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10 Things We Wish We Knew About Daycare

From lots of prep to teachers with superpowers, here's what it's really like.


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1. They may have separation anxiety when you leave, but it's harder on you.

I’m not going to lie: dropping my babies off at daycare is sad, especially when they’re crying and clinging to me for dear life. But it gets better with time. And the great news is your kids get over it faster than you do. As soon as I get to work, I call to make sure everything’s okay. “Oh, yeah, totally fine. He stopped crying about 20 seconds after you left.”

2. In the time it takes to get them ready for daycare every single night, you could drive to Disney.

There’s the meal prep: two or three snacks, breakfast and lunch (no nuts! no crusts! grapes cut into bite-size pieces!), all labeled with names and dates. Then there’s the clothes, sunscreen, bedding, diapers and wipes. Oh, and multiply it all by the number of kids you have. If I spent as much time writing a novel as I do getting my kids ready each day, I’d have a book deal by now. 

3. The teachers will know your kids almost as well as you do.

Having another human love and understand your children (almost) as much as you do is an amazing thing. When you see how connected your kids are to their teachers, it’ll make your heart flutter.

4. Your kids may hit milestones at lightning speed.

Did she just learn her letter sounds in, like, two months? Did he just give up his pacifier in a day after you’ve been struggling with the separation for months? You’re the best teacher, but sometimes being in a classroom setting makes all the difference.

5. They get sick constantly. And therefore, so do you.

The first year is tough because they catch every bug within a 20-mile radius. You’ll see the stomach flu (the worst), upper respiratory infections, hand, foot and mouth disease, strep and lice. And you know what that means, right? Mommy, Daddy and siblings come down with all of it, too. A couple years later, when a whole winter passes and you didn’t get a case of strep or a stomach bug, you’ll realize the sick stage is finally over.

6. They come home wild-eyed and crazed. Hello, multiple tantrums!

Daycare is sensory overload for tiny humans. They’re running around with 10 to 20 other kids all day, going from one awesome high-octane activity to the next. When you finally pick them up, they’re exhausted and ready for a meltdown. 

7. Seeing your children with their daycare friends is magic.

You think you’re giving your kids everything they need at home, but then you realize how cute and happy they are giggling with their friends, how important peer interaction is and how playdates aren’t the same as daycare. You’ll be grateful.

8. But then they start acting like their friends...and not always the best-behaved ones.

When did my daughter stop saying please? And why is my son making that weird sick cat noise? Daycare. More specifically, other kids at daycare. And it’s usually the loudest ones who fascinate them the most. You only have to spend five minutes in the classroom to see where they learned their latest behavior, because 15 other kids will be acting the same way. And don’t be surprised if another parent points the finger at your kid for their child’s latest tantrum.

9. Even better—your kid will learn some naughty words.

“Butt” and “poopy head” weren’t my favorite new words, but they were Shakespeare compared to my daughter’s first f-bomb. I managed to convince her that it was actually “fox.” And she believed me...for about a day. But, hey. I got her to stop saying it, didn’t I?

10. What you don’t know won’t kill you.

My children have undoubtedly consumed more cupcakes than I’ll ever want to know about. I’m sure they’ve had their share of meltdowns over sharing, too. As long as the things I don’t know about are only mildly unsettling, I’m fine. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Catherine Donaldson-Evans lives in Cranford with her husband and two kids.

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