One of these choices is daycare. When we decided I was able to stay home with Ethan and I made the choice to do so, I also made the choice to keep Ethan at home with me until preschool, or VPK, or simply The Year Before Kindergarten as I call it for clarification purposes. Ethan and I have fallen into a great groove with doing Tot School at home and I truly enjoy teaching him at home. (If I could open my doors to other children and start a co-op right in my living room, I would. Trust me. I love it.) At two, Ethan can identify the letters we've learned, can count to 10, can count items out to 5, can recite his ABC's, identify shapes and tell me what words start with. He can speak in six word and up sentences. We attend one -- soon to be two -- mommy and me classes a week and rarely go a single day without at least one playdate. Ethan has the opportunity to interact with similarly aged children every day, even if it means we go to the park and meet some "new friends" to play with. I'm not saying any of this to obnoxiously boast or insist my child is brilliant beyond measure, I can assure you, but just to further my point that I don't think daycare can offer him anything that I'm not or unwilling to offer him at the moment. It's true, daycare would mean separation and time away from one another, but that is not something that we are willing to choose for our family at the moment. Ethan does not enjoy being away from me, to put it mildly. We've dropped out of dance class twice because he cannot bear to be apart from me for the class and ends up sobbing until he's a puddle of short breaths and sticky, snotty tears. When this happens, everyone is quick to suggest daycare and insist that he needs to learn to be away from me. I certainly agree. I would hate for my eighteen year old child to refuse to go to college because he's still sleeping in my bed and needs to see me at all times. However, at two years old, I don't think there is anything strange about my (shy, timid) child wanting to remain at my side. I don't think there is anything weird about a baby being attached to his mother. Independence will come. I was a painfully shy child to the point where my teachers would ask my mother if there was something wrong with me (more than once), but I still managed to form adult relationships, move out at eighteen, attend college, get married and raise my own family without issue. Right now, my baby is only two years old and needs his mommy as he explores the big world around him. I am making the choice to take this adventure with him. While some parents might make the decision that daycare is a good fit and needed for their children -- and that's great they've found something that works for them -- it's not right for us right now.
I've realized the level of insanity this has reached when someone asked me if I was going to be like "Mrs. Duggar" based on the fact that my two year old is still at home with me. Suddenly our fabulous routine and tot school adventures had become something out of the norm, frowned upon and somewhat antiquated. I couldn't make the correlation between my one child, who is only two, being at home with me for two more years and being Mrs. Duggar, and I still don't. It could be that we live in a society where not putting a two year old in elective daycare is strange and weird and frowned upon and that would just mean like usual, I'm straying from the societal norms. (Why am I always on the outside looking in? Being a nonconformist was a whole lot cooler in high school when it at least guaranteed you a spot at a certain lunch table.) The similar lines have continued to roll in: I think I'm Super Mom, I think I can teach better than teachers, don't I wish I could just get a break from my kid, don't I think he could learn more in daycare, don't I -- don't I -- I don't. I don't think any of these things. I'm certainly not a Super Mom and I'm pretty clear about how high my laundry piles can go or how dirty my hair is. I think teachers are amazing and hats off to anyone who wants to be in charge of educating young minds and future generations, and I eagerly anticipate the honor of enrolling Ethan in our local public school system. I get a break from my kid when he goes to sleep at night or on the off chance he naps (let's not kid ourselves, this last one doesn't happen) and that's good for me, for right now. I'm also pretty content with what he's learning at home with me in Tot School right now, which my elementary school teaching friends have assured me is more than adequate for a life of success in elementary school. And, more than anything, I love our time together. He's only two years old. I only have two more years with him until preschool and three until Kindergarten and these moments, this time, these days together -- I want to enjoy them. Like everything else in life, they will come to an end and I will watch his backpack grow smaller and smaller as he continues down a hallway to his classroom.
But for right now, we are standing by our choice to keep Ethan at home. Sometimes I find myself so deep in defending our choices that my brain feels like it's steps away from exploding. It shouldn't be this hard to defend that I want to keep my two year old at home. It shouldn't come down to having to convince friends that I don't think they're horrible parents or people or lesser on some imaginary parenting scale than myself for making a choice different than my own. It should just be whatever it is that is is, which is our family functioning the way we want it to and always hoped that it would be able to.