It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Paradigm Gap

At an interview:

Mother: How do you keep the toddlers apart from the babies?

Me: I don’t.

Very pregnant pause.

Mum had worked in daycares prior to her maternity leave. In daycare centres, the infants and toddlers are kept separate for the infants’ protection. Since I run a daycare, she reasoned, I, too, should keep the toddlers separate. I explained that this is a home daycare, and that therefore it’s organized more like a family. My explanation was met with stony silence.

I knew these people weren’t going to decide to leave their child with me. I knew I didn’t want them, anyway. So I damned the torpedoes and got a little pointed with them.

“Do you plan on having more children?”


“And when will you have your next?”

“When Jr. is about two and a half or three.”

“I see. And how will you keep them apart?”

An even more pregnant pause. The interview ended shortly thereafter. I did not hear from them again.


September 13, 2005 - Posted by | Uncategorized



    I *do* wonder, though, if she kept them apart.

    Because you *know* she tried.

    Comment by misfit | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  2. Heh heh. Yeah. I actually like seeing all the kids together now. Lauren loves how the older kids dote on her. The old HDL separated them (and all the babies still got RSV).

    Comment by ieatcrayonz | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  3. I just lock them up in separate playpens.

    Comment by MIM | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  4. Misfit: I hope she does, and that her little boat soon grinds to a halt on the shoals of reality. I also hope that she learns that toddlers can be kind and empathetic – if a little clumsy!

    What she was not seeing was that large group daycare is a particular situation, and that some of the patterns that evolve for it are not done because they’re the best way, but because they’re making the best of it. This would be a case in point. It’s better if different ages learn to get along, to help each other out. We separate them only because such large groups makes it too difficult to supervise safely – NOT because it’s best for the children’s development.

    crayonz: What’s not to like, from Lauren’s viewpoint?? Everybody loves me, which is as it should be…
    And meantime the older kids are learning kindness and nurturning and patience. It’s all good!

    mim: LOL. Now I never use them except for sleeping. When my own were young, I use the playpens in reverse. I didn’t put the infant in one to keep it contained, but put my own children, at four years old and up, into one so that they could play with their Lego while the lego-munching baby crawled around freely! (This was a playpen that sat right on the floor, so weight limits weren’t a concern.)

    Comment by Mary P. | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  5. What a strange question to ask at a home daycare! She obviously doesn’t understand the dynamics.

    Comment by Barbara | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  6. You didn’t! I’m so impressed. I never would have had the guts to point out their stupidity. I would have just rolled my eyes and let it go, knowing full well it was over.

    Honestly. Keeping children apart. How foolish.

    Comment by Haley | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  7. LOL! Good for you ! That was perfect!

    Comment by kimmyk | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  8. Barbara: Obviously not. And, just as obviously, she assumed that the way it’s done in large group care is the right and only way it should be done, not understanding that the way it’s done in large group care is merely a concession to necessity. Second-best, in fact.

    Haley: Foolish, indeed. What I didn’t ask, but wanted to, was “What do you think will happen if they’re left together? How savage do you imagine toddlers are, anyway?”

    kimmyk: Thanks! She was very dour and unsmiling; her husband equally so – despite his charming Irish brogue! I didn’t want them in my daycare, so I simply had no reason not to!

    Comment by Mary P. | September 14, 2005 | Reply

  9. That’s a riot!

    At our house, some of the princesses best, and quietest, play is when they’re playing together nicely.

    One of their games that cracks me up is when they reverse roles and little sister plays the big sister and big sister plays the little sister. That’s so funny, in a very cute way.

    It had honestly never occured to me that one might keep them apart. Other than when princess number two was an infant and we made certain that princess number one understood the “never wake a sleeping baby” rule, we’ve never placed restrictions on them.

    Comment by Simon P. Chappell | September 14, 2005 | Reply

  10. My former MIL once very kindly took my two older children for a week, leaving me with the baby (then 15 months or so). The idea was to give me a break. It turned out to be no such thing: lacking her buit-in playmates, the very bored baby was suddenly tremendously demanding. It was with great relief I welcomed back the older two at the end of that very long week!

    Children play so nicely when different ages mingle routinely. I think it’s unfortunate that because they’re age-segragated for so much of their lives, many children only want to play with kids their own ages. (Another advantage of home-schooling BTW.)

    Playing with children older and younger than themselves teaches them patience, kindness, nurturing, gives them something to aspire to, challenges them. It’s a good thing.

    Comment by Mary P. | September 14, 2005 | Reply

  11. Keeping them apart is easy, staple the left hand of each toddler to one corner of the room.


    Comment by Si | September 15, 2005 | Reply

  12. Well, of course. I’m sure if I’d said that to those parents, they’d have been just fine with me! Silly of me not to have thought of it…

    Comment by Mary P. | September 15, 2005 | Reply

  13. […] do you keep the toddlers and the babies separated?” she wants to […]

    Pingback by Why it’s called “home” daycare « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | May 11, 2010 | Reply

  14. I see something similar with my older kids at their school.. they go to a fairly small school by US standards and almost every class is mixed-grade, so there are for instance a couple of 1st/2nd grade classes, a couple of 2nd/3rd, a couple of 3rd/4th, etc. So the kids are used to being in class with kids 1 grade up or down and pretty much everyone gets to know everyone. It works really well and there’s a lot less of ‘oh, we don’t play with 2nd grade babies’ sort of thing than at a school where the grades are separate.

    Precisely how I see it: the children gain a lot from playing with other children in different stages. Older children can nurture younger ones, younger ones can aspire to the abilities of the older ones. I don’t know why we think sticking kids in same-age-ghettos is somehow better.

    Comment by Anita | February 22, 2011 | Reply

  15. How odd of them to expect it at a home daycare. I expect it at the center my kids attend, but there are 70 kids there. The easiest and most obvious way to divide up the kids is by age. But even there, siblings and older kids often visit with the babies and mix on the playground or great hall. That interaction is encouraged and one of the reasons I picked that center.
    Just be happy they didn’t want you, they would have been headaches down the road.

    I worked in a daycare centre years ago. There are sensible, logistical reasons for the divisions, but even then, we allowed some mingling of the ages. But in a home? Why?

    Even if they’d wanted me, I wouldn’t have chosen them. Thankfully, the interview is a two-way affair: I’m sizing them up even as they’re doing the same to me! This couple failed to make the grade.

    Comment by Dani | February 22, 2011 | Reply

  16. […] mix with the younger children, just like in a real family!! (At least one couple out there thinks I shouldn’t be doing that.) I will leave husband or daughter in charge — again, during naptime — while I zip over […]

    Pingback by I wonder why not? « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | February 24, 2011 | Reply

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