I’m grieving the impending loss of a family member.
Well, she’s technically not a family member. And she’s perfectly healthy. And she only lives a 1/2 block away, so it’s not like we’ll never see her again.
But in August, Margaret is leaving Joan, the daycare provider we’ve been with for four years, since before David turned two. And who has been caring for Margaret since she was six weeks old.
In four years, I’ve never heard Joan raise her voice to a child and never seen her lose her cool. (She’s not perfect, I know. I only see her for minutes a day. But still.) Each day, I’ve seen her greet my children with a delighted smile on her face, as though she’s been sitting there anticipating their arrival. She’s never done a single thing that I have found objectionable. As my friend Pegeen (whose daughter was also in Joan’s care) noted, Joan’s not really a daycare provider. She’s more like a favorite aunt who’s a much better parent than you. She potty-trained Margaret, she taught my children to say please and thank you and to eat their vegetables, she taught them to play nicely with others, and to be kind and compassionate and thoughtful, and to say sorry like they mean it, with a hug.
For various reasons, both Emma and David had multiple caregivers. It was like a revolving door. Most of them were very capable and loving. They just didn’t stick around very long. (The most notable example of this was David’s nanny who, having been with us for six months, said her normal weekend goodbye on the Friday before Memorial Day, 2004, and we never saw or heard from her again. Still have no idea what happened to her.) So David and Emma (and their parents) never really got that close to anyone. But we have all grown to love Joan. In addition to caring for the kids, she is our back-up in a jam, our child-rearing consultant, and my confidant.
I don’t have any problem with the concept of Margaret, my baby, going to pre-school. I’m fine with the fact that I don’t have babies anymore. And the Montessori she’s going to, the same one David’s been at for the past two years, will be a great environment for her.
But I tear up every time I think about leaving Joan. Part of it is that I don’t do very well with transitions. (Is there any doubt where David got that from?) And I hate goodbyes. On Friday, David will say goodbye to his teachers at Montessori, and spend the summer at a daycamp before entering kindergarten in the Fall. And in early August, we will say good bye to Joan (see, my eyes are filling up with tears). It feels like a summer of goodbyes, and it makes me so sad.
But I have to remember that it is also a summer of hellos, as David and Margaret each move on to the next people who will love and care for them. New opportunities for them, and for us. New logistical challenges that we will figure out.
And we will still have Joan in our hearts. And the neighborhood.