One of the first things I did right after having Caroline was make an effort to meet other mamas with babies that were Caroline's age. I set up playdates and talked with other moms in the area on a variety of Facebook groups. Eventually, I found two other moms that I enjoy spending time with who have children around the same age range. We set up playdates fairly frequently. This is going to be a great way for Caroline to learn how to act around other babies. She'll learn how to share, how to say no thank you, how to play with other children, how to not bite or pull hair, etc. I'm sure they will make each other laugh and at times make each other cry- but they are all learning together.
Another thing we do is go out all the time. There is rarely a day that we stay home. We go to the library, Target, the grocery store, for walks, and more. We interact with other adults and children. She learns a great deal from these experiences as well.
Today Caroline started "school". Once a week, she is attending a Mother's Day Out program at a local church. It follows the school year, so my options were to start now (at 9.5 months), or wait until next Fall when she will be almost 2 years old. Since we don't have family in the area, Caroline is not accustomed to being away from me. I felt that it would go much more smoothly, if we started now instead of waiting. This class will give her an opportunity to experience the world without me by her side.
She did so well! I will admit that I teared up a bit on the drive to drop her off. I was telling her all about her class and how much she was going to learn. I was explaining that she was already such a big girl and that she was going to sail through this. At home, she gets a decent amount of independent play. I make sure to have moments when, while still listening in and checking on her, I am not always in the room, or am silently watching in the corner and letting her play without me. She has learned to entertain herself at times, and to be without me (even though I'm really there)- so I knew she'd do great.
I dropped her off with her cute new backpack and talked with the teachers. She was already playing on the mat without a care in the world. I grabbed her attention and gave her a kiss. I told her I'd be back soon and told her to have fun. I gave her another kiss and told her "bye-bye". I heard no tears as I walked out. I smiled. She is such a strong girl.
When I came to pick her up, the teacher said she did just fine. She didn't take a nap like she normally does at that time, but she was in good spirits and enjoying herself. I called her name a few times (over the noise of other parents talking to their little ones). She turned around and was so excited she started to crawl before she even had a chance to pull her feet out from under her butt. I went to her instead and gave her the biggest hug in the world. We both did it! We managed 2 hours apart from one another!
I missed my daughter so much, but I am very glad that I am doing this program with her. She is going to learn so much from this experience and will be much better prepared for the world of preschool, when that eventually comes. And I will know, too, that Mama has already survived "the first day of school"!