Five years ago almost to the day I dropped off my daughter for her very first day of daycare. On that tearful morning I was very focused on not crying as I drove to work, wondering if my baby would miss me, hoping that the daycare providers would fill the little disposable camera I had tucked into her diaper bag. She learned to roll over that week and fell in love with her daycare providers. I learned to drop her off with a smile and a kiss.
Over the months that followed she became close friends with the other babies she cooed and rolled around with. They learned to crawl, walk, eat, and talk together. Nowadays they coordinate clothes and orchestrate complex games that span multiple days at a time. They can, they see each other every day, 8 hours a day.
On the day I dropped her off for the first time I never envisioned that we would form such tight bonds with the other kids and parents also dropping off their children. And on that day I never imagined the day those endless, daylong, play-dates would come to an end.
Next week three of my daughter’s closest friends will leave daycare for the last time. They’re all going to different schools and for the first time since most of them were 3 months old, they won’t be heading out in the morning to spend the day together. For a week and a half she’ll be the oldest at daycare, surrounded by toddlers and preschoolers who don’t yet have to bid each other farewell.
The week after that she’ll head off to her own school to make new friends and forge new bonds. Once again I’ll drive away with tears in my eyes, saying goodbye to an era and welcoming a new one. I hope the new friends we make as as special as the friends we’re saying “see you soon” to.