But around her first birthday she couldn't talk and was still a baby, and to balance her outrageously brave motor adventures she would glue herself to my lap or leg or breast whenever she was not climbing or hopping around the house and its surroundings. Kerttu and her sister are very much alike in their open and loud way of protesting when things go against their plans and wishes, so the idea of leaving this little creature in someone else's arms in the mornings just filled me with a stunned silent inside-a-bubble kind of feeling that would hit you after a nuclear explosion.
So it was a good thing I didn't have to return to work until now. In social situations she's still a more passively observant person than her sister, and it's clear that, unlike Veera, Kerttu doesn't enjoy meeting new people (whenever Veera goes to a new place and I ask her how her day went, she loves to tell me how many new friends she made that day). But after a while she will tolerate the idea, and finally she'll accept the fact that there are more nice people in the world than she had previously thought. And then she's content and happy and pour all of her empathy on the new members of her extended family. (She loves our house builders! Which is tragic, because at least the grown-ups in the house are getting ready to say goodbye to them as soon as possible in order to reclaim the house to ourselves, snapping at each other as the other comments on something any of the renovation professionals have said or done, and the first thing Kerttu wants to know in the mornings is where the builders are.)
The day care centre, which better matches the straight-cut translation "day home" of the Finnish word päiväkoti, is brand new, and about a kilometre away from our house. It opened on 3 August so Kerttu was literally one of the first kids there, as I dropped her off at seven thirty. First they have traditional Finnish oat meal for breakfast, then they go out - normally day care centres have full playgrounds outside, but this is a special nature-oriented place so they spend their time out in the woods next door, whatever the weather - then go in, maybe play or sing a little, have lunch, have a nap, have a little snack and go out again. We pick Kerttu up at four; usually it's Husband as he gets home a few minutes earlier than me.
The first eight mornings she cried after me and I could hear the echo of her äiti, äiti, äiti (= Mummy) in my head all day. It was obvious she didn't understand why I left her there. Again and again. We did go through the facts: Mommy goes to work, Daddy goes to work, Veera and the older siblings go to school and Kerttu goes to day care, and after a few days she would nod in acceptance. She'd rather go kouluun, to school, but day care's fine, too.
On the ninth morning she just gave me a kiss and walked in, no waving good bye or anything. I thought that was it, a victory of sorts, but just like when she was a baby, she now glues herself to me in the evenings after adventure-filled days. So what I do after work is carry her around, try to act humanely towards everyone else until it's seven o'clock and I can start giving her dinner, bath and putting her to bed, and then try and stay awake for a while to enjoy me-time. (There's some irony here in the last words.)
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