Sunday, December 20, 2009

Daycare Disaster

When it comes to daycares, I know that a "disaster" can be much worse than this, but this is a pretty darn frustrating situation we're in. When I walked into daycare to pick Jacob up on Friday, I noticed that the owner and her husband were both there. That's rare at that time of day. I went to the sign-in book to sign Jacob out, and there was an envelope clipped to his page. The owner was standing there at that moment and informed me that I'd want to read the letter inside before I left and we could discuss it when I came back out from getting Jacob. She then metioned that it was sad news. A couple things went through my head, including major staff shakeups, but I'll admit that what actually happened wasn't as huge of a surprise as it could have been. So, as I walked down the hallway, I read the letter. Jacob's daycare will be closing...effective December 31st. So, yeah...we get less than two weeks notice that we need to find a new daycare, and in the middle of that span is Christmas and New Year's. Ummm.....great. That definitely put a damper on the weekend, in so many ways.

They're closing for financial reasons. That amazes me considering how much we pay, but I do know that enrollment has dropped since we were first there. When Jacob started there, there were at least five kids in each of three infant rooms, plus at least three toddler rooms and the preschool room. There are only two infant rooms now, and two toddler rooms, plus the preschool room. Apparently enrollment was only enough to cover salaries, let alone rent and bills. They hadn't paid rent since September. They'll be auctioning off all of the equipment and supplies to try to pay everything back. It's sad, because the owner is a succesful author and lecturer when it comes to her educational philosophy (it's very play-centered), and I'm sure it kills her to see the living, breathing version of that philosophy end up a financial mess. It's horrible. Ironically, a friend of ours just called me this week and told me that his 7-month-old daughter was starting her new daycare this week, after theirs closed for financial reasons. Guess it's just another sign of the rough economy...less parents working = less need for daycare...or at least, less ability to afford one.

Obviously the thought of finding a new daycare in the next couple weeks is scary. You need to find one that has openings, is affordable, has an atmosphere we're comfortable with, and is convenient. That is no small challenge. At this point (not having been able to make a single call yet), I think we'll probably end up at one that was our second choice the first time around. When I called around a couple weeks ago to see if other daycares were cheaper now that Jacob was approaching 18 months (some change price at that point, ours did not), that place seemed eager to get us in, so I'd assume they have an opening. They're slightly cheaper than ours now, and they provide all meals and snacks, which ours does not. It's right around the corner from us as well, though not quite as convenient as our current one. We did think that one was a bit chaotic when we first looked at it, but knowing what we know now and having some idea of what we'd like for Jacob, we may have a different opinion now. We'll definitely have to call around and see what's out there, and hopefully get some touring in during the week we both have off from work. Thank goodness even more for that time off now!! I am not looking forward to doing the touring again, because it's agonizing. As you may recall from our first go-around, it was so hard to balance financial needs with Jacob's needs, and to know that the place was going to be good for him. And now that we're used to one thing, we'll have the challenge of trying to figure out if changes to that routine will actually be for the better. For all we know, the change might be great for Jacob. The play-centered curriculum was definitely fun and allowed for a lot of creativity, but there are times that I wonder if more formal teaching or direction would be good, too. For example, his current daycare doesn't do set art projects. No construction paper pumpkins or Christmas trees, for example. They did a lot of free form finger painting with other things besides paint (pudding, for example). And while that's fine for babies, I think it helps sometimes to have real instructions for kids to follow. Might it stifle their creativity? Maybe a little...but there are ways around that, too. I don't know. If nothing else, not having to make meals for Jacob will be a nice time and money saver. Yep, I just keep looking for the bright side.

Of course, there is a very real downside. Jacob has been going there since he was seven weeks old. He's been with many of the same kids for a good portion of that time. He's dealt with many of the same teachers for months, if not over a year. There is a lot of staff rotation there, and he's come to know many different faces there. And they know him. As much as I wanted to feel sorry for us after I read the letter ("There goes Christmas vacation..."), I couldn't help but feel incredibly more sorry for the staff. They're all very friendly and we've gotten to know them well over the past 16 months. All of the teachers have been great to Jacob, even the ones he hasn't actually had yet. One has been with him for most of his time there, save for maybe a month or two here and there...and even then she was always nearby. Right now he's got four teachers that he deals with on a daily basis. The one he has at the end of the day has a baby that's almost six months old, and Jacob enjoys her baby, too. I will so miss seeing that sweet little girl at the end of the day, particularly because Jacob is so cute with her.

As much as I never wanted to send my baby to daycare, I've come to appreciate the fact that it's provided Jacob an even wider group of people that love him. And I feel so sad that that group is about to go away. All of the faces that he's become so familiar with, the surroundings he's spent so much time in, everything's about to change. And while I feel bad for Jacob, I know he will adjust. But I also feel bad for the teachers. Sure, they're losing their paycheck. But they also have become invested in these kids and celebrate with us parents each time they do something great. And now that window into the kids' lives will be closing, and that's got to be a huge adjustment for those teachers as well. I hope to keep in touch with them and send them pictures and updates. Or maybe I'll just direct them to this blog. I think they'd care enough to check in from time to time. It's just heartbreaking to think about.

Adding to the bizarreness of it all is that all of this is happening amongst the holidays. See, Jacob will be there three days this week, and then in theory he'd be home with us right through January 4th. However, I had been planning on sending him in at least once during the break so Craig and I could have a date day and do something we wouldn't be able to do with go to the movies or have a marathon shopping day or whatever. I figured Jacob would still have the majority of the week and a half with us, and he'd probably like to see his friends and play. And now...I think we'll still do that day, but now that will be the good-bye day, I think. How sad and strange that his life as he knows it will be changing after Wednesday. The routine we've worked so hard to establish will be done. It will feel so strange to take home all of his stuff, to know that the toys he's played with, the crib he's slept in, the people he's spent so much time with, will all be gone. And the poor kid won't even know what hit him until it's all over and he's starting something new. Wow. Oh, and one more thing--we may have to go through this all over again in a few months assuming this house hunting thing works out . If our new home ends up in a vastly different area than ours is now, this new daycare may not be in a convenient spot. I don't even want to think about it. So...yeah, it's been an odd couple days. I don't even want to think about going in there tomorrow, because there are teachers I haven't seen since the announcement. Ugh.

On the bright side, Jacob is officially 18 months today. Wow. What a little man he's become, and such an amazing joy in our lives. We are blessed!

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