We started taking Riley to daycare when he was 3 months old, right when my maternity leave ended. I can still remember that first day, how brutal it was. I soon learned that it was better to hand him over to a kindly teacher or install him in a swing, but on that day I didn’t really know what to do and so I clumsily arranged him in one of the cribs and that’s where I left him, horrified by how small and alone he looked in there.

The staff hovered around me sympathetically, clucking and handing me tissues, as I sobbed my way out to the car.

It was awful, that first day, but it got better. The teachers were always very kind, the turnover was very low. Riley went from the infant room to the “woddler” room to the toddler room to the preschool room to the pre-K room. Dylan was a couple years behind, being held by some of the very same teachers who rocked Riley to sleep when he was little.

In five years, we’ve had few complaints about this care center. There was a brief time when they were understaffed where things weren’t being handled well—we were arriving to scenes of chaos and unchanged diapers for a week or two—but they resolved it quickly and we never saw anything like that again.

The place that has been such a positive part of our lives all this time is a KinderCare. I tell you this because I know when I was first looking into child care I thought of KinderCares as being crappy infant veal pens, probably staffed by dead-eyed ex-McDonald’s employees. Children would be milling around aimlessly, sobbing and filthy, while the franchise owner cackled and counted her thousand-dollar bills. Surely a private Montessori dayhome that offered immersive Mandarin and viola lessons would be the better choice. Only an uncaring parent would drop their precious child off at something called a “childcare facility“, right?

Well, I know every center is different, but our KinderCare has been absolutely wonderful. I could not have asked for a better team of loving, trustworthy people to teach, care for, and love our children over the years.

Last Friday was the boys’ final day at school, and while I’m so happy to be taking on a new routine, it was hard to say goodbye. One of Dylan’s teachers actually cried as we left, pulling him tight for one more hug.

A final look at Riley’s class:

And Dylan’s:

We made treat bags for Riley’s classmates, and thank you gifts for all their teachers.


Doors open, doors close. It’s all part of moving on to the next good thing.


36 Responses to “Last day at daycare”

  1. Jessamyn on September 6th, 2010 3:16 pm

    I wish you so much luck, and am kind of in awe of you, lady. (Also, you totally rock with the gift bags and the presents for the teachers! Wonder parent!)

  2. Deb on September 6th, 2010 3:16 pm

    I love reading about this journey.

  3. Lindsey on September 6th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Congratulations on your new adventure. I feel the same way about the daycare center my daughter spent her first 18 months in – it was a bright horizons and it was WONDERFUL and i feel so grateful for the loving teachers who were such a special part of her life. Bravo for great “facilities”! xo

  4. samantha jo Campen on September 6th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Finding an amzaing daycare situation is so hard to come by and a true gift when you do. I’m so glad you had such wonderful memories there. Those classrooms look amazing!

    Congrats on the new journey!

  5. kalisa on September 6th, 2010 3:27 pm

    I worked in a few different day cares when I was in college – one chain, like this, one local owned and one church daycare. It all just depends on the people. If they hire good people who are there because they want to work with children, you’re going to get good care. I’m so glad you had that for your boys when outside care was necessary for your life.

    I haven’t seen the inside of a day care classroom in…gosh, 14, 15 years? Since my son (now 17) was in one. Funny how just seeing those photos immerses me back to those days. I can almost smell the finger paint. And now I’m crying. AGAIN. Dammit. (Spoiler alert: Senior Year will have you crying more than you have since pregnancy hormones ruled your ducts.)

    Love these days with your boys. I think it’s wonderful that you’re entering into this new phase where you get to spend more time with your young children. It all passes so quickly. Dammit.

  6. divrchk on September 6th, 2010 3:34 pm

    A good couple friend of ours has had their 2 girls in a KinderCare since they were babies as well. They can not say enough great things about the care their kids receive.

    Good luck on your new adventure.

  7. typelittlea on September 6th, 2010 3:51 pm

    My daughter went to a chain, The Goddard School, and as tough as it was to leave her, I wouldn’t hesitate to send my new son.

  8. jonniker on September 6th, 2010 4:16 pm

    There’s a KinderCare less than a block from my house, and all my neighbors send their kids there. We walk by almost daily, and the teachers are *always* smiling, always working with the kids, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about them from *everyone*.

  9. Groovymarlin on September 6th, 2010 4:18 pm

    This post almost could have been written by me! My daughter went to our local Kindercare from the time she was four months old until last week, when she started at a Montessori pre-school (she turned 4 in June). She loved it at Kindercare, and most of the teachers who were there four years ago are still there (it seems only the center directors change regularly). We were 99% thrilled with them.

    We finally decided to put her in pre-school because we felt like she needed a little more of a challenge. She was getting a bit restless at Kindercare and acting out, especially at naptime (naps no longer required at her new pre-school). Of course, the Montessori school is more than twice as much as Kindercare, so we’re making some sacrifices to make this happen, but I think it will be worth it.

    Good luck to your and your boys. :)

  10. Bren on September 6th, 2010 4:54 pm

    I actually worked at a Kindercare years ago and worked with some really wonderful people. I still have pictures of my “kids” from all those years ago and remember it very fondly!

  11. Andrea on September 6th, 2010 5:11 pm

    Oh dear, your posts have me all misty eyed lately. Sunrise, sunset……

    Our two year old has been going to KinderCare since he was around 10 months old. We’re super satisfied. They’re very flexible with my crazy schedule, and my boy seems so much more happy and well-rounded than I could ever make him as a stay at home mom. He definitely likes having friends.

    A good friend of mine used to work for KinderCare before her current career. She said the hiring process and background check was very rigorous and thorough, and that they hire only the best people. She really put my mind at ease.

  12. Lisa on September 6th, 2010 5:49 pm

    love the stickers!

  13. Julia on September 6th, 2010 5:53 pm

    my boys (now 24 & 18) went to a fabulous daycare facility built in the old convent of their catholic grade school. We were truly lucky — they are seven years apart in age and had most of the same teachers. it was really a family — their “daycare friends” are still considered special when we run into them. The owner closed the facility when she could no longer easily find the quality staff she felt she needed.

  14. Tracy on September 6th, 2010 6:06 pm

    I am so proud of you! You rock as a writer, as a mom, as a wife in attempt to do it all fabuloulsy. Let me say: you are doing an awesome job. We are all flawed human beings, but I admire the fact that you simply lay it all out there. I just love reading your writing- your ability to be as honest as you are, just makes me root for you even more. I am not one to comment, ever. But I just feel like I have to after the year you’ve had. Keep it up, and follow your gut!!!

  15. Shelly on September 6th, 2010 6:54 pm

    Oh man, tomorrow is the first day I take my first baby, who is 2 months old today, to daycare. I have such conflicting emotions and am steeling myself for a brutal, emotional experience. This post came at exactly the right time for me — I hope our family has as good an experience as yours has had.

  16. Jennifer on September 6th, 2010 8:24 pm

    Awww – so sweet. I was wondering if Dylan’s teacher who said “no one tantrums like Dylan” is the one who cried when he left? They’ll miss those epic tantrums!!

  17. Jen on September 6th, 2010 8:57 pm

    No matter what you write about, I love to read it. And I’m excited to hear about all the little (and big!) steps it takes to transform your lives as you and JB have set out to do.

  18. GingerB on September 6th, 2010 10:43 pm

    I am in awe of you and your brave decisons! I love spending time with my kids, always trying to be uber mom – and now uber special needs mom – and I wipe myself out doing it. But I don’t think I’d be the right person to have them full time, and I have loved our very large day care and the care these loving people give my girls. I did sob the first time I went in there, then proceeded to make my husband do drop-offs for the entire first year beause I couldn’t handle it. I would definitely cry to say goodbye to our place, as you have. I love your little farewell gifts! You are a wonderful writer and I am confident you are going to succeed.

  19. MrsV on September 7th, 2010 1:51 am

    Linda Sharps, you are an inspiration. Reading this post actually made me well up a little bit. As a wife and mum to a 2 year old I’m in awe of your bravery and decision making and the positivity with which you do it. Making judgement calls that affect your family, especially your children, is so very hard but your closing sentence is bang on the money. Thanks for the reminder that the next good thing is just around the corner.

  20. Katie on September 7th, 2010 5:02 am

    So glad you wrote this post. My children are in a KinderCare and I absolutely adore the staff, and my 4 year old has loved every teacher. I have a friend who insists that her much more expensive school is far superior, so I’m the one who stays quiet and goes home to listen to her preschooler read capably. :-)

  21. Melissa on September 7th, 2010 6:43 am

    My Riley went to the same daycare center from 8 weeks old until he started kindergarten. It was definitely tough to say goodbye. The owner gave him this enormous stuffed snake that still hangs from the post of his bed.

    I can’t explain how I feel reading about your new adventure. It makes me want to take big steps, but I don’t even know what mine would be. I’ll just continue to read about yours for now. =)

  22. Sunny on September 7th, 2010 7:23 am

    Who knew the last day of daycare could be just as emotional as the first day you dropped him off? This post had me in tears and my child hasn’t even started school yet…

  23. Sunny on September 7th, 2010 7:52 am

    I LOVE KINDERCARE. The caps are totally called for.

    My son just left a 6-year stint at Kindercare and he misses it every single day. The teachers, the level of care and attention, safety, the curriculum. I loved it so much I opted to keep him there for full time Kindergarten. Now? Well the first two weeks of first grade have been “boring”.

    It was really hard to leave but it’s a rite of passage to move up and move on.

    I’ve never been happier to fork over thousands of dollars every year.

  24. MRW on September 7th, 2010 9:17 am

    I cried the first day we took my son to day care at 6 months and I cried the last day he went there at 5.5 years. He loved it, I loved it. If they had offered elementary school, I swear we would have happily paid for him to stay there. Now my daughter goes to the same day care. I still cried the first day I dropped her off in January and I’ll probably cry her last day there 4 years from now. Sigh.

  25. souphead on September 7th, 2010 11:13 am

    Dude! You totally made me all teary (hormonal much?).

    Congratulations on your new adventure! I’m sure it’ll be challenging and totally worth it.

    ps: I don’t normally talk/write like a surfer, it just came out that way

  26. Erika on September 7th, 2010 11:51 am

    I wish you guys much success on this new journey!

  27. agirlandaboy on September 7th, 2010 12:24 pm

    I’m already dreading the time we have to say goodbye to our daycare. And I’m totally stealing the idea of treat bags, especially the part that says “friend” because that–even moreso than the school aspects of it, I think–is the most valuable thing kids learn away from home. Well, that and “Mandarin.” :)

  28. Anne on September 7th, 2010 12:31 pm

    Ohhhh, yeah, I’m with ya! We also utilize a “childcare facility,” and I could not be more happy with it (well, there was one time they showed a PG movie to 3 year olds, but that’s about the extent of it). My older kid is very shy, and being in full-time daycare has allowed her to blossom socially in a way that I think she would not have been able to if she was at home with me all the time, even with playdates, etc. My younger daughter is a social butterfly, and now, at 14 months, just smiles and waves goodbye when I drop her off in the morning, because she loves it there so much. Also? A major plus of daycare is that I am always thrilled to see them in the afternoon at pick up, and they are thrilled to see me (quite a contrast to how I feel, say about 4:30PM on Sunday afternoons…)

    Good luck on all your new changes!!

  29. Crystal on September 7th, 2010 3:57 pm

    “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

  30. Lesley on September 7th, 2010 4:32 pm

    I work for a preschool at the local Jewish community center, and I have to say those KinderCare rooms look on par with/better than our rooms!

    I’m so glad that your kids had a great experience in childcare. It can be a wonderful way to learn about the big, big world out there if the right teachers are in place.

  31. Victoria on September 7th, 2010 8:03 pm

    I’m totally bawling over this. Sigh

  32. kim on September 7th, 2010 8:53 pm

    this made me cry –

    my girls went had great experiences at their daycare places too – ‘real’ school is a let-down in comparison (but cheaper!)

    i love that you’re staying at home and working – it’s inspired me

  33. kakaty on September 8th, 2010 6:45 am

    We had M at KinderCare when we moved to Cleveland. We moved her to a new school at about 20 months due to some staffing issues with the toddler/preschool rooms at the time – it was a brand new facility and we loved the infant care classes. But even though it was the right decision it was hard. All the teachers she had bought her gifts and sent her on with sweet letters about her time there.
    Now, MAD is at the same KC with the same teachers M had 3 years ago and it’s great. Plus, M still goes there when her preschool is closed. It’s a wonderful place, the staff is very loving and their ratios are low. And the cost is right on par with dayhomes in the area. I, too, was worried about the “chain-daycare” repuation but I wouldn’t hesitate to reccomend it to a new parent.

    Good luck with your new path – it’s always inspriational to read about your adventures

  34. jwoap on September 8th, 2010 7:50 am

    I don’t post at all if ever but I had to chime in here — KinderCare was our childcare facility and it rocked. Not only did they really aid us in potty training Nick, they also helped in learn to read at age three using Hooked on Phonics.

    Nick still remembers Miss Shannie, and Miss Debbie, he loved them very much. We all cried when we stopped going.

    I never worried about it being chain-daycare because all of my co-workers (doctors and lawyers) had their kids there and it was such a great place.

    I think what you are doing is a great thing Linda, I wish you the very best.

  35. Traci on October 21st, 2010 3:22 pm

    I know this post is 6 weeks old, but I wanted to jump in here and say something. This is one of the most touching stories I have ever read.

    I just joined KinderCare working on the Digital Marketing team and I am in the process of familiarizing myself with the families who are out there and I found this exchange. It made me so happy to hear your stories, as I am also a KinderCare parent (and was one prior to my employment). I understand what it feels like leaving your child for the first time and the quantitiy of tears involved. We also found a center with amazing teachers — that peace of mind is priceless.

    Your post reminded me how fast children grow up and how we all need to treasure every single moment. Thanks again to all who shared their experiences – it was truly moving. (I am in the process of dabbing the tears before a colleague walks by my desk)

    I wish Riley the very best and I hope he is enjoying his new class.

    Thanks to all and best wishes!!

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