Monday, February 22, 2010

Ramblings from a Former Daycare Worker

As my oldest child is on the verge of starting REAL SCHOOL (!!!) and I'm a first-time-child-in-school-mom, I've been thinking. Thinking about my own time working with small children. Back in the sepia-toned days of yesteryear (or as I call it, College), Your Favorite Writer paid some (small) bills by working full-time summers and part-time school year at a state-run daycare.

In fact, I was lead "teacher" in my age room. By "teacher" I mean crowd control; God knows we tried to teach, but what with a bazillion miniature hoodlums to one frantic wishfully-xanaxed teacher, it was a dicey proposition. I would return to my small basement apartment, collapse in a heap and stare at the wall until I had to dig myself out of my Goodwill couch and sweat out a 5 page paper on the idiosyncrasies of Alexander Pope. Riveting, no? No.

One highlight of working in a daycare? This conversation with a 4-year old boy:

"Hey! Hey Sam! It's my mom's birthday!"
"It is? Are you guys doing something special for her?"
"Well, my mom yelled at my dad because she said he didn't get her a present because he spends ALL his money on BEER."

Or I can do you one better. My talk with one of the "challenging"* kid's mom:

"Hi there Mrs. Smith**! We needed to talk to you about Joey**."
"Uh huh. Hey! Guess what I did this weekend?"
"Well... I don't know. But we do need to tell you that your son is biting again."
"Oh. Yeah. I got my belly button pierced!" (proceeds to show me.)

I learned a lot working there. I learned that if I ever had kids I was staying home (which I do). I learned that daycare is a ruthless business, probably seconded only by, perhaps, loansharking or The Mob. (Actually, there are mobsters I would DEFINITELY work for, before I ever worked for a daycare owner again.)

And I learned that kids can be a LOOOOT smarter than their parents. (See above. I am pretty sure the biting child had about 100 IQ points up on his mom. At least.)

Like me, I'm ALL KINDS of math stupid. Seriously. Someday, brilliant scientists will discover a form of math dyslexia. And I have it. I didn't just wake up at 31 and say, hey, you know, I am not good with numbers! Oh no, school was a painful journey of failed math tests, tutors, and bad poetry written in the margins as I sobbed my way through trig.

It started early. My mom would try to explain things like plus vs minus and I'd be all...."sooooo, when can I get back to that SWEET book I'm reading?" In my tiny-tiny one-stop light-town school though, I was labeled "SMART" so I got stuck in advanced math classes again. And again. And again. It never went well. In high school, I had college-student tutors QUIT in frustration. (I am not making that up.)

In college, I burned through four years of ridiculous lit and writing classes only to be clotheslined by my math requirement. I did it, but only by taking what I lovingly called "Idiot Math"- that is, math for stupid people (me and 7 other frustrated homies). I only made it through THAT by sitting with my patient-as-a-saint BFF who studied with me EVERY day of summer session.

If the fates are just (and ironic), I'm sure both my kids will breeze through math and look at me the way I look at my dog when he can't figure out which side of the door opens.

So with REAL SCHOOL looming, I also wonder how the teachers are going to be. I'm sort of wondering if I'm going to be the parent getting that "See, we think Princess is a GREAT kid, but....

A. She gave another kid the beat-down
B. She argues about which way S really goes
C. She lectures the teacher on preposition usage (which I really wouldn't have a problem with, because, well seriously.)

I remember trying to be tactful with clueless parents and it was hard. Then again, regardless of how things shake down, I can virtually guarantee I won't be showing any teachers my piercings. That should help.

As a student though, I remember the first 'F' I ever got. Second grade. Mrs. McGuire's class. I blazed through a work sheet and didn't realize there was a back side to it. When I got my paper back, the shock and awe of my first FAIL was so enormous that I lost it. I cried so hysterically that the teacher was all, "are things okay at home?" and being smooooth like I am, even then, I babbled about my parents and so she was Concerned that I was an Abused Child. Nope. I was just such a People Pleaser I was sure my FAIL would disappoint my parents and they'd have to disown me or something. No beatings necessary ladies and gentleman, Your Favorite Writer self-flagellates enough for everyone.

So far, Princess doesn't show a lot of need to please. Anyone. (Especially me.) She does what she does and damn the torpedoes. Maybe for Christmas, I'll forgo the usual Starbucks gift card for her teacher, and opt for a nice bottle of Captain Morgan. It's what I would need if I were teaching again. (Or maybe I should save it for myself for that first day of school. I'm already getting palpitations...)

Comments, questions, whatevs?

*Read this as giant-pain-in-the-ass-hope-he-finds-another-daycare
**Names have been changed. (If any of my former coworkers are reading - you KNOW who that is!)