She Says… Stranger Danger

Yesterday Owen and I went to visit his new daycare. The teachers wanted to meet him and I had to pick up some forms and other things, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for Owen to get used to spending some time there. I think we may be entering the next bout of teething (top teeth! woot woot!) because Owen has been a bit clingy and sleeping a lot the last few days, and then yesterday he barely slept at all and seemed very frustrated most of the day. Ahhh, teeth. You are my frenemy.

Anyway, yesterday’s morning nap, which is normally 1.5 – 2 hours, pretty reliably, was 30 minutes. After the ‘lovey overboard’ incident I got about half an hour of quiet and then heard coughing and babbling. Argh! Too early! I tried to pat him and put him back down, but he was raring to go and giggled and slapped my face around as soon as I pulled him out of the crib, so I acquiesced and got him up for good. The drive out to the new daycare is about 40 minutes, so I figured he would conk out on the way and finish his nap. And conk he did (boy am I glad we’re over the “I hate the car and I’m going to scream and cry until you getmeoutofherewoman” stage). He was dead asleep when we arrived at the new daycare. I spent a few minutes slowly waking him up and walking around the parking lot babbling about trees and clouds and whatever, since I knew he was about to be bombarded with voices and sounds and little tiny hands of the other daycare kids, and that could be… well… jarring to a sleepy baby. Still, when we went inside he was a bit sensitive (as his current daycare likes to say when he’s having an emotional day).

We sat and played with the new kids and new teachers. He showed off his mad walking skillz and grabbed everyone’s hair (he has a serious obsession with hair right now, especially curly hair). They loved him. Couldn’t stop talking about his awesome mohawk and little button nose. I know, I know, he’s the cutest. When we were about ready to leave, I asked if I could leave him there for a second while I went to the bathroom. He was crawling away toward a toy, and I walked out the door.

When I returned, crocodile tears were running down his face and his pouty lip was quivering. A teacher had him on her lap and was trying to read a book while he smacked it and stared longingly at the door. As soon as I walked in, his frown turned upside down and he did his funny laugh/cry and reached for me. It could have been that he was still feeling touchy after his bad nap(s), or that he was overwhelmed by the new sights and sounds and colors and faces, but there’s no denying that there was a bit of clinginess and stranger anxiety that I’ve never seen from him before.

When Owen was 6 months old and first started at our current daycare, he was so social and engaged that he never even noticed when I left the room. Then at about 7 1/2 or 8 months there were a few weeks when he would cry when I left him, so I started making sure that I went right up to him and said, “Bye bye” and waved so he knew when I was leaving, even if it made him cry. I think it helped him realize I wasn’t sneaking out. And I was coming back.

He’s such a super social kid and loves everyone so much that I never really give a second thought to handing him over to friends and family members. He pretty much loves everyone. No stranger anxiety to speak of.

But I realized that I haven’t really LEFT HIM left him (as in, leaving the building) with anyone except our current daycare. People who he has known for months and sees every week and adores. And recently, even when I just leave the room for a minute or so, he kind of “freezes” what he’s doing and watches the door until I come back. The moral of the story: I think this transition to the new daycare is going to be a bit harder than I had imagined, given the stage of development he is in right now.

I’m SURE he’ll be his happy, goofy little self once he gets comfortable there. He loves kids and thrives at daycare. I guess I thought that since he was already used to being away from me that this transition would be a cinch. But that little bathroom slip-up reminded me that I may need to take a bit more care in easing him into this new place and giving him time to get to know these new faces before I just turn on my heels and walk out the door. The great news is that once he gets comfortable at the new daycare, he’s there to stay. He’s going to grow up there, and make friends there, and they will all travel together between the classrooms, even up until preschool and then eventually elementary school.

Any tips on how to ease Owen through this transition of moving and changing daycares? Do you/how do you say goodbye if you leave your child at daycare or school?

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7 responses to “She Says… Stranger Danger

  1. Ths can be one of the sweetest stages for babies but one of the toughest as well. I remember the stranger anxiety with Lilly hit around 8-9 months but it seems that Chloe is already there. Even with people she knows. Not so much crying yet but very concerned with where we are in relation to where she is. He may have a rough few days but he will be fine. You will have more trouble than him! They are so forgiving and this falls under the “this too shall pass” which is a list that continues to grow and grow!!! Good luck with the transition! The best part … he won’t remember any of it. Isn’t that crazy? The stuff you think is so traumatizing for them is conpletely erased at a certain part. Lilly remembers NONE of those early daycare years and I will never forget it.

  2. Awwww god love his cute little button nose ;-) It’s such a heartbraking thing for Moms. It sounds to me that you’re idea of handling it is spot on, making sure you’re telling him you’re leaving so he knows and there’s no sneaky business of sneaking out the door when he’s not looking which some parents DO do to avoid the “scene” but certainly doesn’t help.

    Cameron had a 2 weeks stranger anxiety phase that occurred when he was 6 months old and of course we went to a Jack & Jill baby shower right when he was going through the stage and the house was PACKED and people were all “oooh baby!” and hubs had Cameron in another room then all of a sudden I see people just snatching him up and passing him around cooing in his face (he had also JUST woken up in the car) and I could see the look of terror start to come over his face and I had to find my way through the crowd to get him. We ended up sitting in a quiet corner for the rest of the time we were there and he ended up doing ok. It only lasted about 2 weeks thankfully and he isn’t showing any other signs of it so I’m hoping that he’s already been through it, but who knows it could come back!

  3. I’ve never left my baby with anyone before (other than my mom), so I don’t have much advice, but when I do leave her with my husband when I go running, it’s good to do it as she goes down for a nap. She has a very dramatic reaction if she can SEE me leave. I’m not exactly sneaking out, I’m just making it easier for her (and me too).

    Hopefully Owen won’t make it too hard on you!

  4. my heart goes out to you. i dont have any tips unfortunately but you are not alone. my son wouldnt even let my sister or grandma hold him at Easter and he is STILL scared of my grandpa even though he sees him every single day. every day. but i guess the good news is you are through the ““I hate the car and I’m going to scream and cry until you getmeoutofherewoman” stage”. LOL. we are still in that phase and have been since birth. makes life very interesting.

  5. My son was just like Owen and still is – social, happy, loves everybody. But we’ve still had moments of stranger fear, and he’s now what I call “cautious” – he hides around our legs, etc., at the first meeting, but he warms up quickly. Whenever I leave him at daycare or with a baby-sitter, I’ve always said, “I’ll be back soon,” so he knows I’m coming back. Now that he’s older, I give him times – “I’ll be back at lunchtime, I’ll be home after your nap, etc.” We don’t avoid tears all the time, but it definitely helps! I used to say the same kind of thing when I would leave the room and he would get upset – “I’ll be right back.” And now he says it whenever he leaves a room! Just in case I get upset! :)

  6. Oh Kate, that has to be so hard — and it seems like this will just be another transition and he will do great. You’re easing him in, which is so smart. Our daycare is similar; they move together which I think will help a lot.

    It’s so funny you posted about this today because this morning I was just wondering when stranger anxiety will kick in. My hubby is away on business and he usually does drop-off so this week I’m doing it. After we got inside and I hugged her and kissed her and put her in a Boppy bouncer, she kept talking and smiling and cooing and blowing raspberries at her teachers and me — but she didn’t even flinch when I walked away! I tapped on the glass to see if she’d respond, but she was already busy looking elsewhere. She watches when we walk in or out of the room usually, so she knows who we are, but she seems comfortable enough at daycare. I am a little nervous for how we’ll handle when the time comes that she is anxious around strangers. I love feeling needed, but we haven’t hit a clingy stage (yet). That said … tonight is a good test. I have a work event and my friend (who has spent a lot of time with Maya and whose 3-mth old is in daycare with her) is babysitting for me since my hubby is away. Will be curious to see how she handles being put to bed at night by someone other than us.

  7. I think you are doing the right thing telling him bye when you are leaving even if he cries.

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