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20 August 2012

Why Home Matters

Having something cut out of your neck is hard on your body, and anesthesia doesn't make it easier. Not being able to hold my son just compounded the pain. My parents and sisters helped so much, but my son cannot understand at 20 months old why Mama is there but she cannot hold him, feed him, comfort him, and put him to bed. Listening to your son cry for almost two hours at bedtime because you cannot hug him is next to torture - I'll wager that for any mother.

Fatigue kept me from engaging in any of the fun and most of the responsibilities, but from my vantage point on the futon, I got a very new view of my son - the way he plays, what he needs, what he does and doesn't understand and how he learns. Entirely discluded, except for a few hugs from the side of the couch, I had to see with a new eye.

What I saw answered the question for me, what does my child lose when he's at daycare?

I didn't want to go back to work when my son was born, but I had to, so I was determined to lose as little time as possible with my son. He went to a family day care near my work because I wanted to nurse him at lunch, and it kept his daycare time to a minimum. But as time went on, some positives emerged. The main caretaker is a grandmother who loves children, and works with her husband and daughter. They play games, paint, sing, dance, read stories, and do puzzles. My child was in a home, with loving people, learning new things and building relationships with other children. But the one thing my child needs at this age, no one can give him except his own family: the time, space, love, and security to develop emotionally.

A child from his or her first days to three years old simply is not ready, does not have what he or she needs to be outside the home and away from family all day long. The stress on a child in my son's situation three days a week is not something he is prepared for. It forces him to cope with something he cannot cope with. The hour long subway ride each way, which gets harder as he gets older and is bursting with the joie de vivre stored up in his 11 hour night; being surrounded by children of all ages playing, yelling, arguing, and yes, laughing; the sensory overload of a full house; the discomfort of not being in his own home when he has almost no ability to soothe himself. The fact that he simply is not with the people he most trusts in all the world: Mama and Daddy. No one is Mama and no one is Daddy, or Nana or Grandpop or Meme and Gramps, and no one can replace them or do what they do - and he knows this in every way. From the calm that runs throughout his body when he first smells my skin, to his breakdown on the train letting out all he's kept inside -the frustration, anger, irritation, stress, sadness, and even excitement or challenge or joy, all day long for the babysitter.
When we're not ready to do something, by and large, if we try, it won't go well. My son is not ready to cope with all that challenge.

But a child's first three years are so primal, so prime, because what he does need and is doing right now is finding and feeling his place in the world. And his place is within a loving family of relationships. At the end of the day, my son knows he goes home to one father, one mother, and one family, and where and with whom he spent the day really doesn't matter a hill of beans compared to his own pack. He knows this because he feels it, all his senses reinforce it, and his relationships are meant to support it. If we're unsure just what the best way to approach almost anything is - we have only to look to nature. Fox pups are kept with mama in the den until they can hunt, keep their own den, and raise their own little pups.
This is the time in my son's life when he needs to bond securely, and feel that he can completely trust his family, his world, and his place in this world. This is the time to love your child in every way possible, making that child feel completely secure - being there as he takes these many new steps, experiencing the wide world for the first time. Because everything that follows comes from this time.

With that trust, love and support, your child can flip stones over and poke bugs, jump off the slide for the first time, and have a spat with his playmate: because he knows you're there to stand behind him, pick him up, and make things right again. You show him how he can trust the world, because there is no one he trusts more than you. And it is being with you, living in this world with you, sharing with you that builds his relationship with you: the relationship he is going to emulate for the rest of his life.

In my first job after college, I was so excited to be around adults! To work with people who would work with me, cooperate, collaborate, communicate for a common goal. After about three weeks I realized most people had not matured past wherever they were at about age 14 - just like at college. This was a major letdown. I'm 34 and I think I've only begun to learn how to get by at work -- knowing this for over 12 years.

If there is one thing I see lacking most in the world it's emotional maturity. Maybe it's something our culture has not placed much value on: knowing how to read our own emotions, and what to do with them and with ourselves in the midst of them; to read other people; coming to feel what others feel; knowing how we feel and yet not always acting from an emotional place; and valuing what all this means - even using it to advance relationships, to work together, to accomplish what we're meant to do. Again, folks, I gotta say - if we spent more time with our children at the most important moment in their emotional development - giving them time and our love to develop in their own time in this very precious way - would we be better people, would our society be less combative, and more cooperative?

I was given the time to heal. I'm better every day, and for that I believe I will be stronger sooner, and stronger longer. My skin is almost entirely knit, I'm able to lift my son, put him to bed, and push him on the swing - now. My family was here: taking care of everything I needed, nutritious food, time to sleep and rest, taking care of my son in the best way he can be cared for: by those who will be a part of his life for the rest of his life. I only want the same for him.

** It's imperative that I make a note here for all the working mothers who love their jobs: if you love your job, God bless you. If you need to work to be happy, God Bless YOU - most people don't have that! If being at home all day would deprive you of what you need to be yourself, I fully support your decision to work. As they always say, "when Mama ain't happy, ain't NObody happy!" I support you. It's not good for anyone when the person taking care of the child is unhappy.

1 comment:

  1. Yes indeed, how would American society improve if we spent more time with our little ones at crucial times in their development?