So, for all the good things that daycare has done for Jacob, there are some things about it that I haven't appreciated. For example...
Of course it's hard to be away from Jacob all day, five days per week. He's never really known any different, but let's face it--there's a reason why school is structured as it is and kids aren't meant to start until at least four or five years old. Maybe it's not fair to him to have to deal with so many hours away from home every day. But he's handled it like a champ. Still, it's hard to not be the total master of your child's world. It's hard when you miss a milestone or learn something about your child from someone else. As a parent you feel like you should be on top of that stuff, but when you spend more time away from them than with them most days, it's so hard. I recall feeling that way a lot whenever Jacob seemed a little "off", just hating that I couldn't spend the day with him to figure out what was making him act oddly.
The cost is crazy. It makes the prospect of Christian school tuition not seem like a big deal, but it's definitely been a big hit over the past 44 months or so. It used to be equal to our monthly mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance), though as our mortgage rose a bit with the move, our costs for Jacob have gone down slightly. The kicker is that I know the people that work at daycare centers don't get paid well enough. They don't get the breaks that regular teachers do, work earlier in the morning or later in the day, and they have to deal with bodily fluids and extra illnesses and whatever else. It's a tough job and they don't get the money they deserve...and yet I don't want to pay anything more so they can!
Doing the daycare thing involves giving up control of your child far earlier than normal. I mentioned in my last post that the transition to school will hopefully be easier after spending all this time away from him already, having had to trust other people with my child since he was seven weeks old. But it's hard when you can't control their environment completely. You don't entirely know what they're being exposed to until they come home and start showing the effects. That could be something physical, like not getting completely slathered in sunscreen and coming home with a sunburn (never happened, just an example) or something having to do with the food they eat. Or it could be something emotional, mental, or simply environmental. It may be a way someone is treating them, interactions with other kids, or activities you didn't know they were doing.
Right now we're dealing with some potty talk issues with Jacob. "Pee" and "poop" are among his favorite words right now, and not far behind is "boobies". Awesome, right? The pee and poop stuff is just annoying but age appropriate, I guess. The boobies issue is darn-near infuriating. Particularly since it comes with a bit of a touchy-feely problem. Jacob has crossed over into that realm of beginning to understand the differences between boys and girls. He tries to touch my chest a lot, thinking it's funny, and talks about "boobies" too often for it to be even remotely cute. He was a "boob guy" from the beginning (haha, like he had a choice!), but for a while he didn't really seem to notice their presence. Now it's at the point where I need to think twice about showing too much skin in his presence, because he will call me out on it. It's weird, but I guess the time had to come sometime. We've tried a lot to curb the behavior, but it's not working. And it may even be getting worse. We can punish, ignore, or state in no uncertain circumstances that it's not acceptable. But I have a feeling that he's got so much of it going on among his friends that we're fighting a losing battle.
In general it's hard to get a read on what he learns about and is exposed to each day. I can ask questions about his day, I can try to pick up hints, but ultimately I don't know what he's picking up or how it will impact him in the long run. Daycare introduces a lot of unknowns to the mix because you can't control it all. I'm hoping it's been good preparation for the rest of his life, which inevitably will only be so much within my control. But as we've been doing all along, we'll just have to take it day by day and hope we make the right decisions to deal with whatever he goes through.
In examining this whole daycare thing, it's a little amazing that I had 10 pros and only a few cons, but I suppose it's all in how you weight each one to see how it all shakes out. Still, we've had pretty decent daycare experiences overall, so I really can't complain. Hard to believe we only have about 16 months more of the full-time daycare experience before Jacob starts Kindergarten. Wow. Doesn't seem possible, but then again, I'm having a lot of those reality check moments lately. Probably just the beginning, I'm sure...