Up until February the same person kept both of my children in her home. Nathan had been there since he was a year old and Gracie since she was born. For unknown reasons, the sitter blew up at me and basically accused Trevor and I of being bad parents. As a result, Trevor's mom now takes Nathan to school and drives him home in the afternoons and Gracie goes to daycare at our church. This arrangement has worked out beautifully for us and I have seen so many improvements in their attitudes, behaviors and development. Nathan stopped having such a discipline problem at school and Gracie's vocabulary and verbal skills skyrocketed.
The only thing that changed for me as far as taking Gracie to daycare was the hour at which I could drop her off. Before the change, I was able to drop her off as early as 6:30 am and that changed to no earlier than 7:15 am. So now instead of dropping Gracie off and then going to Exxon to get my 20 oz Community coffee, I take her with me to get the morning octane. I only mention this because of her growing relationship with the owner of the Exxon station and because her little routine in the morning is so cute and predictable. The owner is a very nice middle-eastern man who is very friendly and always has a smile for us.
Now that Gracie has met him, they are fast friends. She dances into the store each morning calling out "Good morning!" to whoever will listen. He answers her with a smile and hello in return as she moves on to the ice cream display. "Ice cream!" she chirps happily. "I love ice cream! Hello, ice cream." As I pour my coffee and add cream and sugar, she moves over to the candy display. "Hello, candy! What's this, Mommy?" I inform her that those brown things are peanuts (I do this every morning) and she tries to remove the bag from the display, after calling them coconuts. I tell her to stop touching everything and she obeys, happy to move on to the next rack filled with largish bags of gummy worms, bears and discs. I finish getting my coffee and we walk to the counter. On the way we have to pass large pictures (at Gracie's eye level) of fried chicken and pizza. "That's pizza! Hello, pizza! That's chicken! Hello, chicken! Can I have pizza please?" So once more we have the discussion about breakfast appropriate foods, and continue on to the counter. Once there, she tells the owner hello again for good measure and he grins at her. She points to the same items every morning (the lighters, the gum, the incense) and asks, "what's that?" I finish paying for the coffee and we make our way out the door as she yells, "See ya later, alligator! Bye bye!"
I know it may seem strange, but I have come to look forward to our morning run to Exxon. She is so sweet and friendly. She has that honest curiosity that comes naturally to 2 year olds and it is so endearing. I was telling a friend at work about our morning routine and it made me realize that these are the moments I need to record and etch into my memory. My 20 minutes alone with my daughter each morning are precious, even if we share them with the owner of the Exxon station and several total strangers. We have a routine that is all our own and it is sweet and beautiful in its own way.
Gracie is my baby....the last one I'll have and she holds a special place in my heart. She is tough as nails and reminds me so much of me that it's a little scary. One look from those big, blue eyes and my insides just turn to goo (unless, of course she's in trouble and then I have to steel myself against the goo). That little face is irresistible and I love nothing better than the feel of her tiny arms wrapped tightly around my neck and her small voice whispering "I love you" in my ear. My deepest hope and desire is that she will still want to wrap her arms around my neck and whisper those words to me when she is out on her own and living her own life. That will mean that I didn't mess up too badly....that the things I did (or didn't do) were not permanently damaging to her emotional health. That in spite of my mistakes and shortcomings as a mother, I did most of it right and my reward is a beautiful, assertive, successful daughter who is also my friend.
"A daughter is a mother's gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self. And mothers are their daughters' role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships." ~Victoria Secunda