It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Assume no assumptions

You can never assume you understand the other guy’s assumptions…

I received a call last night from a couple I’d interviewed last month. They were very sweet, but before he’d finished his first sentence, I knew they were calling to say they’d found other care.

First, dad made the call. Well, hang on. That makes it sound like the moms are total weasels, leaving the dirty work to dad every time. Not true. Moms make the difficult call as often as dads, perhaps more often. It’s just that, when they’ve decided they want to sign on with me, mom always makes the call.

So when a dad makes that post-interview call, it’s to say, “No, thanks.” There’s the tone of voice, too, a little flat and unemotive. Or maybe it’s tentative, or (rarely, thank goodness) defensive. It’s the way they say nice things to start, but instead of sounding enthusiastic about these great things, they sound apologetic. You can just hear the “this was great, BUT…” that’s coming nest.

So, you get these calls. And you know. Besides, I remember this couple. They were nice, their child seemed normally cute. It was a decent enough interview. The usual things were covered, there were no surprises or mis-steps. Nothing went wrong, but there was no spark, either. I told my husband afterward that it could just be that they are very low-key people, and in their quiet way thought I was FABULOUS… but I didn’t think so. I don’t think they disliked me. But that warm connection I feel when the interview is going very well and they are liking me a LOT? Wasn’t happening.

And for my part? A similar sort of response. These were nice enough people. A little boring, maybe, but they didn’t strike me as the sort who’d be difficult clients. If they’d wanted to put their child in my care, I’d have cheerfully signed him on. I didn’t dislike them… but, well… meh.

And that’s okay. I listened while dad listed off the things they’d liked about the care I offered, and then went on to explain why they made the decision they had.

Now, most people don’t do this. In fact, most people don’t make the “thanks but no thanks” call at all. They just vanish. Which is okay. I’m still looking, after all, still interviewing. When I have a space opening up, interviewing is an ongoing process. I’m not waiting with bated breath for their particular phone call. If they don’t call, my working assumption is they’ve found other care.

Now, that’s come as a surprise to the occasional client. They know they’re looking, but, even though here we sit in an interview for a space I have coming open, they somehow assume that I’m not … looking. It’s the same sort of mindset we all had in grade three, when we were SHOCKED to see our teacher at the grocery store. (With a HUSBAND?!?! Buying FOOD?!?! Bizarre!!!) It’s like we all assumed that she lived in some sort of static limbo when she wasn’t teaching. We walked out the classroom, went back to our lives, and Mrs. Baird? She sort of froze there in the school, until we returned the next day and she came back to life.

Some parents seem to have that view of me. Yes, we interviewed, yes, I have a space open, but when they leave my home, I go into that same static limbo with all those third-grade teachers. So then, when they get back to me after two weeks or a month of silence and find the space filled, they are shocked and offended. (Would I have the right, I wonder, to be shocked and offended that they’d chosen someone else instead of waiting for me to offer them my spot?) The problem, of course, is that they don’t really grasp that an interview is a two-way exchange, with two equal parties. They are looking, I am looking. Just as they may choose for or against me, I might choose for or against them. These days I am careful to let interviewing clients know that, just like them, I am in the process of interviewing. I am looking to fill the space, as expeditiously as possible.

And as it happens, I filled the space this couple interviewed for. About ten days ago. But I don’t tell him that, because it’s clear where he’s going with this. They had chosen a different caregiver, you see, because when their 12-month-old starts with her, she will be caring for four other children between the ages of 12 and 18 months. Whereas I will have an almost-two, two twos, a three and a five-year-old.

Blink, blink, blink.

That’s what I mean about assumptions. When they asked about the other kids in care, I thought they’d be worried about the number of two-year-olds. That’s a lot of littler kids. I assumed they’d be concerned their precious snookums wouldn’t get enough one-on-one with me, with all those other babies competing for my attention. I have a response to that concern, of course, but it’s not an unreasonable one.

But no! They WANT their child to be duking it out with a gazillion other same-age infants.

Well. What do you know about that?

Of course, I think they’re whacked.

Assumptions. You just can’t rely on them. Not one little bit.

March 4, 2011 - Posted by | daycare, parents | , ,


  1. I can see that, I guess. It’s probably about making “friends their own age” and being with peers – like they see at day care centers. No reason to try to convince them otherwise, but I remember as a new parent it took me a while to get the advantages of mixed age groups. And boy there were! My baby, the only one in that home, got lots of attention from the older kids, extra care by the caregiver, and she developed skills much faster, I think, because she had so many little role models. But I suppose if it comes up again you could point out to interviewees the advantages, if they hadn’t thought of them…

    Oh, I understand the thinking. It’s just silly. A range of ages is better all round, with the adult better able to meet more of the needs, because they’re not all wanting the SAME THING AT THE SAME TIME ALL THE TIME!!!, and with the children able to interact in ways, as you note, in ways that enrich them.

    This same-age fixation we have in our society is an odd way of looking at relationships, when you come right down to it. Yes, there is the advantage of similar interests and abilities, but do I restrict myself to people whose birthday falls within six months each way of mine? “Sorry. We can’t be friends. You’re only 35.”? Of course not. That’s silly. My life is enriched by the experiences and perspectives of my much-younger and much-older friends. Same for our kids.

    If I’d realized that’s what they were thinking, I’d have addressed it. (A little more tactfully than I just did here. Ahem.) Instead, I assumed I knew what they were thinking… oops. 😛

    Comment by lynn | March 4, 2011 | Reply

  2. That’s why I love montessori education. You have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders all together. It allows for the incoming 1st graders to have kids who know what they’re doing to look up to and to help them, and then the second graders can really delve into learning because they know the ropes, and the 3rd graders can start showing mastery and teach the younger ones new skills. It is so much more natural than the standard every grade on its own policy. Most of us don’t marry our direct age peers, and most of us, as adults, have friends in all generations. This strict segregation isn’t called for. And in smaller groups (our montessori has a 15:1 teacher:student ratio, so 3 years at a time makes sense), an even wider range of ages is called for.

    Because of our state laws, our montessori (a charter school, which is a public school of sorts) has to have a separate kindergarten room (5 year olds). And you can see the stress on the teachers’ faces in comparison. All 5 year olds need the same thing at the same time. They are all brand new and they know nothing. It makes more sense to have a 3-5 year old classroom, but alas, my middle girl has to wait until next year to experience the mixed-age class set up.

    Comment by Bridgett | March 4, 2011 | Reply

  3. Ok, these people are nuts! Wow! I can’t believe it…..

    Comment by Chantelle | March 4, 2011 | Reply

  4. Whacked indeed. Wait until the first time their little cherub gets bitten because the provider only has one head and two arms.

    Comment by jwg | March 4, 2011 | Reply

  5. This thinking baffles me. Do we have our children in litters so that they’re all the same age at the same time? (THANK GOD NO) Do we only interact with people of the same age all the time? It’s silly. Families and society are not set up this way, so why would it be beneficial for children to spend their lives only in “peer groups”? Yet another reason I love homeschool…

    Comment by rosie_kate | March 5, 2011 | Reply

  6. I think you SHOULD have finished with “Oh, I’m glad you have found other care. The space for your special snowflake was filled over a week ago.”

    Comment by IfByYes | March 5, 2011 | Reply

  7. I remember being so excited that my son was going to be in a class with older kids because there was so much that he would be able to learn from them.

    Comment by Dani | March 7, 2011 | Reply

  8. Are you OK?

    Comment by jwg | March 18, 2011 | Reply

  9. I always look forward to your posts. I hope you are somewhere having a fabulous vacation and I also hope you will post again soon! 🙂

    Comment by Patti | March 19, 2011 | Reply

  10. […] will be making a decision and so will you. (They will not, for example, expect the spot to be open after four weeks of full radio […]

    Pingback by Ten Nine Tips for Choosing Daycare Parents « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | June 27, 2011 | Reply

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