This time last year I was back at work and Cal had settled really well with the childminder. He was only four months old when I went back to my job and although I was a bit apprehensive at first about giving him to a minder at such a tender age, I was thrilled at how well he settled. The show I present, The Today Show on RTE 1, finishes for the season at the end of April and I was thrilled to have the summer off and spend precious time with Cal. And it was a fantastic summer. But as they say all good things must come to an end and it was time to go back to the show.
I didn’t think twice about Cal readjusting with the minder. I presumed that all would be exactly the same as last year, and he would fall back into a routine after a week. How wrong I was. Breda, my childminder, had taken on an eight month old baby as well as Cal and the first day we arrived she was there cooing in her high chair. He looked at her as if she was an alien. Her two year old sister was also there, and although Cal had been minded with her all of last year, he had totally forgotten her over the summer months. He got a look on his face that I had never seen before, a look of shock and fear. His bottom lip began to tremble and he clung onto me. Something he had never done before. He was never shy and scared like this. But I had to go to work, so I handed him to Breda and she cajoled him by bringing him out to see the dog. I knew he would be upset for a while but when I arrived to pick him up later, Breda told me that he had totally freaked out every time the baby cried and she literally had to carry him around all day. This behaviour continued for the week until I decided that I would have to find alternative childcare, at least for the moment. And it was really Breda who thought this was the best idea as she felt he wasn’t going to settle with the other kids.
For the first time it struck that integration with other kids is so important when you have an only child. I was annoyed with myself for not having done this earlier. Although he spent a good part of the summer with his three year old cousin Ethan, he had not seen many small babies before and had not mixed with girls. I thought to myself that I should have had him in a crèche a few days a week where he could have played with other kids and not be overwhelmed by them.
For the first time I felt that guilt that so many parents talk about. I had never felt that before. Up to now everything had been fine where childminding was concerned. But he was a tiny tot and now he is seventeen months old really aware of his surroundings. That same week he also started to wake up once or twice in the night, where he used to sleep straight through before. I spoke to a sleep specialist and she thinks it’s all connected with a change of routine. The one thing that wasn’t affected by this change of routine was his appetite thankfully. I know that many children do go off their food when their routine is disturbed and there are days when Cal eats less than other days – but we try not to panic when that does happen and just go with the flow. Within a day or so he is always back to himself.
Where childminding was concerned, we decided to get a minder to come to our house instead of taking Cal out of his our surroundings everyday. Things have settled and he is much happier. I am now going to bring him to a mother and baby group and integrate him slowly with tiny babies and girls!
Cal practically had me for every waking and sleeping moment during the summer and then suddenly it all changed and mama left him with a stranger. I feel silly now that I thought he should have adjusted like a little robot. What this bump in the road has taught me is not to take my little baby for granted. He is a little person with a mind of his own, a mind that is developing every day.