We went on like that for a few weeks: text messages from our caregiver every time Noah so much as threw a fit and negative reports when I picked him up in the evenings. Our energy and "bullshit handling" reserves were dwindling fast. On Wednesday, July 21st, the day after Noah's 2nd birthday, the shit hit the fan, the straw finally broke the camel's back. I received an urgent text message that Noah had hit the baby with a wooden block and had left a bad bruise...my attention was requested that evening to address the matter. When I arrived to pick up Noah, she thrust the baby at me and pointed out his bruise. There was a small cut and bruise and of course I felt terrible that Noah hit him. I expressed how sorry I was and asked what I could do to remedy the situation.
She informed me that she was concerned about Noah's aggressive behaviors, that she had two more infants starting in a couple of weeks and she was worried that Noah would hit the infants and how was she to explain that to the parents? This is the point when I nearly lost my shit with this woman. Instead I clammed up while I listened to her tell me she needed to see a major improvement in Noah's behavior by the time the infants started or...but she never said what the "or" result would be. Good thing I heard it loud and clear: we had two weeks to shape up or (implied) ship out.
At this point I gathered up Noah, mumbled some more apologies (like a big ol' wuss) and loaded Noah into the car to head home. Once home, I broke down. I called Tim crying that our son was aggressive and anti-social and what happened to our sweet, kind baby? Being the smart man he is, he gently asked me why I thought the problem was only with Noah and perhaps had I considered SHE was the one with the issues? Good point. I decided to write her an email asking, as clear as day, how she planned to keep the infants and toddlers safe, separate and engaged at the same time. I figured that was a good question to ask (again). Her answer: there is only one of her and they will all play and be together other than at nap time. Well then. Do you think she had considered the ramifications of having three immobile infants and two highly active toddlers in the same room all day long? How would she ever be able to manage all the children and meet all their needs, alone? I know there are some in-home caregivers who are masters at this...ours was not.
Tim set his mind to looking for a new daycare for Noah while I was willing to work it out with her (again with the desperate, sheesh). We went back the next day, Noah was a good boy all day, but when it came time for me to pick him up, we had another (and I didn't know at the time, but final) discussion about Noah's behavior. Her tune changed and drastically. Rather than telling me we had to change Noah's behaviors in a matter of days, she began to say how she thought Noah would really benefit from a more structured, school-like setting because he's so smart and she felt she wasn't going to be able to give him the attention he needed what with all the infants coming soon. Now, instead of us getting fired, we were being pushed to resign. Sneaky.
That very next day I called two daycares thinking there wasn't a chance in hell we would get in. Remember, wait lists are the norm. One daycare called back. They had a last minute opening for August 1st in their 2 year old "preschool", would we like to take a tour? Hell yes we would! The tour was that Friday, by Friday afternoon we were turning in our application, by Friday evening we had informed our caregiver Noah's last day would be the 30th. He started at his new school on the 2nd of August and we haven't looked back.
We are absolutely in love with Noah's new "preschool". It is clean, bright, structured, well-appointed and most of all, Noah has great reports everyday (well, he did bite a 3 year old one time but that was totally in self-defense...the kid is like twice his size). And you know what? The teachers handled it. They didn't freak out and call me. They didn't let that one instance affect how they perceived Noah moving forward. They adore him and tell me so. They tell me how he's thriving and learning so much and how they enjoy him. Noah skips into his classroom without a backward glance or any tears. He brings home art projects and can spell S-T-O-P. He can count to 20 and recognize the numbers. He can sing his alphabet and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He's growing. He's learning. He's doing so very well.
Maybe she was right in the end. But that's not the point. The point is that SHE was the caregiver, SHE was the one who positioned herself as the expert in childcare, SHE was the one who decided to open the daycare with mixed ages. And yet, we were the ones made to feel terrible about our poorly behaved child. There were so many things that didn't happen the way I wished they had: I wish I had taken more time vetting her out, I wish I had interviewed more caregivers, I wish I had allowed myself to look at "centers" rather than thinking an in-home would be a better environment for Noah, I wish I had paid better attention to WHY Noah was acting out rather than trying to quickly "fix" him when nothing was broken. I can't take it back, but oh how I wish I could. I wish I had trusted myself a little more and listened to my instincts when they said to "walk away" after that first day.
I'm constantly learning and evolving in this new(ish) role as Mother. I don't have all the answers, I don't always know which way is right or wrong, but I do know that I my son depends on me to take the best care of him that I can. I am so grateful to his new teachers for helping me do that...and in a way, I am grateful to our old caregiver for pushing us to leave. We never would have ended up where we are otherwise. I am learning to trust myself a little more and feel more comfortable in these shoes I wear. If Noah's happiness is any indication, then I'm doing a pretty good job.