The other day, Ben had just returned from his Cross Vegas adventure, so he was still asleep when Sophie woke up. She looked at him groaning in bed, then toddled into the living room and hurried back carrying Ben’s favorite toy: a Bicycling magazine. She burbled as she handed it to him, then toddled away again to fetch him her favorite toy, too, which at the moment is handfuls of practice golf balls. I was so impressed. She’s sixteen months old and she already has empathy, she already has strategies for attempting to cheer up her dad, she’s already got truly astounding social skills.
I can’t claim much credit. I think that daycare taught her to share toys like that. When I drop her off in the mornings, the other children usually rush up to her, each with a toy in their hands, eager to be the first to get to pass a toy to Sophie. Sharing toys, waiting turns, accepting not being the center of attention: these are all skills that Sophie has, all skills that are astounding for her age, and all skills that we don’t really teach at home. She learned them at daycare. I can’t believe that I still sometimes feel guilty for leaving her at daycare three days a week.
Daycare has not only taught Sophie to be a decent human being: it’s also at daycare that she usually eats her most nutritious meal of the day, since Daycare Teacher somehow not only watches five toddlers all at once, she also cooks them hot meals for lunch, turkey stew and vegetable casserole and other foods far beyond Sophie’s at-home diet, when sometimes all she’ll eat are frozen mangoes, plain yogurt, and toast. Daycare is cleaner than home (I don’t know how Daycare Teacher does it), surrounded with lush greenery and a sense of calm, and when I come to pick Sophie up, they’re often deeply enthralled by some engaging task: counting stuffed monkeys or singing a song about tortillas or learning to throw balls to each other or even just getting their hair brushed, lovingly.
Really, it’s the perfect daycare. We looked a long time before we found it. Still, I feel guilty leaving her there. Work has been particularly busy lately, so Soph has been in daycare four days each week for the past two weeks, and they’re long days, too, 7:30 am to 5 pm. I feel like I’m missing out on Sophie time.
So here’s a list of Sophie’s recent skills, the ones that I’m almost-missing and want to hold on to:
- Sitting in a grown-up chair at restaurants, not a high-chair
- Dancing to country music, or any Prairie-Home-Companion-style music, in an awkwardly-cute arm-flapping way.
- Going down the scary-fast tunnel-slide at the park.
- Growing a mullet . When is it time to cut a baby’s hair?, I wonder. When she grows a mullet, I would have answered before this month, but I swear that Sophie’s mullet is cute and curled and will grow out soon.
- Climbing onto the couch herself. Also the parent-bed and the top of her Lil Tikes picnic table. Fortunately, so far, she also knows how to climb down safely. I realize that “She hasn’t hurt herself yet” is a particularly stupid way of thinking, but I keep thinking it.
- Saying “shoes,” “uh-oh,” “yes,” and a babbly version of “all done,” “I love you,” and a couple others, in addition to her stalwarts of “momma,” “daddy,” “hi,” “bye-bye,” “cat,” and “ball.”
- Telling me what shoes she thinks I should wear. She wanted me to wear my crocs, because she was wearing hers. I thought I had another decade before I’d be getting fashion-advice from my daughter, but I thought wrong.
- Giggling even more than she used to.
- Hearing her dad come home almost before I do, and running to the door, squealing.
- And, as already mentioned: bringing her dad his magazine in bed.