There’s no nice way to put this: every time I walk through the doors of my toddler’s daycare and round the corner to his classroom what is certain to ensue is pure chaos.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a beautiful kind of chaos – the kind filled with a cacophony of kids yelling and deserted toys haphazardly strung across the floor like little grenades, just waiting to be wired-tripped by unsuspecting parents.
When I enter my child’s classroom, I keep hush. I observe from the safety of the door frame. Nobody has seen me yet, least of all my kid – he’s usually too busy sticking play-doh up his nose.
I watch as one teacher has somehow corralled four kids into the bathroom and is trying to wipe down each one. She uses a stern yet gentle tone without flinching as she gently removes the waste smeared across one kid’s bum.
Across the room, one little girl is screaming at the top of her lungs because (from what I can surmise) some little boy stole her teddy bear. A teacher is trying to help resolve this outburst with kind words and a hug – the sort of patience and understanding reserved for very few things in this world.
This is one of my favorite parts of the day, quietly and undetectably watching how my son, his classmates and their teachers interact. How do the care givers deal with scraped knees or kids acting out or accidental spills or blatant messes and tantrums? I watch with equal parts admiration and awe.
One particular morning, another mother whom I’ve never laid eyes on, barges in behind me. Her arms are swollen with papers and a briefcase and purse and she enters the room, commanding attention. She doesn’t offer the courtesy “hi” to myself, the teachers, or any of the students. I find this off-putting but (perhaps) she has had a bad day. Bad days happen.
The first daycare teacher she approaches is obviously busy herself, but that doesn’t slow this mom down and the teacher puts on her best smile. The teacher’s eyes look heavy with fatigue, but she fakes a smile like a champ. “Hello, Mrs. Tillsdale. Kevin is just finishing up.”
This woman – we’ll call her Mom Z – starts wavering around paperwork in this teacher’s face, kind of in that cartoonish, over-the-top way you would expect a jilted ex-wife to wave around a divorce agreement in court.
Mom Z: “I SPECIFICALLY asked you not to give my kid gluten or let him play out in the sun for more than 35 minutes, and my son has informed me otherwise. I ALSO made it CLEAR that he is not to sit next to Lori because she has hit him on occasion and is an overall bad influence. I’m going to need to talk to you supervisor. This is simply unacceptable behavior.”
Within seconds of Mom Z’s theatrical outburst, the daycare teacher looks like she is going to have a nervous breakdown, little Jonathan had come up to him mom, pulling on her arm and begging her to stop making a scene — and I was employing all my strength not to drop kick this vile woman.
Look, I get that kids have serious allergies and those just can’t be taken lightly. I also understand they are susceptible to injury, are quite adaptive, and ultimately, really really important to us as parents. But can we slow our roll here, moms? Just for one second?
Unless you are paying astronomical fees to have your kids in daycare (which is an entirely separate issue I don’t have time to tackle in this particular article), what makes you think your child is deserving of first-class, undivided attention?
The average preschool or daycare employee (at least in Florida) gets paid $11.05 an hour! That’s less money than most fast-food workers make, and I’m not insinuating fast food workers should get paid less. What I’m saying is that $11.05 isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room or incentive to ask your daughter’s teacher to smack a muffin out of her hand on the playground while she’s watching 24 other rugrats. It’s not enough money to encourage little Joanna to keep up with her Keto diet or make sure little Susie is only using BPA-free scissors.
I’m not unsympathetic to wanting your kid to be healthy and have a good education. But if you can’t handle your toddler eating junk food from time to time or not getting personalized one-on-one reading time or not having sunscreen applied to their faces every two hours… daycare simply isn’t for you. Spend that money by hiring a nanny that can give them the undivided attention and care you believe your child deserves. Can’t afford a personal nanny? You get what you pay for.
We’re already asking these teachers who are barely paid above minimum wage to “potty train” your kid, blow his boogies, and sign waivers every time he falls off the slide. Do you REALLY think it’s fair to ask them to pay attention to all the million other things your kids get into when they have 25 more of “those things” running around? The answer is no.
Also, buy your teacher a Thank You card or a gift certificate to the liquor store from time to time as a token of your appreciation. They deserve it!