It’s Not All Mary Poppins

What would you do?

There are many caregivers in my neighbourhood. We offer a variety of styles of service. Some start earlier, some go later. Some are heavy on the crafts, others are all about the outings. Some are French, most are English, a smattering have another language. There are caregivers for every style of parent.

There are those who, in my estimation, are better than others. There are the truly great: appropriately attentive, but not helicopter; a nice way of interacting with the children; clear and sensible consequences and expectations for the children; true professionalism when dealing with parents.

There are the middling ones, like the one who’s great with the kids, but just a tad less attentive than makes me comfortable — not, I hasten to add, that any of her children has ever suffered anything more than the standard bumps and bruises so common to this (uncoordinated) age, nor in excessive numbers. She just lets the kids wander a little further than I would, doesn’t check on them as often as I do. More of a style difference, but… it makes me a smidge uneasy, her style.

And then… then there’s that one that I just don’t like. Not as a person, and even more, not as a caregiver. There’s a saying that you don’t deserve the face you have at 20, but at 50 you have the face you’ve earned. I look at her, the lines of her face drawn severe and scowling, and wonder, “Who would leave their child with a face like that?” A face that so clearly reflects the years spent scowling and stern?

When I see her as I approach the sandbox, I sigh inwardly, knowing that I’m in for a morning of sharp complaints and negativity, without even the (unworthy yet occasionally satisfactory) pleasure of a vent-and-gripe session, for she doesn’t listen, she only talks.

She doesn’t like the parents, she doesn’t appear to enjoy the children. She doesn’t say anything positive about her job, her days, her family, her activities. Though I’ve never seen her say or do anything inappropriate with her kids, she’s never warm with them, either. No laughter, no spontaneous hugs, kisses or cuddles from this one.

And once in a while, a parent looking for care will ask me, “Do you know X? What do you think of her?”

I hate that question.

“I think she’s awful!” would be the 100% accurate response. But that, friends, is unprofessional. You don’t backstab colleagues, and though I don’t like her, she’s never done anything that crosses any legal lines. (To my knowledge, of course, but I really don’t think she has. She’s not abusive, she’s not a psychopath… she’s just not very nice.)

Now, when I’m asked that question I tend to assume that they have a negative gut feeling already, and want confirmation of it. Because you know what? No one’s ever asked about any other caregiver. Just her. Isn’t that telling?

Which is why, the first time I was asked, I answered with a question of my own, “Why do you ask? Do you have a concern about her?”

Another time I had a different question. “Well, that depends. What, would you say, is your parenting style?” Because, you know, there are families out there who are looking for someone with her style. What I might call ‘authoritarian’, they would call ‘firm’. Different strokes.

In essence, I’ve opted not to answer the question directly, but instead encourage them to express their feelings. Another way to deal with it would be to evade it directly, “I have a policy not to discuss other caregivers with parents. It might be best for you to arrange to meet her so that you can form your own opinion.” (Given that I don’t say, “I think she’s wonderful!!!”, which I would if I did, I’ve pretty much answered the question right there, haven’t I?)

Gah. I still don’t like it.

The most recent time this happened, I was tempted to avoid the whole dilemma with a lie: “X? Nope, never heard of her.”

But I’m curious. Have you ever found yourself in a parallel situation? How would you respond?

July 28, 2011 Posted by | controversy, daycare, the dark side | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Honesty? Honestly…

“You talk funny, Mary.” Tyler grins at my over-the-top rendition of a possibly Eastern-European accent.

“Thanks, sunshine. I love you, too.”

I love my mummy and daddy.”

I bust out laughing. “Well, now. Guess that puts me in my place!”

“And Emily and my family. But I just like you.”

I’m choosing to be impressed by his sophisticated comprehension of nuance.

Oof.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | the things they say!, Tyler | , | Leave a comment