Thursday, September 01, 2011

Yes, I'm still bitter. (On second thought maybe that title sucks.)

It was the worst of those kind of wait until your father gets here kind of situations.  I had my fair share of those at home, but hearing Heather, you need to sit here until he comes to get you when I was at daycare was a different animal.

The thing was, I wasn't sorry for what I said at all.  I was kind of amazed at the power of it, how affected she was, how angered my words could make an adult.  I wasn't old enough to hurl insults--which was a problem--but I knew it had an effect so I clung to it, committed.  It was the best kind of outburst I could dream up, not having the fine vocabulary of cheap shots and swearwords I would possess in my adult life.  The insult had no applicable stereotypical meaning; I just grabbed for a word out of thin air that sounded really bad.

I called her a monkey.  I called the director of my daycare a monkey and it was the worst thing I'd ever said to a grownup.  An analogy of simian similarity was not what I aimed for, but I lacked the finesse to explain my disgust with how she treated kids, just how unreasonable she was.  I was enraged.  She was inhuman; she meant nothing.  I was--I don't know?--all of eight years old.  Old enough for outrage but too young for righteous anger.

When you're eight nobody lets you feel slighted.

That was the part of my life when people would say of me, often, thinking I was out of earshot: she's difficult, or, what a "spirited" child.  Nobody ever means spirited in a good way.  They mean you ask too many questions, you won't be controlled.

So I waited in my plastic seat of shame until he came, sat in the old converted Sunday School building and tried not to scream.  Probably watched some kids play M.A.S.H. on the dusty blackboard or shove stale crackers into their yawning mouths.

That's what I remember about daycare:  the angry monkey woman, an ancient blackboard, dry Nilla Wafers and boredom.  The hours were endless.  Every afternoon I'd settle into the blue van with broken radio controls and glare across the parking lot at the lucky kids whose parents picked them up from school--green from my spleen, I was so jealous.

Daycare was a necessary beast.  I see that now, from the other side.  Both of my parents worked and daycare had nothing to do with their affection for me.  But at the time it felt like the slap of life's hand assuring me that fair wasn't really part of the deal.

I hated it.  I was angry almost every day I spent there.  I swore up and down I wouldn't make my kids go when I was a mom.  It was misery and monotony.

It wasn't until E and I started to talk about childcare for Roo that I realized some people actually had positive experiences in daycare.  E went to one in the country and though he sustained a few injuries out in the fields while he ran free like a jackrabbit, he felt a sense of happiness about his situation.  He had wonderful memories of time spent playing there with his friends.

I don't think that I was in a bad place, only that I must have come up against the limits of what I could do there pretty early.  The clock seemed to run backwards.  I remember (mostly) kind caregivers who would do things like let us organize shows and play school.  But a lot of it wasn't great.  I remember repetitive, cheap snacks.  I remember there not being any place to be quiet or alone.  It was hard to concentrate on homework.  It always seemed dirty.  I remember board games missing 30% of their pieces.  I remember kids who talked about things I shouldn't have been hearing yet.  I remember being harassed by a bully until my cousin stepped in.  I remember missing my mom and dad.  I remember a lot of kids more "spirited" than I was, but better at being sneaky.  My combination of honesty and "spirit" meant I landed more frequently in hot water.

But I was wrong about my own kids, too.  We had to have Henry in daycare for a short time last year.  Choosing a safe place for your kid matters more sometimes than how bored they are.  That sucks, but it's important and it has nothing to do with how much you love them. But the whole time I felt the ache of guilt.  I am positive I painted his facility with a brush colored by my own experiences.  I felt wrong leaving him there even though he seemed relatively happy.  But a few months in he started to complain about being bored, and I knew.  Luckily circumstances changed quickly enough that he didn't have to stay.

My dad made me apologize to the monkey woman that day, even though I told him quietly how I wasn't sorry.  I forced it out through clenched teeth and we left.  Shortly thereafter we changed daycare centers.  I'm pretty sure they asked us to leave... asked me to leave.

Kicked out of our church daycare.  Yep.  That's talent, right there.


  1. I went to the same daycare as E (I'm 99% positive I did, I think that's where I met ADP). It was awesome - we were not reined in, we could do pretty much whatever we wanted, and no one ever really seemed to get in trouble.

    I'm sorry your memories of daycare were less than stellar. :-( I personally loved my experience!

  2. I'm pretty sure Busy likes being at daycare better than she likes being at home with us.

  3. I never got to go to mom was always there, breathing down my neck, using the infamous "just wait until your father comes home." I was jealous of the friends that got to go to daycare and play with all the other kids.

    Guess the grass really IS always greener.