G has started going to nursery. It's two days a week so far, so I can do some work lecturing at various universities across the north. If I can get some more work in the new year we might extend it a bit, but it's Tuesdays and Fridays only for now.
After a full two years at home with me, the transition has been difficult at first for G. During the first settling-in session, we left her in one of the nursery rooms for an hour while me and Mrs J sorted out some paperwork next door. We were vaguely aware of a kind of distant sobbing throughout, and when we went to get G we realised it had been her all the time.
The next day, I left her for two hours. Although I didn't have to sit and listen to her crying, I had a pretty good idea that's what had been going on when I turned up to collect her. She immediately burst into tears, shouted "Daddy!" and grabbed my leg. It was all so dramatic, I thought the only thing for it was to treat her to some ice cream:
Her first full day didn't go much better. The crying and leg-grabbing began as soon as we arrived, and continued until I left, which kind of put me off all the work I had scheduled in for myself during the rest of the morning. Not that I felt or feel guilty about leaving G at nursery, I think she needs to start spending more time away from me and with other children, but the trauma of it all was a bit off-putting.
When I picked G up that afternoon, the nursery staff suggested she join a group of younger toddlers, instead of the older ones that she had been with. Things improved straight away. Although I got more weeping at the next morning drop-off, she was a lot calmer when I went and got her that afternoon.
The nursery staff, of course, didn't miss a trick. "She's been playing beautifully all day... She ate all her lunch... We'll send you some photos!" they said, clearly concerned that I didn't look entirely thrilled every time I turned up with a sobbing two-year-old.
It's obviously in their interest to give me the impression that my daughter actually loves nursery and is full of smiles as soon as I've gone, and I know this is probably true. But it's still mildly amusing to see them battle to reassure me. I can only imagine that some parents decide to switch nurseries or give up on the whole idea if their child doesn't settle in straight away.
Sadly for G, she's stuck with it. Not least because the nursery we're using is one of the few around which offers flexible enough hours so both me and Mrs J can do drop-offs or pick-ups if we need to, depending on our work commitments. Besides, G is already looking a bit less like a lost sheep with every nursery visit, and the morning crying is now down to token levels. Soon she'll be crying because she has to leave, I'm sure.