Trust with our children not easily earned
This morning, when I dropped my 20-month-old son, Alexander, at his local day care, he cried. He also cried yesterday when I dropped him off, and the day before that, too. For the last two weeks or so, he’s been crying during his drop-off. The first few times it happened, I thought, “He’s probably just sleepy.” If he falls asleep, he’s usually cranky when he wakes up from a car ride, or so I thought.
But now, there have been times when Alexander stayed awake on the ride to day care, and he’s still unhappy when we arrive. One day last week, as I was walking him in, he yelled as he turned around to walk in the opposite direction of the day care’s front door.
I hate that he doesn’t have all the words to tell me what’s wrong. I’ve only been a parent for a short time, and I don’t know if there’s something I’m supposed to be protecting him from. I think I’ve joined the club of many moms.
Despite his cries, I walked him in anyways, and snuck out quietly, feeling guilty that I wasn’t responding the right way. I sat in my car for a second wondering, “Am I a bad parent? Should I go back in and get him? Am I overreacting? Moms are often labeled as overreactors. Or am I underreacting?”
I called Alexander’s dad and continued my rapid-fire questions aloud. “Something’s not right,” I said. “What do I do? Do I find another day care? Does he just not like day care anymore? Do you think something bad happened there?”
Dad just listened, which actually was helpful in the moment. “Maybe he just doesn’t want to leave you,” he said calmly.
I selfishly smiled in that moment, but then when Alexander cried during his dropoff the next morning, I felt bad all over again. He’s been going to this day care since January. There were tears during the first few drop-offs, but as expected, there were fewer tears as we both got the hang of our new routine.
Before selecting his current day care, my aunt would watch him, and he seemed to never cry when I dropped him off with her. As a matter of fact, when I picked him up from her house, he would be having such a good time that I could hear him laughing outside.
He’s not laughing now. I talked to the day care provider about it. She said he stops crying usually when he’s having his morning snack and as the lessons begin. When I pick him up, he’s not crying, but very ready to go. He greets me with a brief smile and then briskly walks me to the door without looking back.
I talked to my sorority sister about it. She also has a toddler around the same age at my son. She “comforted” me with a story about how another student in her daughter’s class has been biting her. When her nanny picked up her daughter, the day care administrator requested, “Please don’t tell her mom until we have more details.” Thankfully, the nanny did not oblige and told my sorority sister right away. She’s now trying to piece together more details of the story from the school because her daughter, like my son, has a limited vocabulary.
They know only a few words, mostly things that relate to their everyday experiences, like “teeth,” “mom,” “dad” and “sleep.” My son knows a few more words in sign language, but they haven’t learned the words or signs for “Susie bit me,” or “I don’t like day care because …”
I shared my day care concerns with another mom-friend, who learned from another parent that her daughter, Amora, was kicked by her teacher at her public school. There’s a video recording, which she and her lawyer have been unable to get access to. Because of the school’s unresponsiveness, she’s had to file a police report and report the teacher to the Department of Children and Families. A few weeks later, she learned that Amora’s bus driver had kicked her. “The boy kicked me,” she told her mom repeatedly. Another student confirmed Amora’s report. The bus driver has since been fired.
Thankfully, Amora was able to express the distress she was experiencing at school, even though her verbal skills were probably underestimated because she has Down syndrome. But even in Amora’s case, and in the case of my sorority sister’s bitten daughter, they still aren’t getting satisfactory answers from their school providers.
How do we, as concerned parents, work with teachers and learn to trust them to protect our children? As a newish parent, I’m still trying to figure this out.