More than any other child care situation, Family Day Care mimics a family. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, the kids grow from infancy to Junior High under my roof. During this time, there is an intimate bond created among all of us.
If you remember your high school years with a magic of a time and place…with deep relationships of friends from a common history and group, then you may understand (in a small way) our clique.
What’s very interesting to me is, once grown, the kids see each other and reminisce about the “good old days” much like siblings. I’ve yet to hear of any of them dating either. “Ewww…she’s like my sister.” has been the common phrase when asked. On several occasions, teenagers have knocked on my door for a visit to their old stomping ground. Of course, I’m flattered and happy to see them but after they offer me a hug, they then toss me aside and flop on the couch. Their attachment is primarily to the place and they wince if they find major changes in the house itself.
Some parents, through the years, actually referred to me as the “second mother” of their children. Many grandparents, upon a “pick-up”, have expressed a small envy when their grandchild clung to my leg asking to stay, instead. These can be ticklish moments. I’ve learned to handle them well by acting excited to send them off. Yet, the warm role of “motherly auntie” is an important one that some parents can not ever embrace but the wise ones cherish. The familiar shoulder for tears offers real comfort and the watchful involvement of an adult (who also loves them), is priceless.
There’s a scene in The Breakfast Club, when Carl the janitor says, “I am the eyes and ears of this institution my friends.” I feel that encapsulates my role. In the parents’ absence, I listen to their children and I watch them from the “wings”. So familiar, I do what stay-at-home Moms have always done. I notice.
Once I saw an eight-year-old day care friend, crossing the street with his nose in a handheld video game. I called his parents secretly. I assume they addressed this dangerous behavior and chalked it up to the “all-knowing” nature of parents because they never ratted me out.
Recently, I heard a first-grader describe a TV character as “hot”. I secretly told the parent. She knew immediately which friend had introduced the phrase to her child and said the friend had already been discouraged from play dates. I am an informer.
I am, also, a detective. One child, who was about 8, decided he’d had enough of a 5-year-old’s taunting. Everyone knows biting is a big no-no and he had decided to get the little “demon” in BIG trouble. He came to me with crocodile tears and showed me a red bite mark on his arm. I examined the bite. It was on the inside of his arm and the pattern showed a recognizable space between the front teeth. He claimed that “little miss nemesis” had bitten him during their most recent argument. As I turned away, he beamed with satisfaction that his diabolical plan was working until I remarked that it was very naughty to try to “frame” some one. I took his arm and explained that no one, who attacks someone, ever bites them on the inside of the arm. Then I pointed out how exactly the pattern matched his own teeth. His chin just about hit the floor. He’s now a college graduate and still remembers the incident, as clearly as if it just happened. I’m wondering if those kinds of events teach kids to be honest or just make them into more careful “criminals”. LOL
The hardest thing that I am called upon to be, several times a day, is judge and jury. The Supreme Court has nine brilliant minds and months to decide. I have only myself and must form decisions in moments. I’m aware that I don’t always get things right and my default decision is usually in favor of the younger child. The older kids are asked to develop defense mechanisms. Usually, this is in the form of ignoring and/or removing themselves from the skirmish. These lessons will serve them best. The younger kids are initially gratified and rewarded for being “stinkers” but will soon learn that being a “stinker” is a lonely profession.
Being the arbitrator of many conflicts, can keep my hands tied, though. Especially when an older child displays too much sensitivity to the “goings on”. Sometimes, it becomes clear that the constant complainer is looking for my attention, too. One day, a few weeks ago, a school aged child kept hitting me with complaints every five minutes! “They are being mean.”…”It’s not fair!” … “I want a turn.”…”I don’t like these kids!”…etc. After two hours of complaints and my door opening and closing like a buzz saw, I’d heard enough. I told the child to stay inside. When she protested my decision, I told her, “I think you’re right. Those kids ARE mean and unfair. Stay here and sit awhile so that I can protect you from them.” HA! She wanted to argue with me but I was on her side! Needless to say, twenty minutes later she wanted to rejoin the group…there were no more complaints that day.
Child care isn’t as mundane as it appears. To some, what I’ve done in choosing to be a Family Day Care provider, is to become a mindless drone. Changing diapers, finding socks and making snacks sounds very boring. I knew early in life, that whatever I chose to do would need to be stimulating. When I groan as I feel the sweet relief of removing my shoes in peace and quiet at day’s end, I know that I chose very wisely. Trouble is, I sometimes make this career look easy. 😉