stay for a while and see how she got on. You have to take your shoes off to go into the baby room so I put the Small on the floor. No sooner had I reached for the first lace, she was off. Like a rat up a drainpipe, she crawled at high speed into the baby room and didn’t look back. Not once.
All the other babies were sitting in a line eating their biscuit and she sat down at the end of the line and held her hand up to the nursery nurse for a biscuit. She sat in the line for a hot minute before deciding that she would take her biscuit to the toy box and do a bit of eating/playing multitasking.
At no point in this whole operation did she glance towards me. She couldn’t have cared less.
After 50 minutes, the nursery nurse gently suggested that I could probably try leaving her (translation: she’s totally fine. Get out of here you crazy woman) so, I went to the local tea house and drank Earl Grey, ate a jacket potato and watched my phone nervously.
An hour and a half later, I practically ran into the nursery, convinced I would be able to hear her screams from a street away to find my Small happily playing with all the new toys and the new friends in the new place. As I walked in I said her name and she glanced up, smiled briefly before continuing to play with the sensory ball.
As I picked up her she growled. She wanted to stay and play. The toys were WAY cooler than the ones we had at home. There were more Smalls here than there were at home and the Bigs that looked after them didn’t have to change the bed or do laundry or mop the floor. She had a blast.
I know that most of you have to put your Small into nursery more than you would like and sooner than you would like, but take it from me, they are resilient little buggers and even if it’s a bit weird for them at first, that all it is…WEIRD. It isn’t painful, dangerous, horrific or irresponsible. They will be FINE but remember this…they’ll take their lead from you so be confident, be happy, be excited and they’ll run with it.