Day Care Syndrome aka Home Sweet Home

cropped-cropped-cropped-header1.jpgThere are wonderful milestones that parents happily anticipate achieving. No more messy diapers, no more dripping sippy cups, no more highchair taking up valuable space, no more child safety locks and no more playpen. These things remain constant in a family day care home. They become part of the ordinary landscape, even gaining creative usefulness.

My playpen is an all purpose storage area including single forgotten socks and dog toys. The highchair lives on my porch. It has become a valuable spot to hang damp clothing and place plants in need of repotting. Each no longer in use for their intended purpose, have become the tapestry of my happy home. To the seasoned decorator, they are tacky and ill matched. I’ve noticed that day care providers are not the dinner party hostess type and it’s no wonder. I stopped seeing things through that kind of discriminating “eye” years ago.

Hand prints on mirrors are invisible unless I’m taking a photograph and notice them through the focused lens.
Stacks of drawings in the center of my kitchen table aren’t a nuisance unless I’m searching for a pen. Coat hooks are meant to hold multiple coats and bags aren’t they? Scatter rugs move like icebergs in my home. I know they aren’t ever stationed where they were first placed but never actually see them make a move.

Quick efficiency is treasured more than strict order in the family day care home. A play area can be transformed into a cozy den with a sweep and a tuck. At week’s end, we have a treasure hunt for toys, socks, and sippy cups that have gone missing. This event is looked forward to by the kids. (Warning: avoid serving milk in wandering sippy cups.)
Be advised. A bulletin board is essential but may come crashing down in the quiet of the night when loaded with more than 7 pounds of papers, which include the emergency numbers, class photos, old spelling words and triumphant tests, paintings by more than one child, as well as, the usual seasonal decorations, and grocery lists.
And last, but not least, imagine on retirement day the rewarding experience to be had when the toilet paper roll is not perpetually empty but filled with quality paper. The kind that requires only a few sheets for adults but would stop up a toilet like cement when used at “kid” proportions. Ah…now that’s a milestone to aim for!

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Gotta Love Well-Timed Screeches

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By the time my day care friends enter school, we have a routine of discussing word origins, outer space and why worms need to be slimy, so questions are generously encouraged. There are two ticklish subjects that come up from time to time, one is “death” and the other is “having babies”. My default answer, when asked directly, is “You should ask mommy and daddy what they think.” But this is real life and those subjects have a way of coming up when I least expect them. Once in a while, I get zapped with zingers.

Just recently, it was “pick up” time and I was telling a parent about my desire to retire in 5 years. It was more of a speech than a conversation and I (even though I should know better) became focused on what I was saying, while ignoring the fact that kids were in the room.

“If my daughter decides not to have more children, I’ll be able to relax and feel freer to retire.” The parent nodded her understanding .

Then came a squeal from behind me, followed by a high-pitched, “People can decide NOT to have babies?!” I turn around and there stands a wide-eyed  6-year-old frozen with interest. The question is still hanging and my expression is like a deer caught in headlights. (Remember that scene from Jaws, when Roy Scheider sees a shark, and floats toward the screen, as the whole outside world races away from him?) That was me.

Meanwhile, the parent has turned away in a phony search for her child’s jacket. Her shoulders are shaking with a vigor that appears like early onset Parkinson’s, but I can tell, she’s trying to contain a belly laugh. I, also know, she didn’t find the question that funny, it was entirely about my predicament.

This was no time for too long of a pause because extra long pauses inspire the lengthiest of inquiries. The “I’ve got to fully explore this dangerous subject” kind.

“Oh yes dear, most babies come when parents want them.”
Then the child asks,”What about the others?”
At that, I can see out of the corner of my eye, that the parent’s shakes have turned into spasms.
“Well, sweetie, they are happy surprises.”

In that instant, one of the toddlers screeches from the other room…as I turn to “run” away, I shout,
“Uh-oh, Evelyn’s stuck in the shopping cart again! You should ask Mommy about this when you get home.”

Get Outta Here!

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Yesterday was a 5-star day. I learned two very important things. The first, was that the mixing of a red velvet cake creates a sloppy batter that looks just like blood, so, when you have a 4 and 5-year-old helping you, this activity inspires an unavoidable discussion of vampires. The second, most important revelation, was that a person’s point of view has everything to do with his/her own happiness.

5-year-old Jasen’s last days, at my day care, happened this week. His family is moving to Florida. On Tuesday, I announced that we’d make a cake and have a “Good-bye Party” for his last day, on Wednesday. On that morning, and in spite of our marvelous “blood fest” with our red velvet concoction, there was a gloominess hanging over us that even vampires could not inspire alone.
Jasen burst into tears, for no reason, on one occasion. Of course, you don’t have to be psychic to have already realized that the impending “move” was making us sad. As we placed the cake into the oven, I  announced that I was cancelling the “Good-bye Party”. Two sets of red-rimmed eyes grew very wide and two mouths gaped in unison. As chins started to tremble, I made another announcement. “This party is going to be a “We love you…Now, get outta here!” party.” Grins and giggles filled the kitchen. Jasen added the “cherry on top” of our brand new plans with, “You probably can’t find a card for THAT kind of party at the store.”  The whole day was brighter from that moment on.

We even found time to write a story. It’s an activity that was inspired by some of the “coolest ever” discussions with this delightful pair of minds. We had imagined living on the Moon, and diving to the bottom of the ocean, in so many comical talks that Jasen, Ava and I had actually illustrated and laminated hard copy story pages. Today, just HAD to include our favorite activity.

The kids picked a title and I questioned them about it. Their answers were written down (by me), then they were asked to draw a picture that I attached to the back. We ran the whole thing through a laminating machine, complete with their own signature and the date.
Jasen’s story was, “The Pencil People” (inspired by a pencil on my table)… Ava’s was, “The Tape People” (inspired by a roll of tape on my table).

As the day’s end grew closer, Jasen opted to sit on my lap…something he seldom had time for before. We joked about me sending him off with a “get outta here” and I told him I would hug him, right then, so the flow of his exit would not be interrupted. We also decided to be pen pals.

When Mom arrived, Jasen grabbed his story and jacket, then, went out the door. He never looked back.
I hollered after him, “We love you Jasen… now, get outta here!”

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Say what?

Ah, my first post centers directly on the true Dumb Peas, which are adults. We cannot seem to talk to kids in other than ambiguous terms. I’m no better than all the rest.

Just yesterday, the kids asked for some empty coffee cans to be used to collect rocks. Happily, I retrieved two of them from an avalanche created just by opening the cupboard door beneath my sink. (Did I mention that day care providers are wonderful at recycling? )
As I set them off outdoors on one of the first warm spring days, I shouted, “Don’t collect too many.” Say what?
What does too many mean? It should have been obvious, to a seasoned professional, that “too many” translates differently in a kid’s world. Yet I distinctly heard myself say it!

While we’re at it, STOP has a clear dual meaning. We adults will never learn that “stop”, even when shouted, means “pause and wait for the adult to turn away” to children.

How about the ever popular, “Be careful.” ?  This is voiced by each and every adult when sending the kids out to play, without hesitation or embarrassment.

But my favorite will always be, “Don’t fall.” offered freely to toddlers learning to run and to bigger kids hanging from trees. Really?

When I consider all the stupid things adults cannot seem to overcome saying, it frightens me a bit and makes me wonder, who really is “in control” at my house.