Children seem to be trained in manipulation from birth but it’s really only when the toddler years kick in that their true skills emerge. We should seriously set up an intelligence service consisting of toddlers as they could manipulate information out of the coldest of hearts.
This morning I dropped the tiny lady to her childminder. The protests began ever before we got to the house. It’s a fifteen minute drive but unfortunately my daughter now recognises the turn we take to get to her childminder’s house. So I then have to listen to fifteen minutes of ‘home’, ‘no mama’ and tears. You would assume from reading this that she hates her childminder. Nothing could be further from the truth. She adores her. She loves playing in her house. No sooner do I leave then the tears dry up and the fun begins. I’ve seen actual photographic evidence of this. One day I left her, tears welling in my own eyes as she reached for me. Seconds later I hear my phone ping with a text saying the tears were gone and she was playing happily.
Yet the guilt persists. As I write this I know full well she is doing great and has, momentarily, forgotten mama. In my former life I worked as an early years professional so I have seen first hand tears magically dry up the second mama or dada shuts the door. In my Montessori class in Dublin one child literally jumped off my lap as her mum shut the door; tears long gone while I watched her mother slumped with defeat walk to her car and drive away. Half an hour later she rang, seeking reassurance that her daughter was fine. I assured her all was well but I could tell she didn’t really believe me. I don’t blame her. If I had never worked with children I wouldn’t have believed it either. The change from broken-hearted tiny person to hyper, full-of-fun tyke has to be seen to be believed.
I am thankful for my experiences in childcare now as it has made situations like this a little bit easier. Not much but a little. I know how well these monkeys can play mama and dada. This is not to suggest they don’t genuinely miss their parents or that they are just putting it on. But emotions can sometimes be overblown in toddlers. They will miss you a little so obviously this calls for an Oscar-worthy performance that Anne Hathaway would have been proud to emulate in Les Mis. However, once you are gone it’s out of sight out of mind for them while you muddle through the day filled with guilt and self-loathing. Logically you know she is fine but your heart isn’t listening to your brain. It’s only when you are reunited that you feel all is right in the world again. Then you wish you had enjoyed your free time instead of beating yourself up. Oh well, there’s always next time…