Seventeen long weeks ago the Irish government made an announcement that all shools and crèches would be closed from the next day to prevent the spread of coronavirus (now known more commonly as covid-19). I grabbed my laptop and headed home from work expecting to be out for a few weeks, but weeks turned to months as the lockdown deepened.
Soon I was getting used to doing conference calls sitting on the bed with my little girl sitting on my shoulders brushing my hair. I’ve written memos sat on the stairs with Octonaughts playing in the background, and had many work conversations out walking with her in tbe park.
I’ve enjoyed our time together as a family, but I can’t help thinking she has missed out from playing with kids her own age, and I’ve missed having a cup of tea in peace, so I was delighted when I heard our creche was allowed to open from this week, albeit with reduced days and hours.
This last few months has really made me appreciate how essential good childcare is for working families, and some crèches haven’t been able to open until the schools do in September, and some may never reopen because of the financial hit this period has caused, so we are lucky.
Our creche has been really good over the break and has sent us pictures of all the kids playing together (taken last christmas), and videos of the teacher saying hello, so we’ve had something to show our daughter to remind her of it. Still I knew it would be a big adjustment going back, because she has essentially seen no one but us for months.
Last week they sent us an information pack outlining the measures to keep parents and staff social distanced, and children in pods to limit contact. They also sent some pictures of the new play area we could show to our daughter to get her excited about going.
The day before opening the teacher phoned to check if there was anything she needed to know, like changes in routines or requirements. She seemed to be delighted to be getting back to work. It must be strange for them, seeing all the changes in the kids. When she was last in creche our daughter knew a handful of words, and now she is a complete chatterbox. Another baby that couldn’t walk at the start of lockdown is now a running toddler.
My little girl has got quite used to wearing what she wants the last few months, ranging from princess dresses, to just a nappy, so I wasn’t looking forward to getting her dressed, and I was more nervous about her getting upset this time than I was when she first went to creche and had less awareness what was going on.
On the first morning she seemed to know we were going somewhere exciting and got dressed with no fuss. When we arrived at the creche they had made it look really welcoming with balloons, a bubble machine and new scooters to entice the children in. When she saw her teacher she started twirling to show off her outfit and I was so relieved she recognised her. However when she realised I wasn’t going inside with her it was a different story, suddenly she was up in my arms crying and nuzzling into my neck. No amount of talking could pursuade her to let go. After a few minutes the teacher had to pry her out my arms and gave her a big cuddle as I walked away with her looking all sad.
I felt terrible but by the time I got home there was a photo of her playing in the garden with a smile on her face so I felt so much better, and really got to enjoy my cup of tea. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I could concentrate on work knowing she was being looked after. Throughout the day more photos followed of her playing and warily getting the measure of the two other little boys in her pod.
When I picked her up she was keen to tell me all about her day, although I couldn’t understand everything. I picked up that she likes her teacher, played with a doll and ate some pasta. We had a lovely evening because I’d done my work for the day and could concentrate on playing with her, without being conscious of things I should be really getting finished that I hadn’t managed to do during the day.
On her second day she skipped in no bother, with a big smile on her face, and I knew it was the right decision for all of us for her to go back. Fingers crossed all the efforts made by the creche pay off, and the staff and children all stay healthy, so they can stay open.