If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that when I pick Lily up at daycare, I’m there to stay until they close at 6 p.m., usually. Why? Because as the Norm Peterson of her daycare center, Lily’s generally not done playing in that space with her friends when I arrive, and she wants me to join in.
About one month ago, Lily was getting very into physical play with us. Joe would lie down on the floor and hold her up above him, making her fly, flipping her upside down, etc. So when I was with her at daycare in the early evening, sitting on the floor, she made it clear she wanted to fly.
Without thinking about it much, I lay on my back and struggled to lift her, not very successfully. (She’s more than 30 lbs. at this point!) But Lily was still game, and I did my best to lift her up, as Lily giggled.
When I couldn’t do anymore, I put Lily down on the floor, and an older girl came up and said, “I want to fly.”
Oh. Hmmm. Should have seen this coming, right?
“I don’t think I can, kiddo. I can barely lift Lily, and you’re bigger than she is.”
Then the main teacher intervened, looking the girl in the eye and intoning, with seriousness, “That’s not appropriate for the classroom, OK? That’s for home.”
Oops. GARFUNKEL!! (Wouldn’t that be a great fake curse word? We’re going to have to look for more of those – but that’s a whole other post.)
I thought, ‘Is the teacher also telling me – in a passive aggressive way – not to engage Lily in physical play while I’m here?’ The answer seemed to be a pretty clear ‘yes.’ And while I understood the rationale for the rule, the way the message was delivered made me feel infantilized and scolded. But whatever. I’m still learning how this parenting thing works, daycare etiquette included. So I chalked it up to that.
Then, a couple of weeks later, I had lifted Lily up into one of the built-in seats in a table in her room to do an activity. The same girl approached me and asked to be seated, too, and before I could act or answer, the teacher put her hand firmly on the girl’s arm and said, “Lily’s mom is not running the class. I am.” Or something along those lines. And I had that weird moment all over again. Did I do something that I shouldn’t have again? Is my presence here an annoyance – a daily extra burden?
I’ve since tried to put myself in the teacher’s place. In a way, my presence at the end of every day can be a help – she can fill out paperwork, clean up, etc. while some of the kids are engaged around me (which often happens, since I’m a novelty). But I’m sure the caregivers must also feel that there’s a little extra scrutiny on them, having a parent there for an hour or more at the end of each day; and because I don’t work in a daycare environment, I sometimes do things that have negative consequences that I’m not expecting (see “flying” example above).
Even doing something as simple as giving Lily a graham cracker from her lunch bag is fraught with strange peril. First, we have to have enough to share with the other kids still there – which we generally do, so that’s not usually a big problem; but second, there are kids who, for whatever reason, aren’t supposed to have any, though they stand there in front of me with their hand out, looking hungry. So I’ve lately tried to steer Lily toward waiting until we leave to eat something.
But it’s pretty hard to do that when she’s reaching into the bag in your hands and pulling out food. It’s pretty tough for a parent to say “no” to any hungry kid, particularly when it’s your own.
So this is all a work-in-progress. I tried, early on, to ask Lily’s teacher if my being there was uncomfortable for her and the other caregivers, and she said “no” – but that was before it became a daily habit. And besides, this is a woman whose default setting word, for just about any occasion, is “wonderful,” so even if my visits were hugely obnoxious, I don’t think she’d ever tell me.
Well, directly, anyway. Maybe she’d instead look at Lily and say, “Aren’t mommies way more fun to play with at home?”
The rules at daycare (and preschool) are strange to the point of being stupid. Just ask my wife, who recently took a job as a preschool parapro.
You can thank the legal community for that. (And tell Joe I said ‘Hi’ when you do.)
The sad fact is that the teacher is responsible for those kids and if you do something that is forbidden, like maybe giving somene a hug, she could literally loose her job. It’s a sad statement on today’s society.
I actually don’t blame the caregivers (or the lawyers) for having strict ideas about what’s appropriate – they’re the ones who have to herd around a room full of toddlers all day every day. They’re certainly made of stronger stuff than me, and they do a wonderful job with the kids at Lily’s daycare. I just feel a little naive about what I should and shouldn’t do while there. My situation isn’t normal – no other parent arrives, takes their coat off at her child’s urging, and hangs out for more than an hour; so I’m just in that awkward place between not completely making myself at home, but still engaging with my child in a semi-natural way. It’s a weird kind of limbo.