Parental Empathy

On Monday, the baby started daycare. She is going to the same in-home daycare that our oldest daughter went to. We loved it, and so did our daughter, and we were lucky enough to find a spot there, five years later. On Monday, Kelly also started back at work after four and a half months off for maternity leave1. It meant that Monday was the beginning of a new schedule and routine for all of us. And it meant a return to that feeling of parental empathy.

It also meant leaving the baby at daycare. She’d never been away from us, and here we were going to leave her with, what must to her seem like complete strangers. Despite having gone through this before with my son and daughter, I had moments over the weekend when I wondered if the baby thought we’d be abandoning her with strangers, never to return.

I have this tendency to empathize with the baby in this regard. Perhaps everyone does? I always thought the empathy came from the writer’s part of my brain—the part I’ve trained over decades to see the dramatic in everything. What would the baby think? She has no frame of reference for what happened to her on Monday. It bothered me a little, but not too much. Kelly and I told ourselves that she wouldn’t remember it, anyway. Would she?

Of course not! I tried thinking back as far as my memory would take me, and I can’t recall anything from my first two years. There are some spotty memories after I turned two years old, but they have certainly been enhanced by photos I’ve seen over the years. Still, there must have been a time when my parents left me with someone with whom I was unfamiliar. I might have been very unhappy about it. I might have screamed and cried and carried on, and wondered if I’d ever see my parents again. But I have no memory of it.

When the Little Man required some minor surgery and had to be put under general anesthesia, the doctor told us that they medicine they used to put him under would wipe his memory of the whole event. That seemed to be the case. And I imagine the same will be true with the baby.

Kelly called me when she arrived at work and I asked her how everything went. It went fine. Of course it did. And I’m sure the baby was happy to see us when we picked her up. It helped to be busy at work. The day seems to pass more quickly when you are busy, and your mind is occupied by other things.

My brain tries to make everything into a story, and I imagined how this one would go: Mother and father nervous when dropping their baby off at daycare, not wanting the baby to feel abandoned. Fast-forward two years, to her last day of daycare—and the inconsolable child, tears streaming down her face because she doesn’t want to go to the preschool. She wants to stay right where she is.

  1. No, it wasn’t paid maternity leave. She had to use up all of her accumulated leave, which got us through three of the four months.

One thought on “Parental Empathy

  1. Yup, I know that feeling. We also sent our kids to day care and I was a wreck for the first week or two when both kids started going. Even though the teachers told us that the kids stopped crying minutes after we left, I still felt as if I was abandoning them.

Comments are closed.