Tag Archives: putting your kids in daycare

Parenting: It’s Really Not That Hard

Our kids go to daycare, and my wife and I both work in education. So perhaps we’re a bit more sensitive than the average individual to the herd mentality and group dynamics that can sprout up in kids of all ages in a common setting. I don’t, however, think we’re smarter than the average person, or more capable of seeing obvious problems associated with otherwise everyday actions.

Our daycare has a pretty strict and pretty clear policy on bringing in food from outside for your kids: you can’t do it. To say nothing of the obvious danger for kids with peanut allergies or similar maladies, having one kid who brings in a hot sub while the rest of the class is having overcooked nuggets and sad, limp green beans is just a recipe for bad news, especially with kids who don’t even have the vocabulary yet to explain why they’re mad that Johnny’s chowing down on a delicious sandwich that probably cost as much as the lunch for the other fourteen students in class combined. So food from outside is disallowed.

This regulation is posted pretty clearly all over the building.

And yet.

The teacher in my son’s class told me about a parent who, earlier in the week, dropped off her child at 7 AM — while the rest of the class is sitting down for a breakfast of fruit and toasted english muffins — with a McDonald’s bag. Then tried to hurry back out the door.

“Ma’am, he can’t have that in here.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, you can take him out and sit with him in the lobby while he eats, if you like, but he can’t have outside food in the classroom.”

“I can’t stay; I have to go to work. This is his breakfast.”

The (severely underpaid) teacher then had to explain to this woman (who is presumably in her thirties and has, also presumably, learned at least a little bit about the way the world works) why they couldn’t allow her son to sit down and eat a McDonald’s breakfast at the same table with the other kids. You don’t have to use your imagination, really. Kids get jealous. Arguments start. Whining breaks out, then outright screaming. Pretty soon, one kid has impaled another against the wall with a lance made of Legos while the other kids are crowning a hash brown Harvest King with a diadem of braided hotcakes. Lord of the Super Size.  Preschool pandemonium.

Honestly. It’s really not that hard to get this aspect of your parenting life right. It takes getting up an extra ten minutes early to make sure your kid has something to eat in the morning, or — or! — you can just let the kid have breakfast in class with the rest of the kids. Either solution fits just fine into the accepted social order and — let me put a fine point on this — necessary routine that dealing with a room full of three-year-olds requires.

Or, you can be a to-hell-with-the-rest-of-the-world, me-first and my-kids-only jerko scumbag and send your kid to school with a bagful of grease and gristle. Which will promptly be thrown in the trash.

And then there are the parents who can’t be bothered to send their kids with show-and-tell items from home, so the kids feel left out. Or the ones who can’t do the simple homework assignments like tracing their kids’ hands on a sheet of construction paper so they can make turkeys in class. Or the ones whose kids go to school biting and scratching at the faces of other tiny humans. Or the ones who rant anonymously about other parents on their vicious little blogs.

Wait, what?

Okay, this rant is over, because I’m in serious danger of falling into a rage-spiral over the parents at our daycare, To be fair, I actually really like our daycare. Our kids have fun and they actually seem to be learning things. It’s the other parents I can’t stand.

Sartre said it best. Hell is other people.

And their snotty, sticky, smear-finger-paint-on-your-trousers-while-you’re-leaving-for-work kids.

Toddler Life, Chapter 211: The Daycare Demon

Our kids have recently gone into daycare. And there are a host of parental tribulations that go along with that. What will the children learn outside of the house that we don’t want them to learn yet? What if they get sick? What if they hate us later? What if a helicopter crashes into the building? (Some of the fears are more rational than others.)

For better or worse, our kids have been fairly isolated in their development so far. Sprout the First was in daycare or in the care of his grandparents for a couple days a week  for a few months after he turned 1 — and he spent time with a few other kids, maybe three or four, during that time. And the kids have some cousins around their age, and some friends of ours (my wife’s and mine) have kids their age as well. But on the regular? It’s just been us.

Which is good and bad.

Good because, if they’re doing something, we can pretty easily isolate the cause. We know, for example, that when Sprout the First began telling his stuffed animals to “shut your piehole,” that we needed to start examining our, uh, turns of phrase around the boy. Good because, as a general rule, we can control the things that go into their tiny and developing brains.

Bad because, well, variety is the spice of life and all that. Maybe we shelter them too much. Maybe they need more interaction with kids their age. Maybe they need to hear the crazy beliefs of other adults in the world.

But I’ll tell you what’s definitely bad about sending them to daycare.

The Daycare Demon.

The Daycare Demon goes to your child’s daycare.

He’s the first child whose name your bright-and-beautiful offspring learns, because it’s the name he hears the most.

He’s the one you can pick out without anybody particularly pointing to him, because naturally he’s the one hanging from the curtains with fingerpaint all over his face, brandishing a paintbrush like a rapier.

He’s the one you begin to hate from afar because you just know that, through toddler osmosis, your precious darling is picking up on his bad habits.

Our Daycare Demon is definitely not named Fred, but I will call him Fred for the sake of not calling him by his real name, which causes my blood to boil and my face to distort as if I’ve chomped down on an enchilada full of ground-up bulls’ testicles and not ground beef, as I had previously supposed.

Every day, Sprout the First comes home with nothing but Fred to talk about. “Miss Smith told Fred to sit down or he wouldn’t get a sticker.” “Fred was getting in trouble because he wouldn’t come inside.” “Fred said I’m a baby.”

Fred is the one who, the first time I dropped the kids off at daycare for real, came and laid a square solid tackle on my knee and grinned up at me like the Joker. Fred is the one who, now that I have to comfort Sprout the First when I drop him off (because he’s upset about not staying at home all day), sticks his nose into our business and asks me WHAT ARE YOU DOING until a teacher can snatch him away. Fred is the one at whose name I brace for impact: what has he done today?

And I know. I get it. He’s just a kid. It’s not his fault. But that doesn’t change the fact that Fred has become something of a magnet for all my unquantifiable but vaguely negative feelings about putting my kids in daycare. It’s comforting to think that I can ascribe all the negative episodes, the questionable interactions, the dubious phrases brought home, to some anonymous ragamuffin.

It’s become a bit of a running joke at our house, to ask what the Daycare Demon has done today. Sprout the First always comes home with Fred’s name on his tongue. And that makes us laugh. But then, when we ask Sprout what he did that day, or who he played with, often the Demon’s name will come out. And that’s maybe a little troubling. Sprout might be fixating on him because he gets his name called so often (even for the wrong reasons). Sprout might be fixating on him because he’s loud and has his nose in everything like a coked-up bloodhound. Sprout might just think that the Demon is cool, whatever cool means to a three-year-old.

Still, there’s nothing to do about it. Fred is gonna stay crazy. So, for way too much time every day, my kid is flying in the same orbit as the Demon. And maybe that’s not the best thing. But it at least reassures me that my kid isn’t the Demon.

Not yet, anyway.

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