|S sitting on my lap, reading Hairy Maclary.|
As soon as I let her get down to walk, we were off! S set the pace, and we practically ran all the way down the road. When we stopped briefly to cross a road, there was a cheer of "hooray!" when we started moving again. We rushed up the small ramp and through the gate to nursery. In the front door, up the stairs... and in the door to the Ladybird room.
We were greeted by E and A, S's two best friends. They have both learned to say her name, so that's what we heard as we came through the door. I put S down, took her coat, hat and shoes off, and turned to put them on her peg. When I turned back to kiss her goodbye... she was nowhere to be seen. She'd gone off with E and A to dance to the music that was playing in the corner. I went over to give her a kiss goodbye, but she didn't pay too much attention; she was busy with her friends.
In the afternoon, I arrived to find her wearing her second spare change of clothes. She spilled something down the first lot, and the second lot got drenched when she went outside to play and found a puddle. She gave me a big cuddle, said goodbye to everyone, and we wandered home via the post box, several detours and a muddy puddle.
Anyone who knows us will tell you: this is an unfeasibly happy child. She is securely attached, she is sociable, energetic, a bit too into risk-taking with her climbing, but happy. She looks forward to nursery; she loves her friends; she loves her keyworker; she loves coming home.
And that, Steve Biddulph, is why I "slam" my child into nursery. That is why I pay out £150 a week for her to spend 4 days in a room filled with snotty toddlers.
For those who don't know, Steve Biddulph says that one in five children who are put in nursery before the age of 3 will develop mental health problems. He says we damage our children by putting them into nursery.
Believe me when I tell you: if I thought my daughter didn't absolutely love nursery, I would quit work tomorrow and just learn to survive on £71 a week benefit. Actually, as it happens, once I've paid my rent and suchlike, at the moment I think I'm surviving on less than that. But I'm happy in my work, and S is happy in nursery. She spends time with children her age, doing the things children her age do, learning from them as they learn from her. Nursery has a light box, a play kitchen, 400 puzzles, a gazillion books a Tuff Spot, an outdoor play area that has no dog poo and no unpleasant smells, a sand pit, several different kinds of building blocks, and a big round table where all the children sit to eat lunch and snacks together. When I pick S up from nursery, they tell me what she had for lunch, and how many helpings she had. She eats very well at nursery, when surrounded by children her age all eating the same thing. At home... not so much. When you're inside the nursery, you can't hear the disaffected youth shouting up and down the street to each other outside. You can't see people dealing drugs from their windows. When she is playing outside, there is a chuffing great padlock on the nursery gate.
At nursery, my child is safe and secure and stimulated and educated and socialised and happy. How dare anyone tell me that she will grow up with mental health issues caused by going there?
Studies have shown that if children are not shown enough love in the first 2 years of their lives, their brains don't develop that capacity properly. So... choose a nursery where the staff are clearly taking care of the children well! When I collect S from nursery, all of the staff are just as excited as me or her keyworker at any new development she's made. When she's poorly and I arrive to collect her, she is invariably in her keyworker's arms getting a cuddle. Just because she is in nursery, that does not mean she doesn't receive love and affection. If anything, she receives more - because she has several adults with whom to mesmerise with her charm!
Women already feel endless guilt about returning to work. We already hate to leave our children. I spent most afternoons counting down the minutes until I can go and collect S. It's irresponsible and downright unkind to tell us that we're damaging our children!
What are we supposed to do? We're not supposed to claim benefits; everyone hates people on benefits. But now they hate us if we put our children in nursery too? How do we win this one?