It was a typical Friday afternoon daycare pickup. I walked in and picked up Atlas’ bag as I talked to our wonderful home-based daycare provider. Atlas continued playing with the other kids, smiling at the baby, playing blocks with another toddler, and then he walked to the high chair where a slightly older boy was coloring and reached up and touched his paper. The boy, thinking he was going to lose his prized drawing, reacted by hitting Atlas with his crayon. It wasn’t a hard hit but of course it made him cry.
He ran straight to Ms. G for comfort.
The internal struggle with “mom guilt” was instant. He sought out another person’s comfort right in front of me and this had never happened before. Even at home when my husband is there he usually wants his mama. But here in this place that he spends 30-40 hours of his week, he knew that she was there to fix the boo-boo. Wonderful, right? Yes of course it is. It is exactly what I hoped he would have in a daycare experience. Ms. G truly loves my boy and for that I am so grateful. So why was my first reaction to be mortified that he chose her on just this one occasion?
I rarely feel the “mom guilt” when I do daycare drop off because I love going to work and feeling accomplished in contributing to the family in multiple ways. Additionally, I know my child is very social and thrives on interaction with others. As I reflected on my internal dilemma on the drive home, I realized there was much more to it that this one instance.
I thought back to when Atlas was just so tiny and I was a hormonal postpartum mess pretending to have it all together. I remembered how offended I felt when other people –grandmas, aunts, etc.– would call him “their baby” and how I bristled at so many things that seem so minuscule now. In my mind I was establishing boundaries –some of which I still think were important– others not so much. My mother-in-law probably got the worst of me during that time, but no matter what I did or said she never stopped loving Atlas. And she never stopped loving me.
I realize now that My mother-in-law’s love of my boy, our boy, only expands his understanding of love. And that’s what is great about Ms. G’s love, too. It is his villagers coming out and clapping for him, wildly and loudly, when he reaches the little milestones of these first years and beyond. And if I want to work and be away for chunks of time every week, then I want him to know that he has people who love him to pieces and who he can look to for support and guidance at every boo-boo and every first step. That’s why I picked his daycare. And that’s why I have to remember to let go of the reigns and let others love my son.
Their love for him and his for them does not diminish the love between us. He is and always will be my boy. And this mama is grateful more each day that I get to help him build a village. One day he will start to pick his own village, so for now I need to show him how to look for the best ones. And his village is already very large, it includes parents, grandparents, Ms. G, handfuls of aunts and uncles, and great aunts and uncles. I’m inviting in librarians, swim instructors, YMCA staff members, neighbors and friends.
As I stretch his village, my village also grows. And when I see these people love on Atlas, I know it is a reflection of their love for me. We all can use more love and positivity in our lives, we just have to reach out our arms and invite it in.
Are you intentionally growing and fostering your kids’ villages? Tell me who else I should include in ours!