Since over a month Nila is going to Kita (technically speaking it's Krippe, a kindergarten for smaller kids, aged 1-3). It's been challenging (mostly for me), but in the end I must say that the process went pretty smooth.
Whole kindergarten idea was very emotional for me. A lot of questions were bouncing in my head all the time - "Is it ok that I leave her for such a long time? Will she miss me so much it will cause too much stress and damage her relation with me?"
I tried to battle these emotional chaos in my head and even treated it with a big dose of good ol' science - I spend few evenings doing a lot of research about whether non-parental daycare is bad for children (or good), from Jesper Juul views on the topic (in German), Psychology Today research till Harvard research and it turns out that... there are no concluding findings in this topic. It's just too complicated, too many variables are influencing "the outcome" (meaning successfulness of your kid) that the only true compass is parental intuition and observing your kid. So you just have to go with the flow, be careful observer and trust your intuition. Mine was telling me: Nila is a social animal, she's gonna love it.
Even though keeping Nila with me at home is tempting, our society isn't built in favour of such a model - some people just have to work (like me). Even if I wouldn't not have to work for financial reasons, I would want to have a work just for myself and be able to broaden a bit my scope of topics - other than just what Nila did today. Simply - staying at home would be frustrating for me in a long run.
Adaptation phase (Eingewöhnungszeit)
Usually Kita's start their year on 1 September.
First week - getting to know KitaOur little Kita was having last moment of holidays, so there was just one group of 4 kids aged around 2 years old and two experienced caregivers. First week was just for getting to know the place, the caregivers and other kids, without us leaving the room. We were asked to come everyday at 10 am and sit quietly in the corner while Nila was exploring. At this stage it was perfectly easy - Nila was open, running, laughing and playing with other kids. We were asked not to play with her nor to respond to much to her need of our attention (here was the moment when caregivers were supposed to take over - if she fell and needed help to get up or if she was taking a toy from other kid). We were just to observe and simply be there.
After 3 days of initial "success" our caregiver suggested that we should try to leave the room for 10 minutes. So on the 4th day, after 15 minutes spent in the room I was supposed to leave when Nila was not watching. It worked out, but after a moment she started to cry like crazy - this "Moooommmyy, I am dyyyying" kind of cry that breaks every mother's heart in 2 kilometers radius. The caregiver went out after the longest one minute in my life and give Nila back to me. This little munchkin was all red, scared to death and of course I shed a tear with her. The caregivers were understanding and said it was all normal and nothing to worry about. We got back to the room and Nila continued playing for the next 45 minutes while I was sitting quietly in the corner (but in my head I just gave myself "worst mother award").
5 day was the hardest of all and the story repeated. Nila had a total meltdown and I had to go back after 3 minutes to the room. This time she didn't want to let me go at all - she just spend next 45 minutes sitting on me and hugging. My "worst mother award" just developed into "child-abusive asshole mother" type. I was scattered to pieces and promised myself that I will never-ever go here back again.
Fortunately there are usually two parents raising a kid. Nico was trying to calm me down the whole evening and said that we can keep her home if I really want to, but maybe we should give it a try a bit longer. I agreed but with one reservation - I will not be the one bringing Nila to Kita, but him. As you may suppose, this was a game changer.
Second week - getting used to be aloneHere the story brightens up and you may expect the happy ending soon. Nico bringing Nila to Kita was the best idea to make the whole process easy for all of us. I believe that she was feeling my tension, my doubts and my stress - and it was really not helping her adaptation to new place and people. Nico is usually quite laid back and relaxed - Nila took it as a green light and relaxed as well.
During second week we were asked to bring Nila at 9 am and go out of the room initially for 30 minutes, what expanded to 2 hours 30 minutes at the end of the week. What I know from Nico's story Nila was initially crying for 15-30 second when he was leaving, but then she was playing happily and forgot about all the drama. This was the moment we got to the point when our caregiver said "Let's try to make a nap in Kita next week" and I just burst in laugh - "Haha, yeah right, let's see how you're gonna make THAT happen" I thought...
Third week - napping at KitaI was completely sure that sleeping at Kita will just not work. Why should it? She always (really always) falls asleep for her midday nap on my breast. No boobie, no sleep. No mommy, no sleep. Easy equation. But we had to try to stick to the adaptation phase plan - we were asked to bring Nila as usual at 9 am (she could come at 8 am to have breakfast but we preferred to stay home and eat all together, otherwise I would have to prepare something, pack it in a box and she would be eating with other kids at Kita) and to pick her up at 2 pm. I was so curious how it's gonna go (predicting major failure).
And of course.... (drumroll) - SHE SLEPT! Nico came to pick her up, but she was still calmly sleeping in her bed. I hope no sleeping pills where involved there. ;) But seriously, she slept and the caregivers said that there was no problem. She ate two portions of her Mittagessen (lunch) and passed out shortly after while carried to her bed.
All that gave me a big confidence and a big relief. Nila was more "flexible" to new things coming in her life than I though. It was also easy also thanks to our experienced and well trained staff at Kita.
Fourth week - full adaptationAfter we had achieved all we needed in our adaptation phase plan, we were a bit surprised that Nila was transferred from her group (along with Paul, another 13 month old boy that started adaptation with her) to a new one where two new kids aged around Nila and Paul were just about to start the whole process. I was a bit sad that the friendship that formed in the previous group were about to be broken, but fortunately kids are not locked in separate rooms all the time and play together in the playground and sometimes running freely in between the rooms of Kita, what allows them not to be bored even for a moment.
The whole process of adaptation was a lot easier for Nila than it was to me. I believe that all mothers (or sometimes dads as well) need adaptation phase more than the kid. It's first major change in family's life, especially if it's your first child and you didn't go through it with other kids.
Nila is safe, happy and entertained while we are allowed to work and make other "adult" things like vacuuming the floors, making shopping, cooking without having a 10 kilo toddler on your hip or just drink a coffee while it's still warm. She learned so much during these last weeks - she eats alone with the spoon (at least something is ending up in her mouth!), she dances in funny way - with two fingers up pointing the sky, definitely a style of dance copied from an older girl ;)
Our daily schedule in Kita looks like that:
7:00 beginning of the day at Kita
8:30 Breakfast (brought by kids)
9:00 Playtime (indoor or in the playground)
11:15 Lunch (cooked in Kita)
12:00 - 14:00 Nap time
14:30 Afternoon snack (brought by kids)
14:45 - 17:00 Playtime (indoor on in the playground)