Where were we? Oh, right. I wasn’t feeling so confident with our decision to put Noah at the in-home daycare. I spent many hours convincing myself this was a great decision and convincing everyone I told about it. My mother was dubious once she heard there would be three infants, two toddlers and one caregiver. Hey, Mom, next time? A little louder, please. Mothers always know.
Alas, we moved ahead with our decision and the first day of daycare was upon us. Now, what would you expect from your care provider on your first day taking your child to her home? Even more specifically, HER first day being in business? Would you expect that she would be showered and dressed? Would you expect her home to be immaculately clean? Would you expect her to answer the door looking bright-eyed and chipper? Call me crazy because that’s what I expected but it wasn’t what I got. Instead, I was greeted by a sleepy, pajama’d woman with a floor covered in Cheerios and cat hair (warning no. 6). Looking back, now I know why leaving Noah that first day made me want to curl up in a ball.
Here’s the thing: she seemed to be a really nice person. I truly did trust her to take care of my child. I just happened to overlook the things that should have been bright red warning signs in the name of securing childcare and getting my life sorted out in a quick fashion. The first week went by relatively smoothly. We had talked up going to daycare so Noah was excited every morning. I was getting great reports each evening when I went to pick him up: he was napping well, eating well, and having a fun time playing with her little one. There were walks to see the trains go by, and park visits, and art projects. By the end of the first week I was feeling better about our decision...Noah seemed happy, therefore I was happy.
How soon things changed. The second week started off well but by the end there were tears and they were all mine. You see, I was starting to get reports during the day (by text message) that Noah was having some behavioral issues. Reports that ended in “we need to talk when you get here this afternoon.” I don’t know about you but being on the receiving end of those messages was like a punch in the guts. What was happening to my mellow, easy-going baby? Who was this toddler with “behavioral issues”? Of course we were having our share of not-quite-two year old behavior--shrieking, acting out, tantrums, etc. All actions I considered perfectly normal for his age and development. Then why were these actions worthy of “discussions” every afternoon? Why wasn’t she handling it? In my opinion, that’s part of the job as a caregiver: you handle the issues.
Then Noah started to hit. And then he bit our caregiver. Twice. My heart began to race on the train ride to pick him up, never knowing what kind of report I was going to get at the end of the day. Some days the text messages would set me up for disappointment in Noah’s behavior. Other days she would wait until I stepped into her home and unleash the day’s events on me. She was never cruel or heartless when talking with me about Noah but something started to change over the course of the next couple of weeks. I began to hear more negative reports and less positive ones (warning no. 7...I’m sure you’re now wondering why the hell I wasn’t catching on. Hindsight is always 20/20, is it not?). We exchanged emails and had conversations about how we could all help improve his behavior and yet each day was getting worse. Noah was acting out more and more and her attitude towards him continued to worsen.
I hate to admit this but MY attitude towards my son was worsening as well. After a long day of work, of commuting on a crowded train, I would receive an endless monologue of Noah’s transgressions from that day: hitting, ramming himself into walls, throwing wooden blocks, acting aggressively towards the baby, not listening, refusing to obey in time-outs, interrupting naps, so on and so forth. My reserves were drained by 5 pm so hearing all this just made me mad, mad at Noah. That was so wrong of me. I know that now. But in those moments, I just wanted to scream “Mommy had a hard day too! Can’t you just listen and make this all easier???” Instead, I called friends, some of you. I called my mother. Tim and I spent hours talking about it at night after Noah was snuggled in bed. I’m pretty sure I was the only one who thought the problem was with Noah and not with our caregiver. I wanted to believe that the place I had chosen to send my baby, my darling son, was the right place for him. Sadly, that was so far from the truth.