At the end of the daycare

I jumped around the gravel parking lot of the daycare center, standing on one foot and waving with both hands while shaking the other foot in the air.

From the second-floor window, my son Zack switched to waggling his behind at me, checking over his shoulder to make sure I was doing it, too.  I waggled right back at him, being careful not to look across the street into the credit union parking lot, for fear of seeing the reactions of normal people to a grown man proto-twerking in an otherwise deserted daycare parking lot.

Zack turned back around and blew two kisses at me.  I blew two kisses back at him, gave a final wave, and hopped into the car to go to work.  He disappeared from the window to begin his long day of playing, snacking, napping, and gluing pom-poms to paper plates.  As far as morning routines go, this parking-lot-and-window dance with Zack is my all-time favorite, though that distinction is somewhat bittersweet, since tomorrow is the last day we’ll ever do it.

After tomorrow, Zack will go to summer camp, then kindergarten in the fall, then college a few blinks after that.  At least during those blinks, we can enjoy some years of not paying for daycare or college.  For the amount we’ve invested in daycare for our two children so far, we could have probably bought a nice little cottage on a lake.  Or a sweet boat, the kind with stairs that go to different floors.  But no, no boat.  After eight years, all we have to show for our investment is well-adjusted children.  They’re barely even seaworthy.

Eight years ago, when we started sending Evan, our oldest son, to this same daycare center, I thought our last day at daycare would be a big celebration.

“This is horrible.  I feel like we’re abandoning him,” my wife, Kara, said through her tears as we left Evan behind those doors for the first time when he was just six months old.

We were still new parents then, soft, not forged by the fires (and barfs) of parenthood like we are now.

“He’ll be fine.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know who we are yet,” I said.

As it turned out, Evan was just fine that day, thanks to the wonderful women at that center, who have given so much care and love to both of our sons over the past eight years that we feel like we’re losing a part of our family tomorrow.

When Zack walks out that door for the last time, he’ll be bringing much more with him than just the construction-paper caterpillar with his name on it.  He’ll also be bringing his ability to share, to be respectful of others, to make friends, to listen occasionally, and to make antennae out of pipe cleaners.

His immune system has also had quite the learning experience at daycare.  He’s caught so many colds and stomach bugs over the years that he may never get sick again.  You’d have to go deep into the Amazonian rainforest to find something he hasn’t already had.

So it is with mixed emotions that we greet this new phase in our lives.  While we may not be getting a boat anytime soon, from what I understand, the happiest days of boat ownership are the day you buy your boat, and the day you sell it.  Likewise, I think the worst days of daycare are the day you drop your kid off for the first time, and the day you pick him up for the last time.

At least we still have one more morning routine to go.  I really hope there’s nobody in the credit union parking lot for this one.

You can proto-twerk with Mike Todd at mikectodd@gmail.com.

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