This time next week I’ll be in Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea, getting ready to head out on the road, delivering Christmas shoeboxes filled with presents to the children of Papua New Guinea. For those who aren’t aware, Operation Christmas Child is part of the work of Samaritan’s Purse and they spread Christmas cheer to children who otherwise probably wouldn’t receive a gift. I’m pretty excited about the idea of seeing the children receive their presents. I know it means a lot to them to think that somebody in a distant country cares about them enough to send them a special box full of presents. It sounds like a cliché, but I know it will be a life-changing experience. I’m just slightly concerned about leaving Birdy for five whole days!
I’ve never really gone anywhere without her. I left her overnight with a babysitter once for our wedding anniversary but we were back home by 8am the next day. Just the other day when we had The Voyage of the Dawntreader preview screening for work, Birdy had a sleepover at my sister’s house. Now I must admit I quite enjoyed having a night out without her, but when I got back home the house seemed strangely empty. And when I woke up, there was nobody squashing me off the edge of the bed. Normally I go to sleep in the usual way, lying on my half of the bed, but when I wake up Birdy has crawled over the top of me, sandwiched herself in between Mum and Dad in the wee hours of the morning, and I’m like a seagull perched on the edge of a cliff, about to fall off, with Birdy sticking her legs and arms into my back at all sorts of impossible angles as if she’s trying to give me acupuncture. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep without my early morning torture session.
I think she’ll be fine. If she does miss me at all, it will probably be at bedtime, because we always cuddle up in bed and read 4 or 5 stories together. It’s our special little time at the end of the day. But I don’t think she’ll miss me too much because she’ll have an army of people looking after her. My husband will be there (when he’s not working), my sister’s coming down to stay, my parents are helping out for a bit and then there’s her other Aunty and Uncle and cousins who live nearby. So she won’t be deprived of TLC. And as long as she manages to stay out of hospital for five days, I probably won’t be too worried about her. I thought I might try to leave her a little letter to open every day while I’m away so she knows I’m thinking of her. I’ve also got to figure out how to get my phone to do international roaming. I don’t think I could go for five days without at least sending a kiss and a cuddle down the phone!
Have you ever gone away without your kids? What’s the longest period of time you’ve left them for? How did you cope? How did they cope? Are you glad you did it? Do you have any ideas to help make the separation go more smoothly?
PS. I won’t be able to blog from PNG, but I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about when I get back!
My neighbour and I recently started our three-year-olds at occasional care together. I don’t why, but starting Birdy in daycare was a really big deal for me. I was sooo anxious about it I nearly cancelled the whole thing. I suppose you could say I had a bit of separation anxiety.
We were supposed to go down to the daycare centre for a trial the day before Birdy started. In my mind, I secretly hoped that smiling saint-like pre-school teachers would greet us by name at the gate, emanating peace and light and blessed assurance; that Birdy would be instantly drawn into some amazing creative activity and that all my anxieties about leaving my daughter with a total stranger would melt away.
Errr… maybe not. We stayed for about an hour, and the whole time not one staff member spoke to Birdy or tried to engage her in any activity. I think they took the attitude that we were just there to observe. But by the time we left, I was beside myself, thinking, ‘how can I leave my child with people she’s never even met?’ It’s not that I thought Birdy wasn’t ready for daycare. It was more that I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready to forfeit the luxury of knowing my daughter spends all day every day with somebody who cares deeply about her. Fortunately, my husband convinced me to give it another chance or two.
So the next day I dropped Birdy off with fear and trembling, reminding myself that I was only leaving her for a few hours. Even if she didn’t have close, personal attention for those hours, she would still have her little friend with her. This time the staff were far more attentive and although there were a few tears, overall she coped fairly well. The second week the goodbyes were far more traumatic as the teacher wrestled my thrashing, weeping child off me so I could get out the gate. However, I couldn’t leave her like that. I had to keep going back in and giving her more kisses and cuddles until she was ready to let me go.
Now, five weeks later, I’m so glad I stuck it out. I’ve seen Birdy growing in confidence and in her social skills. I’ve seen her joining in more with other children, showing more maturity and listening to instructions – all skills that will be useful for starting school. Last week, she was actually excited when we arrived, and when I picked her up she was having so much fun she didn’t want to leave.
I think I can safely say that Birdy has settled in at daycare. I actually feel quite proud of her for how well she’s coped. I’m sure it helped that she started at the same time as her little friend. So far, we’re still only doing one half-day a week. We’ll probably add another half-day when Mummy gets used to the idea.
Do you remember how you felt when your child started daycare or pre-school for the first time? Was it a big deal for you? How did your child cope? Do you think there is a ‘right’ age to start? Was there anything you did that helped your child to settle in? Or if your child didn’t settle well, how did you deal with that?