Touching Other People’s Kids

My normal daycare dropoff and pickup routine is pretty standard. I crouch down, and give a goodbye hug and kiss (or a hello hug, and kiss as the case may be), do some soft 1-1 conversation with Potamus at his eye level, and then I either head on out to work, or we head on out together. After six months of him being in his toddler classroom, the students are beginning to recognize me, and seem to know our little routine (which differs drastically from the routine I see other parents engage in).

For the most part the children enter into my zone of proximity without it causing my discomfort. There’s ones little blonde boy, clearly the oldest of the group, who always says “potamus’ mommy, potamus mommy'” while trying to both acknowledge me and get potamus’ attention so that he can go home with me. Sometimes the kids crowd close as I give Potamus his hello hug at daycare pickup, but none of them actually…touch me.

In the past two months, though, I have had a few interactions with this one little girl that have left me feeling uncomfortable and unsure of how to react. She touches me. And I don’t mean like the blonde boy, who patted me once and said “Potamus’ mommy,’ but I mean she hugs me. These kids are between 2-3, so it’s at that huggable age, I guess, but I’m left with this gut feeling that something seems…off?

Today I came in and this little girl ran over to me. Potamus saw me and was making his way over, and when I crouched down with my arms open to give him a hug, she pressed herself into me. Flung is more like it. While she didn’t quite give me a full hug because I was turned to the side to hug Potamus, I could feel her little belly up against me. And then she lifted her shirt. And then she said “owls, owls,” pointing to the owls on her shirt.

Maybe it’s my overly sensitive to touch teacher training, or my experience as a crisis social worker, but I viscerally react to this little girl throwing herself at me. Part of me is sad that she’s seeking out attention from me, and part of me feels worried because she’s the only one. All the other kids seem to have the same level of wariness that Potamus has to strangers, and while they certainly seem to resonate with my ability to get down on their level, they don’t interact to such an extreme cling way that this little girl does.

I feel so torn. I don’t want to reject this little girl’s hugs, because children should not be shamed for wanting affection. But I also don’t want to encourage it, because with the exception of Mari’s children (who I don’t hug, either, but would if they initiated), I have zero interest in touching other people’s children.

 

Thoughts? Am I overreacting to this little girl?

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Emotional Blackmail by our Daycare!

Howdy Partner

I hitched Potamus onto one hip and entered the door code early yesterday morning. We were running late because of the rain and traffic, and Potamus was dawdling in the parking lot wanting “up, up!” instead of splashing through the puddles like he normally does. I set him on the counter inside, signed him in, and was cheerfully accosted by the daycare director holding out a packet from Lil’ Buckaroos photography.

I had seen the signs for the past few weeks, about the pony ride and pictures happening, but assumed it was something that parents had to opt in to participate. Not needing pony pictures with my kidlet, I just ignored all the paperwork. But there it was, in my hand, 7 prints, of my son on the back of a pony, dressed in cowboy gear, and the instructions to pay $25 within a week, order prints online, or return the proofs to the office.

How could I return such adorably overpriced western posed pictures with my one and only? He looked so cute perched on Dakota the pony, tipping his hat, and staring moodily into the camera. I’m a sucker for photos, anyway, and so I ponied up (pun intended) the $25 to pay for the proofs. I won’t even go online to see the package options, because I might end up spending his entire college fund on pony pictures.

But it made me laugh, because it was the best marketing strategy ever. How many parents are going to return the already printed photos of their adorable children riding ponies? I’m guessing not many. The strategy worked, though if it had been something else besides pony pictures, I might have been legitamtely mad. Or if I had an aversion to ponies and felt like I should have been given the option to give permission for my son to ride atop those sometimes vicious little creatures.

I came home and showed Boof the pictures, and he agreed they were cute. Though his heartstrings are not tugged nearly as much as mine, though he loved the idea of giving one of them to his dad for Father’s Day, because Potamus is in love with his “Buppa” and they do manly cowboy things together, like tromp through yard with tools, and I think he’ll love the picture. And who wouldn’t, because my child is adorable, ammirite?

 

 

When Women Don’t have your Back

Not that it’s a good day to have a sick kid, but today has been especially rough so far. We had been at daycare for less than 5 minutes when Potamus barfed. While it was probably in response to swallowing a bunch of snot, thanks to him being congested, and not something worse like the stomach flu, but I still didn’t want to chance it. Also, my kid just BARFED, how would I feel to keep him in school knowing he really wasn’t feeling well? I called Boof to see if he could drive out to pick our sick kiddo up, but his phone was off or dead and so I made the second best plan I could think of…bringing my kiddo to work for awhile to get things situated.

My co-teacher was cool with covering the class for me in the afternoon, so I prepped the classroom for the presentation, all with kid in tow. He’s hovering between feeling crummy and being impish. He was shy with some people and gave others fist bumps. And then when my students showed up he crawled around like a maniac, but as soon as class started he was annoying and I left.

But what happened before that was hard for me to understand. Our speaker is a community educator from Planned Parenthood. She teaches teens about sex and relationships and STDs. And she was a few minutes late to the class (annoying to me already) and then when I told her that I was going to have to leave, she said,

“So I’m going to be here alone?”

“Um, yeah. My kid barfed. I don’t have childcare.”

“So, that’s not okay. We aren’t substitute teachers. We need to have someone here. Isn’t there anybody else who could cover for you?”

“Um, no. Everyone else is in meetings. I’m the teacher today and I don’t have coverage.”

“Well, what would you have done if he was sick and I wasn’t presenting?”

“I would have cancelled the class. Would you like me to cancel the class today? Or do you want me to introduce you, and get them situated? They’re really good kids (it’s fucking college after all lady) and they’ll be respectful. You can even let them out early if you want.”

I guess I was taken aback by the exchange. Did she expect me to sit there with my whining sick kid to “monitor” the situation? We’re on a college campus, not in a high school, and I wasn’t expecting her to be my “substitute teacher.” While I can see that she might be nervous about the responsibilities of running a class, she’s a community educator who supposedly likes working with teens…I don’t get it. It’s not like I was leaving my class (of 16 students, FYI) with some random person who doesn’t know how to teach students. Also, she’s a woman, and a sex and relationship educator, doesn’t she understand that I am sitting there in this tricky situation WITH MY CHILD. Did she honestly think that I was ditching out on work to have a fun happy hour filled booztravaganza? I like my job. I’d rather be teaching and talking about STDS and birth control than cleaning cracker crumbs off my couch with a crabby 2 year old, ya know? It’s not like I called in sick passive aggressively from home, or emailed to say I wasn’t coming. I still came in, with a sick kid. Clearly I’m not making shit up, ya know?

At 9:30, after trying to sit through some of her presentation, with my kid crawling around, she finally said “okay, you can go whenever you want,” and I did leave…but was annoyed all the while. It’s a position I don’t want to be in. I wanted my husband to be able to take my kid so I could work. I wanted my kid to be healthy. But he wasn’t. And I’d rather have cancelled class, but since it happened 30 minutes before class, that wasn’t really an option. I just wish she would have been more understanding in the moment, though maybe that’s asking for too much from a guest speaker. But maybe I hoped for more from a fellow woman?

When I can’t be there…

903894_10151566658399467_305534970_oYesterday my Monday blues lingered until I hopped in my car to drive to the daycare to pick up Potamus. I was so excited to see his chubby cheeks and get to snuggle him up into his carseat and hear him babble about his day. There are many days where I really want to be at work, and then there are days, like yesterday, when I just want to scoop up my little one and hold his tiny hand and go for a walk.

I walked quickly back to his classroom, it already dark outside (thanks a lot Daylight Savings) and saw him run toward me in his too-short-pants indicating that he had peed through his clothes at naptime again. And his face was red. Had he been crying?

“He sat in front of your picture and cried all day today. I had to move him, and then he’d come back and sit in front of your picture, saying ‘mama,’ and crying.” his teacher said.

Gulp.

She said it in a “isn’t that sweet?” sort of tone, but all I heard was: my kid said mama and reached out to a picture for comfort and comfort didn’t come and so he cried.

I felt like shit.

Whose bright idea is it to have the kid’s All About Me’s plastered at eye height in the reading nook of the daycare? Seriously, there at the age that ‘out of sight out of mind’ is best, especially for my sweetly sensitive peanut. I felt overwhelmed with grief, that I had sent him to school hopped up on tylenol for a runny nose and he was sad and spent the day crying and wanting me, and I didn’t come.

But I did come, eventually, and all was right with the world. And when I talked to his regular teacher, she said that he hadn’t cried all day, but he had been sad at some points, and seeing my picture made him more sad instead of being comforted. Today they’re taking the picture down so as not to bother him more.

I kept thinking about my own childhood, though, from that experience. How I’d look at the very few photos of my birthmom and wonder what she was like…and did I actually miss her? I remember looking at pictures of my friends and family while i lived in India, and crying, from homesickness when I saw their smiling faces. There’s something both comforting and heartbreaking about holding a picture when all you want is a hug.

And it’s amazing how quickly kids move on. I’m still thinking about it twenty four hours later…after talking about it to my friend, and my mom, and Boof, and my therapist. Potamus had moved on as soon as he saw me. All lingering thoughts were gone to the wayside and all was right with the world. He didn’t hold a grudge when I left again at night for therapy. In fact he blew kisses and snuggled up with dad on the couch. But the feeling of not being able to be there for him, when he needed me, is lingering. I know it’s a fine balance, of independence and letting children experience the hardships and heartaches of the world, and being able to provide a safe and comforting bosom for them to come back to.

The feeling is lingering. How do I move forward?

It’s okay, he can wear a dress…

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if a dress is good enough for president roosevelt, it’s good enough for my son!

My son loves playing dress up. He’s almost 2 and his imaginativeness is shining through. He loves wearing hats of all sorts (included plastic buckets, and baskets, and wigs (as we’ve seen before in pictures), capes (made from scarves or other bits of fabric), and sunglasses. I haven’t yet gotten him many other dress-up items, but I think since it’s Halloween time, we will head on over to Value Village soon and pick up a few other play options.

Today, at daycare, when I picked him up, there were many kids digging in the pretend play box. And one little girl had put on this fancy princess dress and was wearing it around. Potamus was so glad to see me, and we did a quick 30 second snuggle, and as I was asking the teachers about his day, one said to me “he wants to wear that dress,” pointing toward the little girl. “He’s always asking to wear it.”

And my response was, “oh, let him wear it. That’s totally fine. He’s at such a sweet age, and playing pretend is good for him. He’s not old enough to be made fun of for wearing a dress, yet.” And they nodded their heads and laughed along with me, since my tone was light and cheery.

But I meant it.

And I have so many swirling thoughts about it all.

The first, is, that this is a phase. That my child loves all things dress up, and I want him to have the full range of exploration imaginable. And my second thought was horrified, not that he would be wearing a dress, but that he had been asking to wear a dress and they hadn’t let him. My baby, unable to play pretend in a way that he has wanted. Which makes me question the underlying foundation of the daycare (which is otherwise doing great), because I’ve been not teaching hard-line male gender stereotypes, and would hate if he was being subtly or not-so-subtly pushed into a certain way of play, at such a tender age. Also, it wasn’t that long ago in history where little boys (up until age 6 even) were dressed in dresses to keep them ‘sexless’ and innocent for as long as possible. Or for fashion or other reasons, like practicality when not wearing a diaper!

But then my thoughts flicked toward the longer term future, at the unknown of what Potamus’s true gender identity will be. Perhaps he’ll embrace traditional male gender stereotypes, or perhaps he’ll be a “boy who loves girl things” like CJ at Raising My Rainbow, or perhaps he’ll tell me that he is actually a she, or that he loves boys, or that he wants to wear rubber boots to school everyday (true story, my friend’s son did that for a good long time). I don’t know, but I will love him no matter, and will encourage him to be who he is, no matter what.

I hadn’t thought about him being pegged into a gender role so soon, and hope that the conversation with his teachers, for the minute, allowed a little more freedom for him to get to experience pretend play as his sweet little toddler self, without the teachers worrying that they might get in trouble for letting him wear a dress. Because, I could see that some parents may ┬ánot want their kid to play dress up that way, but I don’t mind. He can wear a dress if he wants to. Or fairy wings. Or a crown. Or a pirate costume. Or a basket on his head.

HELP! Would you have done anything differently in addressing his teachers? How do you handle the play-pretend issue as far as gender norms are concerned? Any experiences having to give teachers instructions on how to interact with your child?

Leaving Dolly

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We had many lovey-type objects around Potamus from the beginning, but it wasn’t until he met Dolly last week that he fell in love. And he’s been carrying her around ever since. He’s 20 months and just now discovered a lovey-attachment, and it’s really sweet to see.

But he’s not allowed to bring outside toys into the daycare.

So there were double-the-tears today as he had to watch me leave with Dolly. It was harder for me to leave him, too, knowing just how attached he’s gotten to this sweet little babydoll. I think my rip-the-bandaid off approach didn’t really work well, and so I think we’ll need to figure out another way to separate him from Dolly before he gets into his classroom. Maybe buckling her into the carseat, or even leaving her at home in bed, I don’t know. Because thinking of him dealing with a whole day at school without his lovey is kinda sad.

Thoughts? Any tips on how to help my sweet boy part from his sweet dolly while he’s at school?

Holiday Fallout

Who’s brilliant idea was it to take these lovely vacations that would mean missing daycare? Sigh. While my parents were the actual instigators (reserving the cabins without asking me, first), I figured that Potamus had a few vacation days (free week off from daycare without paying) to use up, so we might as well miss some days. He only goes on Monday/Wednesdays, so I figured it’d be no big deal, right?

Can I just tell you, that there is NOTHING that prepared me for the sadness of coming across my itty bitty boy standing in the middle of the playground with his friends, crying. Snot-nosed, bawling, with all these happy friendly other kids around. The ten days without daycare has left him, both days this week very sad, with the teachers saying “he cried most of the day.”

Break my heart in a million pieces why don’t you?

I mean, typically he’s happy when I go to pick him up, and only starts crying when he sees me. One teacher, who was subbing in (she used to work with him in the infant room), said “I’ve never seen him this sad all day since he first started.” Again, knife in the heart. Clearly the transition back to school is going to be harder after vacation than I thought…and I’m trying to just chalk it up to ‘lessons learned,’ but I feel so bad about him being separated from me for 8 hours…especially when I KNOW that I could actually be watching him…sigh…mama guilt…