Tag Archives: day care

Adventures in Babysitting, the Finale

If you are just joining me, start here.  For the other three of you following the story and want to know what happens when Love insists on choosing a daycare run by a woman who shares none of her interests or philosophies in life, here goes:

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a 10 page signed contract, Miss Amalia decides that we are a good enough family to admit into her daycare and even agrees to take our son at 10 weeks, instead of 6 months, with a little extra charge.  I liked Miss Amalia and her sister, who ran the daycare, but Miss Amalia and I had very different M.O.s.  Miss Amalia loved rules. LOVED rules. I, on the other hand, love to ignore rules, especially when they appear to be arbitrary, which many of Miss Amalia’s were. So when I would visit before my son started I would kind of laugh to myself about how amusing it was the way she clung to her random rules. You know, no shoes in the house. No coming more than 15 minutes early or later than she expected you. No calling during nap time. No breaking any of her 600 breast milk handling rules (thank GOD I didn’t have to deal with that). The list went on and on.  And on.  And on.

So my son is born in June and he turns out to be the easiest, most even-tempered and laid back baby ever born.  God only gives you what you can handle, and that is when I realized that God thinks I’m a total loser, because honestly, the kid never cried, he drank his formula without complaint, he had no gas, he slept all the time, he nailed all his weight and height checks at the doctor. He didn’t even cry when he got his immunizations. I had no idea what motherhood was going to be like, but after the first few weeks with my little guy I was wondering what so many new moms were complaining about.  Everyone was always talking about how hard it was and how they never got to sleep or shower or catch their breath.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  Taking care of an infant was so easy.

When I was on maternity leave, I probably read 100 books and even started watching Dr. Phil (a moustached man who is not a police officer, leaving only one other possibility) just to fill the time.  Seriously.  I was tethered to the house because my baby was always sleeping.  There was nothing for me to do except make a few bottles and change a few diapers every few hours.  And Oprah was in re-runs, so I turned to Dr.Phil. I was totally intrigued desperate.  My son would wake up, eat, be cute for 30 minutes, sleep for a couple of hours and then do it all over again. At  7 weeks he slept through the night.

These facts clearly prove that I must have been the best damn mother in the universe. I had the perfect baby, so that must have meant that every decision I had made had been the right one. If I wasn’t doing everything exactly right then how could my baby be so awesome? You’re stumped. I can tell.  All those moms whose kids cried a lot or didn’t sleep or had acid reflux – it was probably because they weren’t doing it right. I started fancying myself as an authority.  I thought maybe I should write a book about being a perfect parent and I would prove to the world that formula fed babies and their working mothers weren’t all that bad. Scratch that. Formula fed babies and their working mothers were superior! I was a perfect parent*, as evidenced by my perfect child.

(*I think I actually may have believed in my post-partum stupor that my parenting had something to do with my son’s temperament, until I was graced with my second son. The one that feels me up in Target. I now have no such illusions.)

Okay, so now that you know that I am a perfect mother and I have a perfect baby who is about to go to a perfect daycare, you might understand my surprise when my baby went to daycare and Miss Amalia reported that he cried all day.  Ummm? My baby? Impossible. My child does not cry.  “No, he does. All day.” deadpanned Miss Amalia.  “Well, I don’t understand. Are you feeding him? Is he dry?  He never cries with us. Never!”  I was wondering whether she was trying to shake me down for more money. I honestly could not believe what I was hearing.  And yet everyday when I came to pick him up (and he seemed to be docile and happy as ever then), she would claim he spent most of the day crying and fussing.

Not to worry, though.  Miss Amalia knew why.  She suspected that perhaps we let him sleep whenever he wanted to. Yes, we did.  She suspected that sometimes he fell asleep in our arms or in a swing but not in a crib. Well, yes. Sometimes.  She suspected we didn’t have him on a strict schedule. No. At two months old we did not.  “Well”, she said, “you’re going to have to get him on my schedule or this isn’t going to work.”  Your schedule? Um? What the hell are we paying you $375 a week for? I’m not giving up all things fun in this world to pay you just so that you get to be the boss of me, thankyouverymuch.

But I didn’t say that. I asked for the schedule.  Here is a great example of BD and I saying “Sure, Miss Amalia. Give us a copy of your schedule and we’ll make sure we keep to it on the weekends.” (wink, wink, roll eyes, giggles).  She gave us the schedule and I’m pretty sure we used it to pick up the dog’s poop on the way home.  Our kid was younger than 3/4 of the food in my pantry. What did he know about schedules? If he needs to sleep, let him. When he wants to eat, we’ll feed him.  We’re his parents for God’s sake. What does this single woman in her thirties without children know about taking care of children? (Actually – not such a good question to ask yourself when you hired her to do just that). Her unyielding anal retentiveness was really cramping my style and pissing me off.

So a month goes by and he has about 4 bad days and 1 good day a week. After his first four weeks there, Miss Amalia tells us that we need to have an “evaluation” meeting at Starbucks.  We thought this was another one of her random administration rule-y things and we begrudgingly went to our meeting, but were eager to hear about our perfect son’s progress.

She got straight to the point. Our son won’t go to sleep unless she is holding his hand. He fusses and cries a lot and she has other kids to watch, so it’s very distracting.  Perhaps it wasn’t a good match.  Perhaps he’d be happy somewhere else. Perhaps we would all be happy somewhere else.  It just wasn’t working out.  Maybe we’d all made a mistake.  Somewhere in the background the sound of a needle scratches a record.  Oh no she did ent. I saw her lips moving, but I couldn’t really make out the words.  We were getting kicked out of day care.  Oh, helllls no!  After my brief blackout as she was kicking our infant out of the only daycare in Chicago I could find for him, the fighting spirit came back into my body and I begged her not to kick us out. We had nowhere to go, and plus, it made no sense that this baby that was so calm and perfect with us could be such a pain in the ass for her.  I mean, if our kid couldn’t meet her standards, then nobody’s could.  We just couldn’t comprehend the situation we were in, but we promised we would do anything, anything to stay in.

She wasn’t a monster. She only made us beg for 15 minutes until said she would give us another four weeks to either clean up our 3 month old’s behavior or find a new daycare.  Aw, fuck.  I mean, was I supposed to take away his car keys? How do you “fix” a 3 month old who is on probation at daycare and yet an easy, laid back angel at home?

Miss Amalia said she’d work with us. She told us she suspected we weren’t following her schedule. She suspected we were still letting him sleep whenever and wherever and often in our arms. We kind of demurred, but it was probably clear to her that we weren’t doing anything she told us to do.  We sheepishly asked for another copy of the schedule.  We thought it was completely absurd voodoo to have to a kid this small on her strict schedule, but we had no choice. We had to feed him, sleep him, play with him, change him and practice sign language with him, all on this schedule she had.  He had to take all naps in his crib, alone and he couldn’t already be asleep when we put him in there.  No more falling asleep on daddy’s chest, or in the swing or a free bottle here or there.  Obviously, there was no way this was going to work, but we had no other choice, so we decided to do it her way. I really wanted to be right that she was wrong – that the schedule was meaningless — because after all, in just three months I was already a perfect mother with all the answers. So we watched the clock and followed her schedule over the weekend, no exceptions.  Except the yoga part. We weren’t sure how a 3 month old gets the most out of his yoga session, so we substituted Baby Mozart.

On Monday she said he had a good day. “You followed the schedule, didn’t you?” Um. (eyes downward) Yes. On Tuesday another good day. And Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday.  It had to be a coincidence.  Maybe he had a sense that he was on probation and was on his best behavior. But the next weekend we stuck to the schedule again. And suddenly Miss Amalia is reporting that our kid seems to be so happy and she has never seen him so calm.  Really?  Finally the son we’d always known was showing up at daycare. But only after we went against everything we wanted to do and put him on a schedule. On her schedule. I could tell Miss Amalia was gloating. Because she knew she was right and that we were just punk new parents.  She scared us straight, and she knew it.

Miss Amalia – 1, Love Family – 0. Well played, Miss Amalia, well played.

Eventually our son worked his way off the probation list and we stuck with Miss Amalia for a year. It wasn’t without days that I wanted to punch her in the face because she was so sure she knew everything (and unfortunately, most times she was right).  When she decided she was so awesome that daycare was going to cost $400/week even with 7 other kids there, we gave up.  We couldn’t afford it and she told us she was quite sure that other people could.  We had to move somewhere we could find affordable daycare.  We had to change everything.

So thanks to Miss Amalia, we sold our condo at the height of the real estate bubble and bought a single family in a great neighborhood.  I had to look for new daycare and discovered my Mom Crush in the process and another parent at Miss Amalia’s gave us the lead on the new daycare we found that was almost half of what Miss Amalia was demanding. And we’re still with that daycare. She didn’t make us sign a contract, or tell me how to mother, or make me feel guilty I’ve never seen the inside of Whole Foods. I’m pretty sure she has never done yoga and when the kids get dirty, she washes their clothes, instead of sending them home in a plastic bag. And she loves our kids and they love her. And none of it would have been possible without all Miss Amalia’s rules.  And Starbucks.

So thank you, Starbucks and Miss Amalia — for everything.

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Adventures in Babysitting, Part III

(I’m incapable of making a long story short. You’ll need to start here for the first part of the story).

Thankfully, Amalia didn’t make us wait too long.  She called two days later and told me that we passed the first round and she would like to schedule time for me to come over to her home to see the daycare and watch her and her sister in action with the kids.  Score! We had successfully come off as the type of parents good enough for Miss Amalia.  I still wasn’t sure how I would break it to her that we needed somebody when the baby was 10 weeks and I wasn’t breastfeeding, but I figured that I’d ingratiate myself to the point that she wouldn’t be able to say no.

I couldn’t wait for my visit. It was like being invited into a Mormon temple without being Mormon, or to Oprah’s show without being Josh Groban.  By the way she had described her daycare, I was expecting to see brilliant, magical 1 and 2 year olds who could totally go from downward dog into Warrior III without missing a beat. They’d probably be signing questions to Miss Amalia about “Goodnight Gorilla”, like why the zookeeper’s wife had to put all the animals back when it was clearly her husband’s responsibility. I taught myself how to sign “yes” and “no” and “I completely agree. I would’ve kicked him to the curb” just in case that question did come up.  I imagined children that did not cry except for when they wanted more homemade organic pureed beets.  These kids probably didn’t poop either. No, that didn’t seem like behavior becoming of a toddler at Miss Amalia’s daycare. I wondered if a child that sprung from my loins could possibly measure up in Miss. Amalia’s world. (Wait. Do women have loins, or is it just men?)

Being around people I don’t know having awkward conversations is extremely draining for me, so I had prepared for my 45 minute visit as if I were training for a triathlon.  I drank plenty of fluids, got a lot of sleep, practiced answers to questions I thought she might ask, like “which do you prefer the most: the farmer’s market on Randolph  or Whole Foods?” or “describe your daily meditation sequence” both of which I formulated an answer to using the Internet. I had a big carb -filled dinner the night before, just so I wouldn’t pass out from exhaustion, or irritation or judginess.

On the big day, I walked over there with butterflies in my stomach. I was still being judged. And I didn’t really know anything about kids or taking care of them, so I told myself I wouldn’t touch any of the kids.  Just in case I accidentally killed one of them.

It was a warm day and I happened to be wearing sandals.  I found out when Miss Amalia answered the door that shoes were supposed to be left in the hall. No shoes were permitted at any time within the confines of her home. But now I had this awkwardness of having bare feet, which I think is much more gross than wearing the sandals. I think Miss Amalia and I agreed on this.  She brought me some socks before I could step over the threshold into the magical home daycare. If you’ve ever read “Grasshopper Along the Road” (which, if you haven’t, you must) Miss Amalia was exactly like the mosquito that obsessively chants “rules are rules!” and cannot fathom exceptions to any arbitrary rule he makes up.  I’m not a big rules person if the rules are arbitrary.  But again, maybe this is how all daycares were? What did I know?  I put on the socks and apologized for not knowing the rule.

The magical home daycare looked a lot like a regular condo with a lot of toys in it. But they were arranged just so for feng shui purposes, I was told.  The kids were adorable.  And from what I could tell, they cried and they pooped, which I was really surprised about.  Even more surprising was that at least one kid thought I was awesome. I think.  One little 18 month old ran up and hugged me as soon as I got in the door. And he didn’t die right after. He spent most of the visit in my lap. Miss Amalia was astounded. She claimed he only acts that way around her and his mother. Really? Nice. Maybe I would be a good mom after all. And I was so relieved that Miss Amalia didn’t have a rule about kids not being able to cry or poop without being dismissed. And that I didn’t kill any babies.

It was a fun visit. Really. Her sister was a lot less hard-core and rules-based than she was and it kind of made it a little less weird to talk to her. I told them some of my more tame stories that made them laugh, which is really about the only talent I have that usually doesn’t fail me. The kids were bright and lovely and having fun and actually, they really could sign. Which was news to me. I thought all that stuff was bogus, like I did about dogs really staying down in down-stays (which they totally do if you spend thousands training them). And Amalia and her sister took pictures of the kids all the time and then would email them to the parents during the day, which is the next best thing to the live camera feed I got from my doggie daycare. I’m probably making some people uncomfortable with the parallels between my dog and my kids.  I’ll stop, but in my experience, toddlers and dogs aren’t that different.

So I left after my allotted 45 minutes feeling like it was the best place ever and our going there was probably a done deal.  Just as I was walking out, they mentioned that another couple vying for my son’s place was coming the next day. Damn. Maybe I should have brought chocolates or some energy drink or something. Damn.         Damn. Damn. Damn. Fuck. I told them I thought they were spectacular and that my son would be lucky to be taken care of by such good people.  And I meant it. I mean, there were no other alternatives, so they really stacked up nicely compared to leaving him by himself all day.

I went home and ate a tub of Cherry Garcia.  Luckily that isn’t called bingeing when you’re pregnant. I think it’s just called normal. I mean, if you can’t drink your worries away, what other alternatives are there?

I called Miss Amalia the next day to ask about where we were on the list and when she could tell me if we were in or out. She said she was going to hold off on a decision until she met the baby. Who wasn’t going to be born for another 6 weeks. If she said no, then what was I supposed to do?  That’s when I kind of went ballistic.

Love: “Umm…that isn’t going to work.”

Amalia: “Pardon?”

Love: “You can’t just decide a week before whether a family is coming or not! I have a baby that needs to be in a great daycare and I have to know now whether he is in or out at your place so I can make other arrangements if it’s not working out!”

Amalia: “Well, to tell the truth, you are first on our list, but he wouldn’t be here for another six months, and a lot can happen between now and then.”

Love: “What if he came in 3 months? I need you in August, not December.”

Amalia: (silence) “I don’t take children younger than 6 months.”

Love: “Because you can’t or you won’t?”

Amalia: “Well, it is very young to be separated from the mother.”

Love: “I have to go back to school! I can’t change the date that school starts. I trust you. I trust you more than I trust me to be honest. Please make an exception.”

Amalia: “I might have to charge more for a baby that young…”

Love: “Listen, we don’t have a lot of money, but we’re willing to pay you whatever you want if you’ll take him in August.”

Amalia: “I would have to talk to my sister.”

Love: “I need that spot in your daycare. I know very little about taking care of a baby but I know a lot about being in school, which is where I need to be in August. I have no other options. I’m literally begging you. But if you can’t tell me by the end of this week whether we’re in or not, I’ve got to do something else.”

Amalia: “I like you.”

Love: “I like you too.” (I think we’re supposed to kiss here, but the phone made it hard.)

Amalia: “I feel bad for you. You really don’t know much about being a parent.”

Love: “No. I know about being a parent. That is what this conversation is about. I need a good caregiver for my baby and you’re it. If you meant I don’t know much about child care, then you’re right on there. That is no secret. Oh and while we’re on the subject I forgot to tell you I won’t be breastfeeding.”

Amalia: (gasps) “What? Why?”

Love: “I can’t. Physically impossible.” ( Psychologically impossible would be more true. Honest mistake. )

Amalia: “I’ll talk to my sister.”

Love: “Tell her to say yes. We’ll be the best family you have. I swear.”

Amalia: “Okay.  This is a lot of information to take in.” (she is wondering who the hell she is dealing with)

So we ended it there. I was sure that was it for us and Miss Amalia. We’d have to hire a nanny if this didn’t work out, and then selling our kidneys wouldn’t cover it. BD would probably have to go out and turn tricks while I did the night shift at Dunkin’ Donuts. I ate another gallon of Cherry Garcia.

After an excruciating couple of days, Amalia called me back. We were in.

I won! I won! She tacked on another $25 a week, but it seemed like a small price to pay to the daycare gods. I celebrated for a month straight. I went over and visited Miss Amalia’s place up until I gave birth and then brought over my son when he was about 6 weeks. I still thought she was over the top about most stuff, but I was in no position to complain. This was what I wanted, right?

Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for. (Sorry, Part IV is a must, but I haven’t written it yet. Forthcoming.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Part IV