“She gave me soap!” Her blue eyes, though dimmed with age, still manage to flare in indignation. “Does she think I’m dirty? Does she think I don’t wash?!?”
My elderly neighbour, Mrs. L., is in full battle-cry against her sister-in-law. Again. Being a well-brought-up woman, I don’t argue with my elders. I don’t know the sister-in-law, despite all the tales of offense and infamy I’ve heard. What Mrs. L. tells me won’t hurt this woman, since the much-scorned SIL lives in a different city.
The offense is clear, however: The scorned sister-in-law gave Mrs L soap for her birthday!!!!
I like Mrs L, I really do. She’s a feisty old thing, determined to live her life till the last breath as an independent woman. She still drives her car — only in brightest daylight, as her vision fades, and it won’t be long before he license is taken away, I’m sure. She lives in her own home. She has supportive family, who see that her fridge is properly stocked and that she gets to doctor’s appointments. And she has attentive neighbours, myself among them, who note whether she’s walking her little dog every day, and that her mail is not accumulating worrisomely.
But she’s also a cranky old biddy, only too willing to take offense, to see offense where there is none, to be OUTRAGED by something as simple as a gift of soap.
I listen and nod, listen and nod, until Mrs. L runs out of steam and totters back into her kitchen. Then I breathe a sigh of relief, shake off her negativity and willful self-absorption, and move on to my day.
I never argue with Mrs. L. She’s old, and, despite her brave front, she’s frail. The days that she can continue to live on her own are numbered. Though she’s in denial, I suspect much of her rage stems from this awareness. (Even if it doesn’t, even if she’s just a cantankerous old biddy, she’s old.) I am kind.
A frail, cranky old lady who, despite herself, sees the writing on the wall, is one thing.
I am less patient with the gazillions of healthy young things who do this sort of thing day after day. Today I came across this post.
I’ve been pregnant, three times. I meet a dozen or two pregnant women each year; on average, one of my clients becomes pregnant each year. When I taught prenatal classes, I saw hundreds of pregnant women in a year.
This sort of article wearies me. The woman who wrote it doesn’t like to be asked when she’s due, and doesn’t enjoy the ‘wow’ comment. Okay. So she doesn’t. But you know what? Lots of women do. What’s the poor hapless bystander to do? You say ‘wow’ to one woman, she’s offended. You don’t say it to the next, she’s disappointed.
When people make complaints of the sort this author makes, they are assuming that all people feel as they do. Therefore, what they need, is what everyone wants, what pleases them is what everyone should be doing. And that just ain’t so. Since all pregnant women don’t respond in the exact same way to their pregnancy and to comments on their pregnant body, then what she’s asking of people is that they be able to read her mind. Which is hardly fair or rational. This exasperates me.
I could have stopped here. There would have been a certain amount of undeniable satisfaction in writing an acerbic, biting, sarcastic post on the self-inflated precious snowflakeness in our society, the incessant demand that everyone UNDERSTAND me, and react EXACTLY how I want and need. How dare you step on my delicate toes?
But you know what? Once that moment of exasperation had passed, compassion arose, and I just couldn’t be so unkind. Because what this woman is really expressing is insecurity. She’s not being fair or rational, but her distress is genuine, and I feel compassion for her.
And I am here to say to the author of this post, and to all of you who empathized with it, “Oh, honey. The problem is not with those people, even if some of them are tactless. You’re pregnant? Congratulations! And I will tell you now, even though I haven’t seen you in the flesh, you’re gorgeous.”
How do I know that, sight unseen? Because pregnant women are. Gorgeous. Yes, you are. Each and every one of you. Despite how tired you feel, how bloated you feel. Despite the bags that may or may not be under your eyes. Despite varicose veins and linea nigra and flatulence and stretch marks and the aches and pains and general weariness… You.Are.Beautiful.
Know why? Because you are a miracle on legs, you are. And that baby inside you? Is another miracle.
Those people who want to know when you’re due? It’s because they want to celebrate with you! Or perhaps to commiserate, and on a day where you’re feeling nothing more than “will I ever, EVER get my body back?”, a little commiseration is always welcome. Isn’t it?
Those people who look at your belly and go, “Wow!”? They are thinking, “Wow. Isn’t it amazing what the female body can do?” Or they’re thinking, “Wow. I’m so glad that’s not me any more!” Or maybe, “Wow. I can hardly wait till I get to do that!” Or, “Wow! Who knew a tiny woman could stretch so far!!” Some of them may even be thinking, “Wow. Why, why, why won’t my body let me do that?”
What they are not thinking is “Good lord, what a whale!” Do you hear me? They.Are.Not.
If you take offense or cringe in shame, when you hear that ‘wow’… Do you know who’s thinking that ‘whale’ comment?
Nobody else. Just you.
When you are pregnant, you gain weight. You do. It’s a fact. A biological necessity. 25 – 40 pounds is perfectly, deliciously, healthy. You are not “fat”. In fact, this is the one time in your life when gaining 25 – 40 pounds is the right thing to do. (If you gain more than that, you are not ‘ugly’, but you are making it harder on yourself. Pregnancy will be harder. Labour will likely be harder. Chasing your wee one after s/he is born will be harder. So, for your own sake and comfort, please keep the gain to healthy limits. But ugly? You’re Not.) And shame? It’s so unwarranted as to be ridiculous. Truly, it is.
Okay, we could all wish some of them would be a little more tactful. Sure. But I will tell you with 100% sincerity, no one who says ‘Wow!’ when they see a pregnant tummy is thinking ‘Ew!’. (Okay, maybe 0.0001% of them do. You can pay as much attention to those people as you do to people who think the world is flat. They are the lunatic fringe and should impact your self-esteem as much as the flat-earthers impact your travel plans.) So, please believe me: people are excited, not repelled. Pregnancy may not bring out the tact in everyone, but it does bring out the joy. People love babies. People love pregnant woman.
If you feel shame — seriously: shame?!? — when someone comments on your size, the problem lies not with the commenter, but with you. Because you don’t believe, in your heart of hearts, that your growing, blossoming, lush body is beautiful.
I’m here to tell you, it is.
When I taught prenatal classes, I would often hear women complain that they didn’t feel ‘feminine’ any more. And I would tell them, “Can you think of a single time in your life when you are more womanly? What man on the planet can do what you’re doing now?” You may not look like the pencil-thin 14-year-old models in Vogue, but you are as female as they get, sister!
All of it. All the aches and pains and lumps and farts and burps… and … beautiful skin and thick hair, blossoming breasts and lush, luxurient curves. You are beautiful. Utterly beautiful.
If you believed that yourself, if you really, really believed that, then every time someone asked, “When are you due?”, you’d be thrilled to tell them. And every time someone looked at your voluptuous belly and said, “Wow!”, you’d caress it with your mother’s hands, and you’d say, “Yeah. Isn’t it great?!”
Because it is. It’s great. It’s a miracle. It’s beautiful.
This has been a terrible year for enrollment and space-filling. Just terrible. I will tell you the Tale of Mary’s Rotten Year some other time, but for the purposes of this post, it’s enough that you know that I was pleased to have only one and a half spaces yet to fill for September. (Yes, September. In this area, spots fill that far in advance.)
My enrollment for the fall is: Rosie (who’ll be 3); Gwynn (who’ll be two); Poppy’s little sister (a year); and new baby girl (also a year, signed the contract six weeks ago). Three full-times and a part-time. Now, I would prefer five fill-time children, but I can get by on three and a half. And I have lots of time to find another to start in the summer.
And then, on Friday, at pickup, Rosie’s mom comes through the door with a bottle of wine.
No, that didn’t raise any suspicions. No need to cue the sinister music. Rosie’s parents bring me bottles of wine with delightful frequency, for one thing or another. This time, it was because Rosie had taken a tumble a day or two earlier, resulting in a bruise on her forehead.
Well, no. I didn’t get a bottle of wine because I let their child suffer an injury. I got the bottle of wine for what followed. Apparently, mummy asked daughter, “And when you fell, did Mary give you a hug?” To which Rosie answered, accurately, “Yes! And a kiss!”
The bottle of wine, mum explained, was for the love and care I give the children, for the warm and safe environment I create here.
Oh, that’s so lovely. Thank you!
And that’s why they’re moving her to preschool in September.
Okay, so she didn’t put it quite like that. But that’s what it amounts to.
They’re putting her in preschool this fall to “get her ready” for school the following year. Because my home is such a safe, protected, nourishing environment, you see, and they think she should be exposed to something a little bigger, a little more like the school that will follow the year after.
(Huh. Call me cynical if you will, but I’m thinking the bottle of wine is not strictly about the kiss-and-hug.)
My environment is warm and loving. Safe, secure. And that’s exactly why their little girl needs to leave it! Because goodness knows a two-year-old can’t be doing with all that love and security! The girl needs to be toughened up! By September she will be a newly-minted three-year-old. Time for some Hard Knocks, kid.
Am I feeling a tad bitter? Yes, I am. Not just because my projected income is taking another (yet another) hit — though I can’t pretend that doesn’t factor in — but because this is just … silly.
Let’s back it up a bit, shall we? There was a time when children started school in first grade, when they were about six. That’s why it’s called, you will note, “first” grade. Then we invented kindergarten, designed to get them ready (socially mostly, though for some kids the academic aspect was significant as well) for grade one. Then we invented junior kindergarten, to get them ready for the rigors of playdough and circle time.
And now we’re sending them to preschool, to ready them for JK, to ready them for SK, to ready them for Grade One? Does this not seem a tad overwrought? Just how demanding do we imagine this transition to be? Just how frail do we think our children are? And what’s next? Are we somehow going to get right there into the womb to prepare them for the challenges of outside living?
Oh, well. I’m exasperated, not panicked. I think they’re over-reacting, but they’ve always been a little anxious, and it’s an anxiety driven by emotion, not careful thought, so this is not out of character. Though they’re very nice people — really nice! warm, kind, friendly, appreciative — their anxiety has made them a little troublesome as clients. So I won’t be sorry to see them go. I will be sorry to see Rosie go. She’s quirky, funny, smart, and all-round adorable. She’s also a follower and an echo-er. She doesn’t originate much. She doesn’t think of things to do, she just follows. I was very curious to see how she’d evolve when, in September, Daniel and Poppy head off to Junior Kindergarten, and she emerged as The Big Girl. I was curious. More, I was looking forward to it. I thought it would be good for her, encourage the development of a more active part of her character.
Guess I won’t be seeing that after all … sigh…
I would have told them this, had I realized they were considering this course of action. Had I been consulted. Which I wasn’t. Now, I may still try to make these points, but I fear that they will fall on deaf ears, or, at any rate, ears already convinced of the rightness of their chosen course of action, and unlikely to be dissuaded.
I’m not even sure I want to dissuade them. As I say, they’ve been a mite troublesome as clients. And Rosie won’t be injured by their decision. She’ll just — maybe — develop a little differently, not get to develop/explore a potential strength. Maybe.
Preschool to ‘get her ready’ for Junior — JUNIOR! — Kindergarten?
Today is my last day of work until the New Year!! (Can you hear the whoops of celebration from there?)
Today is my last day of work, and two of my three families are already gone on holiday!!
Today is my last day of work … and on Friday, when Daniel’s dad found out his were the only kids coming, he apologized. With energy and remorse. Of course, I was all professional and “No, no! I’m open for business, and you have to work! Don’t worry about it.” And then he was all, “Oh, but no, you almost have a day off! I feel bad!” We chatted a bit more about the kids’ day, and then he was off. “We’ll have to see what we can do about Monday!” were his parting words.
Because most families wouldn’t be back on Monday, I give the parents their children’s gifts from me at home time. I send them home so the parents get the pleasure of seeing their children open the gifts Christmas morning. In so doing, I am depriving myself of seeing them open my gifts, true, but I’m being considerate here. The family Christmas is the most important thing.
Friday after work, 15 minutes after Rosie’s departure, Wonderful Husband and I walk to the pharmacy on the corner, passing Rosie’s dad, out playing in his drive with Rosie and Rory. (I’d sent a gift home for Rory, too, even though he’s no longer in my care. Rory comes bombing over to see me.)
“Thanks for the flashlight!!” he says. “I can make it go really bright!”
He’d opened it already? “Oh, yes,” says dad. “We like to spread the gifts out a bit. They can get overwhelmed on Christmas morning.”
Blink, blink. Fifteen minutes? They’d opened their gifts within 15 minutes of leaving my house.
You know, he’s quite right. Little kids can be overwhelmed by the enormity of Christmas. Opening the odds-and-ends gifts from neighbours and friends — and caregivers! — when they arrive makes good sense.
If that’s the case, don’t you think it would have made even more good sense to let her open it RIGHT THERE IN MY HOME so I could see her???
The weekend proceeds. I do some last-minute dashing about, go to a Christmas party, decorate our tree. (Very late for us.) The weekend proceeds … without a phone call from Daniel’s parents about Monday morning. So I assume I’m working today.
Opening time… no Daniel.
8:00… no Daniel.
8:30… no Daniel.
No phone call, either.
9:00… I check my answering machine. Did I miss a message? No.
9:15… Okay, they’re toying with me. This is just cruel. (My rule is, if you’re going to arrive after 9, give me a call so I can accommodate it, since we generally head out at nine for our outing.)
9:27… Can it be true? Am I getting a freebie, unexpected, extra Christmas gift of a day off? I won’t believe it, I tell myself, beating down the hope, until after 9:30.
9:30… no Daniel… I’m still hesitant to believe it, but hope is rising!
“I’d say Daddy’s right. Every Santa I’ve ever known has liked beer.” Oops. I just said ‘Santa’ in the plural. Happily, she’s on to her next thought and doesn’t notice.
“But the Santa at the mall said Santa likes chocolate milk.”
“Hm. I think he wasn’t the real Santa, then.”
“No! He was the real Santa.”
“Maybe not, you know. There’s only one Santa, and there are lots and lots of malls. Besides, he’s busy at the North Pole making presents. Most of the Santas you see at the malls are helpers. So I think this was a helper, and he made a mistake.”
“Noooo. He was the real Santa!”
“Well, I know how you can find out for sure if he was real.”
“You can leave Santa chocolate milk AND a beer, and see which one he drinks.”
Poppy’s mother enters at exactly this juncture in the proceedings. I get a quizzical look. I give her the backstory. Mom is all over that. Because, it seems, Mom also has a backstory.
“That’s an excellent idea, Poppy! Because you know what? I really don’t think that was the real Santa at the mall. You know how, when you told him you wanted a scooter for Christmas, he told you that was no good, because you can’t go outside with a scooter in the winter? And then he told you maybe you really wanted a Disney Princess doll?”
My jaw drops. I make wide-eyed contact with mom. Seriously?? He said that?? Mom nods, her lip curled. What an ass, huh? The conversations you learn to have without a single word spoken.
And what? Is this Santa on commission from Disney?
“Oh my goodness, Poppy!” I am the very picture of puzzled astonishment. “That couldn’t be the real Santa. The real Santa would know that you love scooters, and you don’t care about Disney princesses. What a silly Santa he was!”
Mom and I laugh in what is probably a disgustingly smug and patronizing way as we work in tandem to deprogram the sweet tot.
Rotten, commercially depraved, corporate minion sexist silly fake-Santa, pushing Disney princess on an innocent tot!!
Poppy, however, remains unconvinced. “Yes, it was the real Santa!”
Mom grabs the lifeline I’ve unwittingly tossed her.
“Well, I know how to find out. We’ll do what Mary said: We’ll put out some beer, and some chocolate milk, and we’ll see what Santa drinks. If he drinks the beer, that Santa at the mall was not the real Santa.”
Poppy nods. “It’s a ‘speriment!”
Mom and I glow in the brilliance of this genius child.
“Yes, it’s an experiment,” I agree.
As mom shepherds Poppy out the door, she whispers over her shoulder. “Tells my kid she doesn’t want a scooter. Where does he get off?” She snorts. “Santa’s going to drink an entire damned six-pack. Just to prove the point.”
Poppy is explaining the mysteries of Christmas, and Santa Claus in particular, to a very interested Rosie and Daniel.
“No presents? If you’re bad, you doesn’t get any presents?” Daniel digs a bit deeper. I think the boy realizes he has some cause for concern here.
Poppy is firm. “No. No presents for bad children.” She lifts her shoulder and crouches a bit, places her hands beside her cheeks, spreads the fingers, her eyes wide and shifting from side to side, the very posture of sneaky watchfulness. As imagined by a three-year-old, at any rate. Poppy tells her stories as much with her body as with her words. It’s a treat to watch her in action. “Santa Claus watches you aaaaaalllll the time, and you got to be good, and if you’re not?” She stands up suddenly, straight and tall, and slaps her hands together, cleaning imaginary sins and misdemeanors off her palms.
“You don’t get ANYTHING AT ALL!”
I work in a daycare. I have worked in a daycare for closing in on two decades now. I have heard about Santa each and every year. Now, when I was growing up, Santa brought one present. One modest present, at that. The rest were from identifiable people in my life. The big present? The one I’d been waiting for with bated breath for ever and ever? THAT one came from my mother, thank you so very much. I’m thinking she wanted the credit for her efforts. And whyever not?! Let some imaginary dude steal your thunder? Pfft.
So, Santa was part of my childhood Christmases, but not a big one. Lots of other things stood out more.
Thus, I didn’t ‘do’ Santa much with my own children. It didn’t rob us of the joy of the season. At all. In fact, I’ve argued before that shifting the emphasis may even have improved it. (Not, of course, that you can’t shift the emphasis and still have Santa.)
Not that I’ve ever once even considered disabusing a daycare tot of their belief in Santa. That’s totally their parents’ call, and I support whatever decisions they’ve made.
This year? It’s because of Poppy, I know. That “nothing if you’re bad” conversation has happened routinely over the past couple of weeks. The message is obviously being hammered home hard from someone in her life, and there is no doubt it is being absorbed. And the more I hear it, the more it rings in my ears like a really obvious — and not very kind or loving — form of manipulation.
“Be good or else!”
Behavioural blackmail, emotional blackmail. A threat.
Not, I confess, that Poppy seems traumatized by it. She’s more excited, far as I can make out. Excited and intrigued. And, of course, there is no worry at all that her tree will be barren of gifts come Christmas morning.
(Which makes it a completely empty threat, doesn’t it? This is a good thing for her tender little psyche, but, as we all know, bad parenting strategy. Technically, anyway. I give this one a Bad Parenting pass, because it’s more a game than anything, and most kids figure that out soon enough. Has Poppy figured it out, or does she just not see how awful the reality would be, were the threat to actually happen? The latter, I’m quite sure. She doesn’t really get it, for all it intrigues her.)
There’s no worry at all, even if it were a real threat. She’s three, of course, but she’s cheerful, cooperative, friendly. She is in no way a ‘handful’. (*cough*unlike Daniel*cough, cough*)
Down through my daycare years, pretty nearly all the kids have heard about Santa. And let me underline, that though I’m not a huge propagator of the Santa myth, I’m not opposed to it. I’m neutral, I guess. I’m sure most children get the “better be good!” warnings, too, but no one has made as much of them as Poppy. No child, ever. In close to twenty years. Is this a function of her character — does she like the mystery, does it tweak her (greatly reduced) tendency to anxiety, is she duly impressed by the need to behave? Has she taken a mild suggestion and just run with it in a big way? Or is someone in her life really, really working this idea?
I think it’s the latter.
And, for the first time in my daycare career, Santa Claus is making me uncomfortable.
This week, I let a little wry humour peek out as I stepped into that conversation.
Daniel was looking a bit worried. “Santa won’t give you anything?”
I ruffled his hair. “Well, you don’t get anything from Santa, no. He’s sort of fickle that way. But the people who know you and really love you? They love you even when you do bad stuff. You will get presents from them.”
I tap Poppy on her nose. “And you, missy? You are not a bad girl. Of course there will be presents for you!!”
And if I’ve thereby completely undermined the Family Child Control Strategy for December?
I. Don’t. Care.
I told you yesterday of the my two interviews. Two interviews, two very different family styles. One couple, soft-spoken, a little reserved, cautious. The other high-energy, cheerful, gregarious. One couple dithered and dithered and could not come to a decision. The other took a day to think about it, then decided!
Yay for people who can make a decision!
We agreed to two probationary weeks, because of their child’s difficult experience in her first daycare. During the first week, mom would spend part of some days with us. Two hours the first day, half hour the second, then a regular drop-off (2 minutes) the third and final day.
During those visits, I am reminded that mom is loud, which, as long-time readers know, I find wearisome. But she’s so full of positive energy, I can put up with the loud. What is harder to take is that she interrupts constantly. Not only is that rude/aggravating, but she’s interrupting me while I’m answering questions or passing on information, so she’s only getting half the information she has requested and/or needs. Then she’ll ask me a follow-up question. A follow-up question which would have been answered already if she hadn’t interrupted me in the first place. She also doesn’t remember things we’ve agreed to, because, I suspect, in her head she’d already raced on to the next thing and had ceased to listen to me even as I was speaking.
People like this are exhausting. I make a mental note to follow up any conversation with an email, so we have necessary information in writing.
But that concern aside, the week goes well. Her little girl is a charmer — interested, easy-going, easy to soothe, curious, prone to smiles and laughter even when mummy isn’t around. She’s going to be fine. I’m really looking forward to having her in the group!
At the end of the first week, I get an email from the ditherer. The one who’d interviewed with me a month before, who now has a little over two weeks before first day at work. She’s wondering how the probationary weeks went with the other child.
Why? She still hasn’t signed with anyone! I am flabbergasted. This woman really can’t make a decision! I’m flabbergasted, and also a little concerned for her. I reply, explaining that we’re only partway through the probationary weeks, and suggesting with as much tact and kindness as I’m capable (not to worry, I’m good at tact and kindness!), that she needs to choose from amongst the available options, or she may find herself with no daycare at all.
Wow. Decisions are so hard for some people. Thank goodness for my almost-signed-on parents, and their ability to come to a quick, firm, decision!
A day later, I get an email from the probationary parent. Over the weekend, their child had been to the emergency ward with trouble breathing. It turns out she has cold-induced asthma. Alarming, to be sure, particularly that first time, but not something that can’t be safely managed. I’ve had kids with this condition before. For some it’s more intense than others, but it’s always been manageable.
Except, these parents, the ones who, you know, can MAKE A DECISION!!! Well, they’ve made one. Another one. They have decided … that they will not put their child in daycare at all.
Boom, done. Guess that’s the flip side of all that decisiveness, huh. Could they not have dithered, just a wee bit?
But, wait! I still have the ditherers, the ones who told me “I kept coming up” in their discussions of caregivers, the ones who, only the evening before, had not yet chosen a caregiver!
Feeling a tad sheepish, I send them an email. Are they still … ?
Guess what? The ditherers finally made a decision. In less than 24 hours since our last email exchange, they have signed on, paid up, and have a start date.
I am impressed by the dark humour of the universe.
I have two interviews a few weeks back.
Lovely, lovely baby boy. Smiling, cheerful, not at all shy, attended (as much as you can expect of a 10-month-old) to his parents. Dad was cheerfully friendly. Mom was harder to read, but I judged her quietness to be shyness/reserve rather than unfriendliness or hostility. The interview was quiet, calm, measured, but, I thought, friendly enough.
They needed care to start mid-December, a mere six weeks away. In this neighbourhood, that is as last-minute as it gets. With 12-month maternity leaves and a mostly professional clientele, spots fill up 4 – 6 months in advance, typically, often even more. These people should have been in a panic.
They weren’t. At all.
We interviewed, it seemed to go well, though, as I say, mom was reserved and hard to read, and it’s mom who matters. The vast majority of the time, she decides. When it’s a joint decision, she casts the deciding vote. I don’t know that, in 17 years, it’s even been the dad who made the decision. But even so, I thought it had gone well.
Days go by. I hear nothing. Given their deadline, this surprised me. When there are months to look, I might wait two weeks to hear back. With only six weeks till she’s back to work, I expected a quick turn-around. Maybe they’ve found other care? They must have found other care. (No, parents rarely call to let me know, so if I don’t hear, that’s my assumption.)
A week later, she emails. Can she have my references, and can she come and join me one morning, to see the other children?
Oh. Guess they are still interested. I reply to her email immediately with reference and a suggested time for a visit — in two days.
She comes. We spend the morning. She says some complimentary things about the children, their behaviour, my demeanor with them.
More days go by. I arrange an interview with family B. They want part-time care, though, and I’d prefer full-time. Family A needs full-time. Hoping to nudge mom A, I send her an email, letting her know I’m interviewing other families. (Yes, there was only one interview. I thought a plural might add a bit of urgency. Urgency which, I’m now realizing, she utterly lacks. Which is bizarre, people, bizarre. SHE NEEDS CARE IN FIVE WEEKS!!! She should be frantic.) She replies, saying she’s not surprised someone as warm and skilled as me has other opportunities.
Another week. Hm. Guess her “not surprised” email meant she’s moved on. She’s found something else, and she’s happy she hasn’t left me in the lurch. I didn’t nudge her as I’d hoped, I’d only eased her conscience. Well, poop.
But I do have another interview! And yes, they only want part-time, but I can get by with part-time. And their daughter is adorable, mom and dad are nice. We have a very lively, friendly, cheerful interview. Completely different style than family A. Family B was the one of the previous failed daycare, though, and they were a little gun-shy. Would their daughter adjust to daycare here? Even without the larger information I eventually received about the previous daycare, I was reasonably confident she’d be just fine, so I offered them two probationary weeks, at the end of which they could decide whether to sign on.
The next day — the next day! — they call back. They’d like to leave their daughter with me!! Our two probationary weeks will start the week after next.
I inform Family A that the space has been filled, probationarily. “Oh, that’s too bad. We were just thinking we were ready to begin to make our decision, and we really liked you. That’s what we get for waiting too long, I guess.”
Blink. Blink. Blink.
You were thinking of beginning to make a decision? Beginning? Thinking of? How many stages are there to this process?? How long were you thinking of taking … given that you have four weeks now before you have to be at work? I had a choice between a full-time child of ditherers, and a part-time child of decisive people. Well, maybe I did. Potentially, whenever they got around to making up their minds. Maybe.
Yes, I really needed to go with the client who could make a decision!
So, that’s that. But honestly, folk are strange!
I had an interview a while back with a family who was looking for care because their previous arrangement had not worked out.
Now, if you’re me, that’s a red flag. Or at least an orange one. There are many innocuous reasons why daycare arrangements might not work out, of course. Maybe someone’s work hours changed such that they no longer meshed with the daycare’s hours. Maybe the daycare provider became ill, or had to move out of the area. Maybe another child at the daycare was over-the-top aggressive and the caregiver wouldn’t give them notice. All sorts of things.
Or maybe, maybe this client is hard on daycare providers. Maybe they have the outrageously aggressive child. Maybe they’re prima donnas whose expectations of caregivers are extreme and unreasonable.
Sometimes that’s really easy to pick up. The client I interviewed a few years back whose interview with me was a long litany of vitriolic bad-mouthing of all her previous interviews? Wouldn’t touch her with a ten-foot pole. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’s chewed through half a dozen caregivers in the intervening years, utterly convinced of their unworthiness and her superiority.
But more often, it’s not. I always ask what happened with the last caregiver, but the answers don’t necessarily inform. “She wasn’t invested in the kids. She didn’t really connect with them.” What does that mean, really? More important, what hat does that mean to that parent?
I’ve seen uninterested, disengaged caregivers. I know they’re out there. It could be this parent has a valid concern. It could be their child was with someone who supervised only for physical safety, and otherwise ignored the children. It happens.
Or it could be I’m chatting with a complete helicopter parent, who doesn’t understand that not only is it not “neglectful’ to let your child play on their own and sort out small problems unassisted, but is actively good for them! The sort of parent who sneers when they see the nannies chatting together on the park bench, instead of scrambling about on the play structure with the children — the children who are perfectly happy playing with each other. Who imagines that a ‘good’ parent spends each one of the child’s waking minutes in close, enriching contact with their precious child.
It’s hard to determine what I’m looking at, when sitting in my living room.
In this case, though? None of the above.
Their child had been in a cooperative daycare, organized amongst five sets of parents, and including only the children of those parents. The little girl had just never settled in. Would cry the entire day. This went on for … well, I’m not sure how long. This parent’s tolerance of crying is extremely low (another cautionary flag), and I didn’t think to ask. If it was just a week, they moved too quickly. If it was a month, well, yes, time to look elsewhere.
I did explain that transitional tears are normal — though they very rarely continue all day long! I talked about how much crying, and how long, was within normal parameters.
“Maybe it’s because there were too many kids all the same age, all needing the same amount of care?” she mused. It could be. I gather there were 4 one-year-olds, all new to daycare, plus a couple older pre-school kids. (Which puts the enrollment over the legal limit for a home daycare in this province (5), I could have pointed out, but didn’t. Maybe a co-op daycare has different regulations? I don’t know.) I’m also surprised they could find a caregiver who was willing to take on that many one-year-olds, but then again, with the daily assistance of a parent, it could be do-able. Still, a handful, even so.
It was a few weeks later, talking with other caregivers, that I learned more about the previous daycare arrangement. From the other provider, I got a lot more details that I’d asked of my parents.
Five families had clubbed together to provide care for their children. That’s fine. However. They had not, as I had assumed, hired someone to care for the kids full-time, with each parent scheduled to assist on a rotating basis. I assumed it, because that’s how every co-op daycare I know works: full-time, professional, experienced staff, assisting (willing and motivated, but generally group-care-inexperienced) parents.
No. Each parent had signed on to care for all the children for a full day, in rotation. On their own. Solo. Ten parents, so each parent took one day off work every other week. The children would rotate with the adults, so that each parent would care for the kids in their own home.
I’m sure it looked good in theory.
With no paid staff, the costs would be non-existent. Any costs that did emerge would be split amongst five families. Ten heads for brain-storming problems, to offer support. Best, the children would be cared for by their parents! The kids would have the comfort of their mommy or daddy, in their own home, two days of ten.
From the kids’ perspective?
A strange environment, 8 days of ten. A different environment every single day of the week. A strange adult, several days of ten. (Some of the families knew each other socially, but not everyone knew everybody.) For the one-year-olds, three other one-year-olds.
I can only imagine the chaos. Ten people, with ten different interaction styles, expectations, rules, standards, tolerances. A new one EVERY DAY!!! Six or seven kids, heads whirling with all the strangeness: strange playmates, strange caregivers, strange homes, new toys. Perpetual strangeness, every day of the week. Had they kept it to one location, that would have been better, but the steady rotation of staff would still have doomed it to failure.
I’ve found it takes a 1-year-old three to four full weeks to become fully comfortable in care. (Usually three, four for some kids, more if the child comes part-time.) Three to four full weeks when every day is the same. Predictable. Consistent. Same people, same place, same toys, same rules/regs/expectations. A full month.
So. When none of those things are the same, day to day?
Chaos. Unending chaos. Only the most socially hardy could survive. Thrive? I’m not sure any kid could thrive in that.
All of this, moreover, managed and supervised by a parent completely inexperienced in caring for groups of children. (Of course they were inexperienced. Anyone with a breath of experience would have seen immediately that this wonderful idea was a disaster in the making, and refused to have any part in it. My assumption that there’d be two adults working together every day, I now saw, was an assumption made by a woman with a ton of experience tending groups of children.)
Picture it: A room full of disoriented, unhappy, overwhelmed babies and toddlers, supervised by a disillusioned, confused, overwhelmed adult.
So, no, I’m not surprised they ended up looking for alternate care.
I suspect the daycare tanked. How did I find out about this? Because the caregiver who told me the story had interviewed a different family from the same set-up, whose child “had just never adjusted to daycare”.
And they didn’t really know why…
I am occasionally asked by a parent to recommend a parenting book. Given that this is what I do for a living, I should have a tidy list at my fingertips, right? Yes, I should. A well-thought-out list with headings and categories, with good representation of varying approaches and parenting styles. I absolutely should.
Embarrassing as it is to admit — and it is!! — I don’t.
It’s not that I’ve never read a parenting book. Once upon a time I read them compulsively. Probably dozens of them. I read them not so much because I felt at a loss as a parent, though of course I learned tips and tricks, picked up some good ideas, but because I found them interesting. Parenting books were fun and stimulating. Interesting, as I said.
But, you know? When you’ve been doing the job for 27 years, the books become … jest a smidge less rivetting. I have seen trends and fads come and go, heard one expert after another suggest this and that approach in one book after another. Some I largely agree with, some have taught me some good stuff; others cause me to alternately laugh at the sweet naivety or shudder at the self-absorbed brats that dreadful approach will set loose upon the world. After dozens of books read, over a couple dozen years, most of them blur together, and so, when asked, I go all deer-in-the-headlights and am absolutely no use to the questioner at all. Embarrassing.
I really should do something about that.
A couple of weeks ago, when a client asked me to recommend a book, I decided I would do something about that. I culled my own shelves and found a few of my favourites, and then, thinking I should probably have something a little more current in my Recommended Reading list, I trotted over to the library. Pulled a few likely suspects off the shelves, took a couple home.
And I discovered …
I’ve written a book!
Okay. Not really. But if I had, this would pretty much be it. Probably the only book you’d agree with 100% is one you wrote yourself, so, yes, there are a few points at which I diverge from the author, but they’re peripheral points, not detracting from the authors’ main points, method, and philosophy.
So, yay! I now have a book I can recommend to parents who ask. Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm, by Beth A. Grosshans, with Janet H. Burton.
I will tell you more tomorrow.