The past few days, I was searching back in the archives of our daycare blogs in search of pictures I knew I had taken and information I had written down. When I looked back on one year ago, I saw the wide eyed innocence of two, 2-year-olds. Oh yes, the writing was on the wall and there was a foreboding of what was to follow. I saw the signs. I respected the signs and tried everything I knew how to do, to prevent it from happening. But the inevitable happened anyway.
Take one impressionable child and talk about the behaviours you want to stop in the presence of said child and what you set yourself up for is failure. The child soon learns, "Hmmm, when I do all "these" things [the behaviour one does NOT want to perpetrate], everyone talks about me." Why wouldn't this child keep doing the things that is getting them all this attention?
A 2-year-old hitting and being disrespectful to a parent is not acceptable in my books. If I was the parent, I would hope I would not talk about all the mean things my toddler is doing to me while my child is listening.
This same 2-year-old is now almost 4. He decided to whack his mom just as she was walking out the door yesterday morning. She looked up at me in an expression that said, "See? This is what I'm talking about." Then she told her child this was not acceptable behaviour. "It is okay to have emotions," then clarified "It is okay to be angry and frustrated. But you never hit someone. It is never okay to hit." Of course he cried, because this is what he does. Now Mom felt guilty and had to go to work. So she gave her child a big hug and told him she knew he was sorry. And she left for work leaving me with a child who believes it is okay to do whatever he wants to do and "sorry" is just one big "erase button".
I tell this same child sorry doesn't undo what he does. Sorry does NOT make it okay. Sorry doesn't cut it with me in our world here at daycare. I say this day in and day out. But one reward from a parent who gives him a big hug and tells him she knows he is sorry and reminds him and the world around him that he is a very sensitive child is teaching him to continue to do what he has been doing.
This same child does NOT know how to entertain himself. So he spends his day knocking over his 1-year-old brother, wanting "everyone to play with him", hates being excluded from anything (even if it is one of his friends simply wanting to play without him bugging them). He is a LOT of work. And worse than that, he is teaching his little brother everything he knows.
I was ten minutes into my day yesterday morning and I sighed out loud, "I know why your mom has to work".
Then it got worse.
Add one more 3-1/2 year old into the mix. She has her very own version of the same, but different story going on. The common denominator here, is that I do everything in my power to correct these behaviours within our daycare day. If it isn't hurting anyone and if the behaviour changes, what happens at daycare can stay at daycare. No parent who works full time needs to come home to a list of small indiscretions that happened throughout the day. I handle the little stuff. That is my job. But when behaviours start affecting others and everything I've done and said doesn't work, that is when I talk with my parents.
I talk with them while their children are playing and are not listening in. I send emails or texts or whatever a parent's chosen means of communication is to clarify and work with the issues at hand. But do you know what I've heard each time I've taken a list of issues I can't resolve to my parents? The words, "Oh no, this is happening at home. I see everything you are telling me about at home. I was just hoping it wasn't happening at daycare too."
Do you know what? What doesn't get resolved at home, what gets rewarded by talking about negative behaviours in front of your children (who do have a firm grasp on the English language far before they learn to talk, by the way) are the behaviours that infiltrate every part of their lives.
Enter the an impressionable 1-year-old into the mix and you have the youngest one absorbing their world like a sponge. They watch, they copy, they don't care if they get in trouble for doing EXACTLY what their friend just finished doing. Because that is part of the game. It's all a game. And if I have little control over the behaviours within our world at daycare, it is anarchy. A world where 2 and 3 year olds rule is mayhem.
The other characters within my tale included a child who interpreted social cues differently than what is considered the norm. He didn't understand his friend's emotions of frustration, anger or pain. He didn't take social cues and alter his behaviour. Life was a game to him. He loved life and he had a great time with his friends. But his lack of communication skills, added to the mix of personalities who were not following the "rules of daycare and the give and take of social interactions with friends" that his friends were NOT adhering to, turned a tough situation almost unmanageable.
My blessing in amongst the trials of working through my days at daycare have been my parents. The parent of the child who wasn't developing typically went quiet when I told her what I was seeing. But the very next day, she opened up like a book and told me she was scared and relieved at the same time. Because she was seeing everything I was seeing. She knew we were on the same team. I cautioned her that I was not equipped to give her son what he needed because he needed someone to shadow him throughout his day and guide his behaviours. He was teachable and had a willingness to please like no one else. But I couldn't be everywhere. She (and her husband) were eventually able to organize their work shifts so they worked opposite of each other and they would be able to keep him at home to give him the one-on-one attention he needs. I was relieved when she told me this. This news came just before I formally handed in my daycare resignation. But "one" behaviour was not the reason I was in over my head. The die had been cast. There was a whole cast of supporting roles who were reacting among each other and I had lost control.
We are living in a world of children who are learning they don't have to listen the first time, because they have been taught life is all about "three chances" or the count of "three misdemeanors" before they become accountable.
We are living in a world of parents ridden with guilt about leaving their children to go to work and in an effort to start their day without leaving an upset child at daycare, their child has learned they have total control at the point of drop off. The manipulations I see within those moments is something pretty amazing. Those little people hold the power and they know it.
By intercepting arguments and trying to teach the art of taking turns, playing together, sharing and waiting until someone is done with a toy, I have created a world where my little people look towards me to solve all of the issues they are having with one of their playmates.
We read a book about "Super Grover" trying to step in and solve two friends' problem of deciding what color to paint a fence. Super Grover tries to fix the problem by telling the kids the taller person should decide, or a parent should decide, or they should just tear the fence down or just wear sunglasses the color they want to see the fence. The children tell Super Grover that as long as no one is getting hurt, it is best that they try to work out their problem on their own. We read this book at least once a week. Sometimes twice. The kids know the story well and I think at least one of them understands the message "As long as no one is getting hurt, it is best they try to work things out on their own". I remind the kids "I am NOT Super Grover. I am NOT here to solve your problems. If no one is getting hurt, it is best you try to work things out on your own." The idea is good in theory. But when one child doesn't get the concept, it is impossible for a young 3 year old to work out all the compromises.
I have tried everything I know how to try. The only thing that seems to work is if I sit in the room and watch over every move. If no one ever needed to be fed or have a diaper changed or assistance in the bathroom or nose wiping or any other minor thing that crops up within a half hour of our day, maybe I could keep doing this.
The sad thing is, I wish I could. I wish I held the key to understanding what it takes to break through the communication barriers I'm having with my small people. I wish I had more patience. I wish I had four sets of eyes, arms and legs. I wish I was someone I am not. I can't do this job and I'm disappointed. Because I wanted to succeed here. I did.
I have to admit it. I'm not equipped to deal with this new generation of up and coming children. The children who will one day be running companies, teaching children, working together and running the country. Every generation learns something from the generation which preceded it. I'm uncertain what this particular generation is picking up. I just know I wouldn't want to be a teacher right now. I don't know what I want to be. And that is starting to feel just a little bit scary.
I will find my way when my world becomes quiet. I will. I have to. I just wonder if I should keep some of the basic child tending supplies around here. Just in case. Who knows? By some miracle, I could one day become a grandmother.