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.