It’s Not All Mary Poppins

In which Mary nearly drops the f-bomb

Off to playgroup this morning. Oh, the joys of playgroup! Lots and lots and lots of space in our brand-spanking-new community centre. Space for the ride-on toys, space for the sand and water tables, space for a playhouse and kitchen, for some tumbling mats littered with baby dolls, for lots of running around and play.

It’s great. When, despite the brilliant sun, it’s still FREAKING COLD out there, the park an ankle-twisting maze of upchurned, frozen mud, the play structures frostbite cold, it’s bliss to be in this large, sunny room with lots of room for the kids to let loose and race around.

And there are lots of comfy benches around the perimeter of the room where adults can chat. Bliss. Adults. Not parent-adults, mind you, but other-caregiver adults. Parents, with their one (occasionally two) children, don’t really get it. Caregivers? Caregivers get it. I want my peer group. I want my colleagues. I want some support.

Because it’s March, the month that drains me. It’s March, the end of a looooong, cold winter. It’s March, and I still have Lily. The baby who has been a strain and a challenge all winter long. We’ve made some gains this week, mind you. I’ve seen the happy, sunny girl I so adore for two entire days this week! Hope rises… but not as much as it might have done once, for I am in no way sure these gains will hold. We’ve been through this loop a few times in the past few months already: I try a new approach, I see some improvement, my hopes rise… and then the improvement fractures, crumbles away, and we’re back to square one. Or maybe square negative three by now…

I am weary, is what I’m saying, and in need of supportive ears and encouraging words. And that bench of caregivers? It’s a beacon in a cold and dreary place.

Mom was intending to visit with us at playgroup, but when she arrived she let me know that she couldn’t stay after all.

I should have left then. Because how does this child react to changes in routine? Three guesses, first two don’t count. How to describe? We’ll just call it “not well”, and leave it at that, shall we?

But I stayed because I hoped she’d get over it. She used to love playgroup. I stayed for me. I’m wanting that beacon of support. I want to park my butt on the caregiver bench and be washed in empathy. The tots can play, the unhappy one can sit on my lap or play at my feet or even lie on the bench under my pashmina (she likes this, really), and I can relax in the company of Women Who Get It. I don’t just want this, I need it.

The other two trot off to play. Lily opts to stay with me, so I draw her onto my lap, kiss the top of her head, and rock her gently side to side. Her whining reduces in volume, but doesn’t stop. One of the caregivers nods at Lily. “It’s still going on?” She and I have spoken at length about this, me seeking ideas and a safe place to vent, she providing her solid, sensible compassion, and some damned good ideas. I talk to her because she’s got a wealth of experience, and because I know I can trust her to keep any confidences I tell her. She is the epitome of professionalism. No loose lips on this one.

I nod, adding a few carefully phrased, safe-for-public-venue details. The woman sitting to my friend’s left, a woman I’ve never met before, enters the conversation. She knows Just What To Do. In fact, as it turns out over the next highly informative five minutes, she knows… well, she knows EVERYTHING!

All this without asking a single question! She doesn’t know what I’ve tried, she doesn’t know how long it’s been going on, she doesn’t know Lily’s patterns or issues, she doesn’t know the parents, she doesn’t know me, the other kids, or… well, any details at all… and yet, SHE HAS THE ANSWER!

Gee. If only we’d had this conversation I’d listened to her monologue months ago, think of all the grief I would have saved myself!!!

I’m sure if I told her I tried one strategy for six months, she would be sure the problem persisted because I didn’t try a variety of approaches, but since I have tried more than one, well, the problem is because I didn’t stick with one thing for long enough!!!

Of course.

Consistency. You need to be consistent! If you are inconsistent ONE TIME in SIX MONTHS? All my fault.

You know, I give advice. I do. You might argue that parts of this blog constitute ‘advice’, and you’d be right. Of course, if you’re not looking for advice, you don’t have to read it. Skip that post. Easy. If you are looking for advice (and judging from my email, a decent number of people out there are) you might find what I have to say helpful. In real life? In real life, I am very cautious about giving advice. I wait until the person has asked for advice before doling it out, and, even when they do ask, I ask questions first. Because really, doling out advice when you know NOTHING about the situation is just plain arrogant. And rude. And totally infuriating.

We left playgroup early. I left in part because Lily never did settle in, and I’m always aware of the vicious, potentially bad-for-business tongues of the Earnest Mommies who believe that the sign of Good Parenting is a child who never cries. But mostly I left because this self-important, insensitive moron of a fellow-caregiver absolutely destroyed the empathetic, supportive oasis I had so looked forward to.

Arrogant bitch.

Ah, well. We got home, and Lily settled in. Now they’re all napping, and my home is… silent… And it’s Friday afternoon, and in three hours I will be opening the bottle of wine currently chilling in my fridge. Maybe I’ll sip that wine in a tub full of bubbles, too.

Aaaahhhh…

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March 25, 2011 - Posted by | the dark side

13 Comments »

  1. Mary, You are an amazing woman, mother, and caregiver. You have given me ideas, and the strength and fortitude to handle new situations with my daycare kiddos, and my own sweet daughters. It seems like the past six months or so have been a harder row to hoe. I hope that spring will be a better season! I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t be able to help with the Lily situation, f you ever need a vent or an ego boost feel free to email me.

    Oh, thank you! I truly appreciate it, and you never know — you just might get that email! Yes, I’ve been a bit grumpier this past winter, haven’t I? More complaining than usual. The Lily situation has been very trying: I feel for her, I wish I could help more than I seem to be able to, my professional pride (or is it just plain old ego??) is dismayed at my inability to solve this one, and I’m also exasperated, both with her and myself. Very trying.

    But spring is coming, and with it a return to much more outdoor play and park time and sunny days. It will get better!

    Comment by Jess | March 25, 2011 | Reply

  2. Oh, I so GET this. Really I do. 🙂

    Thank you! That’s all I really wanted, you know? The comfort of people who get it!

    Comment by Debbi Does Dinner Healthy | March 25, 2011 | Reply

  3. Spa effect didn’t last long enough huh? May her kids all turn out to be biters and the parents all be smarter than her, or think they are.

    No, it seems to have worn right off, dammit. And thank you for the ‘fleas of a thousand camels’-style daycare curse. It gave me a genuine belly laugh!

    Comment by jwg | March 25, 2011 | Reply

  4. I absolutely get this. And I hate it. I don’t try to give advice so much as share what has or hasn’t worked for me. Because to think that every kid is the same, and will react the same is ridiculous.

    That’s a much more tactful approach for sure, but you know what? I rarely even do that, because it can be construed as giving advice. Really. This blog probably gives a false impression of me, but in real life, I am reeeeeeally circumspect about the whole advice thing.

    Comment by MJ | March 26, 2011 | Reply

  5. Oh, people like that are such a pain. They know more than you, and that’s all that matters.

    This one time, I had a service dog with me (you know, because I was a SERVICE DOG TRAINER) and I had a woman start talking to me about how service dog schools are so cruel because they TRAIN THE DOG TO EAT ITS OWN POOP SO IT WON’T LEAVE MESSES.

    No amount of “uh, actually, that’s not at all true and makes no sense. I’m this dog’s trainer and we spend much of our time trying to stop dogs from eating their own poop” could dissuade her.

    “They know more than you, and that’s all that matters.” That sums her up perfectly, and is probably, now that you phrase it so neatly and I can think about it in those terms, what was annoying me the most. No matter what I said — whether I agreed with her idea or not — I was wrong and she knew all. Gah.

    Comment by IfByYes | March 26, 2011 | Reply

  6. I have a feeling that the woman’s advice was something you’d already tried or that was impractical, because otherwise you’d have acknowledged that, however abrasive, she’d talked sense. How wearying for you and I’m so sorry.

    Poor little Lily, how sad that she’s still not very happy. I suspect that her parents need to look at her routine again because I really doubt that it’s anything that you can influence that’s the problem. It could be that daycare just doesn’t suit her at this stage. If her mom and dad don’t have these difficulties at home, maybe one of them needs to take a sabbatical for a few months to be with her. And if they do, they need to look at whether she’s getting enough sleep etc, as you asked them to do before. She’s so delightful when she’s happy – as a sensitive little girl, I wonder if their lifestyle has to be more child-centred, just for a while. The whole problem was caused by Mom telling Lily that she was staying, and then leaving – but you picked up the pieces.

    Two things annoyed me: that she thought she could give advice without any information about the problem, and (secondly and even more annoyingly) no matter what I said, it was the wrong approach. She wasn’t really interested in finding a solution together with me, only in telling me where I’d gone wrong.

    Everything she said were indeed things I’d tried, and when I said as much, well, it was obviously my implementation or some other thing that was the problem. Oh, and something that didn’t make the post — as we sat there, and I was coping with poor Lily as best I could, she was very helpfully pointing out all the things I was doing wrong right then!

    Comment by Z | March 26, 2011 | Reply

  7. Perhaps you should suggest to Lilly’s parents that you found the perfect caregiver for them. 😉

    Comment by Paula Douglas | March 26, 2011 | Reply

  8. There’s nothing more irritating than meeting a know it all on a rough day. Hang in there.

    Comment by nora | March 26, 2011 | Reply

  9. Hi Mary,
    Love your blog! I have been a follower for well over a year but have never commented. I too am a child care provider with over 18 years under my belt. I experienced my “first” child that I had to let go last year. After eighteen plus years I too felt dismayed with my inability to meet this child’s needs. Without getting into too much detail little one had some “special needs” Mom was on board but Dad was not . I tried many approach’s and would see improvement but it was always two steps forward then one back. The situation really sucked my energy and love for what I do. I realized after six long months it was time to move on. In the best interest of this child and for my other little ones.

    In the end, it taught me no matter how long we have been in the field their is ALWAYS something new to experience and learn from. Boy did I learn! (HA). In the end you professionalism and experience will guide you in your decision. Feel Better. Please know that what you decide it will be what’s best for your program.

    Comment by Florence | March 27, 2011 | Reply

  10. Hi Mary,
    Love your blog! I have been a follower for well over a year but have never commented. I too am a child care provider with over 18 years under my belt. I experienced my “first” child that I had to let go last year. After eighteen plus years I too felt dismayed with my inability to meet this child’s needs. Without getting into too much detail little one had some “special needs” Mom was on board but Dad was not . I tried many approach’s and would see improvement but it was always two steps forward then one back. The situation really sucked my energy and love for what I do. I realized after six long months it was time to move on. In the best interest of this child and for my other little ones.

    In the end, it taught me no matter how long we have been in the field their is ALWAYS something new to experience and learn from. Boy did I learn! (HA). In the end you professionalism and experience will guide you in your decision. Feel Better. Please know that whatever you decide it will be what’s best for your program.

    Comment by Florence | March 27, 2011 | Reply

  11. As a longtime reader, I do come here to listen to your advice. I seek it out. I appreciate your insight and experience.
    It’s one thing to give advice when asked or expected, it’s another thing entirely what this woman did.

    We all know these people though. I had a friend once who offered to lend me some of his paramedic books when I got my job in transplantation. He thought they might help me with the “biologic” side. Really? I calmly told him that I though my degrees in biology and chemistry would be enough, but I’d be sure to call him if I had questions.

    Come to think of it, that’s probably one of the reasons we don’t hang out anymore.

    Comment by Dani | March 28, 2011 | Reply

  12. […] and March are my lowest-energy months. Everything’s a little harder in March. I don’t feel sad. […]

    Pingback by Why Wouldn’t I? « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | March 15, 2012 | Reply

  13. […] these things and, you know, phone her. I tend to be a bit vague, socially…) Even more sadly, really annoying caregiver is there. Gah. Happily, she has a friend with her, so I can sit a small distance away and not be […]

    Pingback by Weird vs Weird « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | May 8, 2012 | Reply


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