On Langston’s first day of daycare, everything goes wrong for me. James, my husband, who is in charge of packing the stroller basket, our equivalent of the trunk of the car, forgets the breastmilk I’ve carefully pumped and has to rush back into the apartment to retrieve it while Tad, the guide dog, and I keep the stroller from rolling down the hill. Then James takes the stroller handle from me and pulls it back up the hill and around the corner, (we’re still working out the best route to take), while Tad and I plow ahead, my fingers gripping his harness handle too tightly and tensing him up. Langston sits in what I imagine to be wide-eyed alertness, strapped in but out in the big world. It’s early in the morning, so the number of onlookers to the blindness plus baby parade is most likely few, perhaps none at all. Nevertheless I imagine their stares, and they galvanize me to urge Tad forward with a stern “Hup-up!”
We reach Raritan Avenue, the main street which cuts down the center of the town of Highland Park, which gets its name from the nearby Raritan River. (Coincidentally, there is also a blind baby girl starting the same day as Langston whose name is Raritan). “I think we can cross now,” I tell James. Just then a car plows right through my judgment.
“The light didn’t change!” he calls back.
Who heard me make that incorrect traffic call? And what did James know about the light anyway? Maybe it was just a driver speeding through a light during the early morning rush hour.
A New Life In Daycare
Finally, we agree on the go-ahead and get ourselves and Langston across the Avenue. And before I know it, we’re dumping Langston into a totally new life. I have asked Sandi, the director of the center, more than once about whether babies worry about separation, and she has assured me that they do not. “Toddlers and parents have a harder time with separation,” she has explained, “but babies really have no sense of time whatsoever, and anyway, we have plenty of people to hold him when he needs it.” This morning, Sandi thoughtfully asks if we’d like to come in for a few minutes.
“Nah,” James cuts in before I can speak.“We’ve got to get the bus.” So Sandi takes Langston inside, and he’s gone.
All the way to the bus stop and most of the way to work, I take all of my mommy-baby separation tension out on my husband. “You didn’t let me check out the daycare,” I yell, even though I’ve checked it out a few times by now.“Sandi said we could come in, and you didn’t let me! You didn’t let me say good-bye! I told the people at work we might be late the first day! You didn’t let me meet Raritan! You just left him there!”
“I’m sorry,” James says. “You’re right, I’m sorry.” His sadness slowly cracks across my anger and misery the way water eventually breaks down rock. And later at work, James calls the daycare two or three times to make sure Langston is all right. I realize that James is probably feeling just as sad and worried about Langston’s adjustment, that the easiest thing for him is to make the good-bye brief or nonexistent. And later, Sandi tells me how easy we were as parents. “Some of my parents go on and on with the first good-bye and apologize for leaving their kid at school!”
Finally, the work day ends, and we ride the van to the train to the bus which returns us to our son. Langston reaches for me immediately, but I feel reassured that he wasn’t crying when I came in. Sandi tells us that he had a good day and is smiling.
We take him home, and I drop everything—jacket, purse and shirt—so I can feed him. This reconnection through milk and cuddling will become the daily after-daycare ritual, at least on the days Langston doesn’t fall asleep in his stroller, our way of reaffirming our inimitable bond with each other.