You hear these stories about parents crying on their child’s first day of school. I can’t say I exhibited these emotions. The first day we dropped the girls off at their daycare/preschool it felt rather liberating. I felt like I had all this time in the world to get things done. And am constantly amazed at how productive I can be with just a few free hours away from them. This is not to say that I don’t miss them throughout the day, or that I don’t sometimes wish I could keep on with my “stay-at-home” mom role, but not having to deal with every one of their mood swings in the day is a nice break.
I must clarify that with our sailing life we were away from all of our family and friends most of the girls “growing up”. So these “breaks” that we get to read about on facebook where our friends get to drop their kids off at the grandparents or leaving them with friends while they have a weekend or weeklong getaway, we never got those. Not once. The longest we had been away from either of our girls would be a couple of hours here and there, whenever visiting family or sailing friends could watch them so Eben and I could run away and have a quick romantic meal. But a full night away from our girls, never. Not in four years have we slept away, or even apart from our girls. We have been in very close contact with them every since they were born. And when I saw very close I mean it, most nights they were in our bed and most days were spent in smaller living quarters, our boat, than most are used to. We lived this way and we loved the amount of time that we got to have fun with our girls, to educate them, and to bond with them.
However there comes a time when the idea of daycare/preschool is quite dreamy. When attachment parenting can become extreme. The thought that we could leave them in good hands while Eben and I did something meaningful with our time, giving back to an amazing cause, was a complete shift. We do worry about the bad habits they may pick up from other children that may not have been raised with the same discipline or morals as ours, or that they may not be pushed enough in their education to thrive in a way we know they can. We have had our fair share of doubts about enrolling in school this early. Especially when Arias comes home with a swollen lip, or a loose tooth, inflicted on her by some aggressive kids, or we’re told that Ellia cried a good portion of the day because she missed us. We have to keep reminding ourselves that socializing our kids with other kids their age is very important. And that comes with its own pros and cons, which we have discussed at great lengths.
Arias’ fat top lip from getting hit in the face with a water bottle (on purpose)
But with the way in which our schedules work out, and the openness of the school to accommodate our random needs, the girls attend school only when we need them to. Some days they spend only half days at school, while others they attend for 8 hours, where as the next day they may not even go. We needed a place that could work with us in this way, because we were not ready to have them going somewhere full time, since our work is not really full-time all the time.
We still feel it is important for our girls to live the experiences that we are encountering on the work sites building homes for those less fortunate and learn from them, as well as see what it is that mama and papa are doing when they go to school. So whenever possible we bring them along so that they can play with the local kids, make friends, gain some independence, and realize how fortunate they are when they get to go home, eat a full meal and sleep in a safe environment. I am sure that many would think that the “slums” may not be the best place to bring your children to play but we feel its good for the girls to be a part of our work, even if it is just by their presence. The community has gotten so used to seeing them in tow that when they are not around everyone is constantly asking us where they are and when they are coming back. And I feel we have become part of this dominican community.
In my eyes, even though Eben and I are back to “work” our girls are getting some new life experiences, that they may not even remember when they get older, but are forming their characters to be more open and loving human beings. And on a more “mommy” note, when we have groups the girls attend preschool, and when we have free time, which sometimes is a couple of weeks in a row, they will be with us full time again…unless mama and papa need a little “us” time. So there are no tears coming from this mama’s eyes, our girls are not losing with this “career choice” of ours.
Dominicans, and the people of this community especially, take the saying “it takes a town to raise a child” literally. At any point in time someone else will be taking care of your kid and vice versa. Kids roam freely but there everyone is always looking out for their well being. (ours don’t roam freely but we do let them hang out with certain families that we know will keep an eye on them).