At the end of November H and I took a big deep breath and sent an email to Kitty and Elma’s nursery to withdraw Elma. She had her last nursery day at the end of December and came home as happy as could be having had a lovely day playing on the trikes in the garden and doing something involving copious amounts of glue (the latter deduction based mainly on how much shampoo was required at bath time), entirely unaware that this had been her Last Day, while I tried not to get emotional at the fact that she was leaving key workers who I can remember loving and welcoming Kitty not so very long ago, and who I had been so happy to have be a part in both my daughters’ childhood.
It was one of those moments when you just have to cross your fingers and hope that you’ve made the right decision.
It was in part a decision motivated by finances; I don’t need childcare right now, I’m at home all day, and will be until the summer so to have any form of outside help is a bit of a luxury. Kitty is eligible for her nursery grant and my employer continues to pay my childcare vouchers while I’m on maternity leave, but you don’t get any more childcare vouchers for having more children (sensible though that might be, and we’ll leave that soapbox for another day) and they only go so far. And so it came to a choice. Both girls could have one day a week, or Kitty could have two.
If one of them had hated nursery, had had to be peeled off me every morning or had come home bored and unenthusiastic it might have been easy to say “Ok you stay at home, you can go if you want to”, but they both absolutely love nursery. Kitty settled in almost from her first day and is happy and comfortable and confident with all of her key workers. They’ve taught her French nursery rhymes and she’s watched a chicken hatch, and a baby chicken poop on someone’s hand, and made more art than we can fit in our house and sung and run around all day long, while Elma walked in on her first day without a backward glance. As long as there was toast in the mornings she was the happiest little girl in the room, usually giving her wailing companions a rather quizzical look over the breakfast table.
But at the end of the day Kitty is four and Elma is only just two, and so we decided that it was most important for Kitty to have her two days. I think if she were at home all day every day she’d start to climb the walls. It sounds very super special snowflake I know, but she comes across as quick to pick things up and usually fairly confident and articulate and I can see how frustrated she gets when we have to do things at a slightly slower speed or at a lower level to allow Elma to join in, or because Mummy also needs to take care of Pip. It’s probably a useful life lesson for her and I do try to take some time in the day to do things just for her, to play dominoes or her sandcastle game or anything else where there’s a risk of Elma running off with the pieces, but as Elma starts to drop her nap (alas) it becomes harder to fit in. Those two days with her peers give her the chance to just be Kitty and not Kitty-the-biggest-sister, and as there’s at least one little girl in her preschool class who will (fingers crossed) be going to school with her come September I’m so happy that she’s going to have one friendly face for her first day.
And while Elma loved her nursery days we’re hoping that for her the benefits of being at home all the time will outweigh missing her toast, her favourite tricycle, her key worker and her friends (probably in that order). I hope that in giving her more time at home she gets to be the big sister not the little big sister. She will get, well not quite one on one time with Mummy, because no one gets one on one time with me at the moment, not even me, but certainly the chance to be the leader in our expeditions, the chance to think for herself, and to answer for herself and not simply echo her much adored and very vocal big sister. She is by nature a very independent little thing and I’ve no doubt that when the time comes for pre-school and real school she’ll have no trouble finding her feet, but for now it feels right to pull her close and enjoy the last few months of her babyhood.
But that was our reasoning, not the girls’. I worried that Elma would feel that she was being left out, that she would want to run on in to her toast every day and I’d have to comfort a sad little girl who couldn’t understand why she wasn’t being allowed to play with her friends any more; or that Elma would be fine but Kitty would feel as if we were pushing her out, as if we didn’t want her so we were sending her away, or that she was missing out on some day full of fun and chocolate ice cream every time she went to pre-school. And I worried a little bit about Pip. All through the autumn I loved those couple of days a week that I spent with just my Pip; I could entirely devote myself to him, to feeding him with no pressure to be done so that I could go and sort out sticky messes or trying to read a story with one hand, hold a baby with the other and work out how or whether we were ever going to have lunch all at the same time. It was a treat and one I’m well aware many people don’t get, but I didn’t want Pip to loose that special time, or to simply be carted from pillar to post as I parented his sisters.
It also felt like the first time we’d made a parenting decision that was right but not necessarily fair, it’s an awkward sort of feeling, but one I suspect we’ll become all too familiar with as the years go past.
And so here we are, one month in, and so many of my worries have come to nothing; Kitty still loves pre-school and sees it as something that she gets to do because she’s a big girl; Elma turned up to deliver Kitty on her first at home morning wearing a sunhat, carrying a little raffia basket and told everyone “I going shopping. But not Littee (her sister)!”, seems generally rather surprised to find some of her former colleagues in the hallway and is loving sole possession of all the Duplo slides and the swing twice a week. And as she still naps occasionally, or gets utterly caught up in playing I don’t think I’ve lost out on my play time with Pip.
So far so good. Phew.