Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Notes From A Daycare Provider

I realized after talking to friends about my experience as a daycare provider that I have yet to actually share any of my thoughts or feelings on this matter here. I share what we do during daycare, what we work on, read, and play, but I never share my frustrations and triumphs. I share my thoughts as mom, but rarely my personal thoughts as a daycare provider. I can only imagine how it feels to drop your child off to someone else to raise during the days. The entire reason I started my daycare was because I couldn't find anyone I felt comfortable enough with to leave my child with all day every day. We went poor while I stayed with our child (which became children during this time) because I couldn't find anyone I was comfortable with.

That is my biggest goal as a daycare provider. Creating an environment in which the kids and parents feel comfortable with. I have an open door policy: come right in and you'll be greeted (unless I'm pre-occupied changing diapers, helping with hand washing, or pouring cups of milk, then you'll get a shouted "hi"). I make my home their home during the day. Lounge on the couch, ask for a pillow, ask for a hug or a kiss at random. These are the needs I'm happy to oblige. At times it can be difficult to share our home with so many kids. Sometimes my kids just want their space, they get irritated that they have to share their toys. Sometimes I think how nice it would be to have an actual dining room table and not a permanent daycare activities holder. But the benefits far outweigh these difficulties.

My kids have built in playmates. Most kids get home from school and go in search of friends to play with. Mine get to open their front door to a playroom (literally, my living room is a playroom) full of kids. They never deal with boredom. There's always something to do and someone to play with. My kids are treated to new toys (okay, well new to them....I'm a big fan of craigslist and garage sales) constantly because they are expected to share them with all of the other kids. It sounds crazy but the more kids I have here, the easier it is on me. The fewer kids there are the more I have to take on the role of entertainer. The more kids I have I must play referee. Sometimes it sucks to be the referee, but most of the time it's waaayyy easier than being the entertainment for a day.

Not every day is rainbows and butterflies. There are MANY frustrating days, moments, weeks, and months. My job is to take a deep breath and find the best solution to these frustrating problems. The most frustrating part of these frustrations is trying to sort out what is typical kid behavior and what is something that needs to be worked on (ex: using words with other kids, following directions, clean up time, etc.) and/or addressed immediately.

I hate when I have to inform parents of a child's bad day. I know what it's like to get a bad report on my child and I, as a parent, feel horrible. I feel like their behavior is somehow all my fault, like I could have done something to prevent it. I can only imagine that's how my daycare parents feel as well. As a daycare provider, I also feel like I have failed when a child misbehaves. Am I doing something wrong? Did I handle a situation poorly? 9 times out of 10 it's just an off day or time for the child. It has absolutely nothing to do with the parents or myself, but it's easy to feel that way in those times.

I secretly love and hate when a child doesn't want to leave at pick up time. Being a parent myself, I know that stab of pain when your child doesn't want you. If my child were to cling to someone else and not want me, I'd be inclined to snatch my child away and send a slap that person's way. But as a daycare provider, it lets me know that the child does in fact like it here, likes me, and feels comfortable enough to stay here. I feel the love and then I hate it because I know how the parent must be feeling as well.

I've had to explain lots of bruises, head bumps, scrapes, scratches, bites, and more to parents.....and I feel horrible every time. Most of these happen when I'm just out of arms reach to stop the impending fall or fight or pile up. I still hate explaining to the parent(s) what happened because I always feel horrible I wasn't right there. That being said, I have two boys  and a rough and tumble girl of my own. I know how rough kids can be. I have seen the kids come inside from a morning running in the backyard and have bruises up and down their legs. I have seen a child sit on a Little People toy and get a bruise on their butt (through their diaper). Nothing alarms me anymore.

I hold my breath every time a child sneezes (not really, because hello! I have three kids. But for the sake of storytelling, I do in fact hold my breath). A single sneeze can mean a daycare wide epidemic of the latest virus or strep or croup......and it's always a blast telling parents when their child has been exposed to such crap. It also doubly sucks because I can expect to disinfect three times my normal amount since I'm inviting the germs into our house, onto our couches, toys, and surfaces.

I get beyond excited about the children's accomplishments. I love nothing more when the parent's and I have the same goal(s) for the child. I know that they're at home working on the same things I am during the day. I get close to tears when I see or hear a child put to use something we've been working on. It can be as simple as putting to use a lesson we've been reading about, remembering something simple that I've been teaching the kids about, or remembering the rules and routines all on their own. I've gotten tears in my eyes and hugged a child when they've finally gotten something (and they look at me as if I'm a nut). It's the best feeling of accomplishment I've ever experienced.

I end most of my days feeling like Hitler. I feel like I spend so much time "remember this rule, remember that rule, no that's not okay, let's talk about it, that is not how you behave" and so on. Sure, I do positive reinforcement as much as I can (ex: "good job for remembering your please and thank you!"), but I still feel like 80% of my day is spent enforcing the rules and routines. I've tried running things with fewer rules and more than chaos ensued. All of our rules and routines serve a purpose for each and every kid and I know it's my job to reinforce them. However, feeling like Hitler is so worth it when I hear the kids reminding each other of the rules. Again, that feeling of accomplishment hits me.

Baby-kids are the hardest to deal with. This is the term my daycare provider friends and I use to describe the four year old that's treated like a one year old. Those who have their parents full attention every hour of every day, who have no idea how to play on their own or must be shown how to play. They lack all creativity and imagination. They expect to be catered too and have no idea how to handle it when I inform them they "must wait their turn." They are also the furthest behind socially and behaviorally. They make it known that they need a lot of attention and help with things they could (and should) be doing on their own. I've had to work my way around to find suitable answers to "isn't my picture more special than everybody else's?!!?" without sounding like a b*tch. I can't begin to tell you what it's like to have one kid think they are far "more special" than the rest of the kids, how clearly terrible it makes the other kids feel, and what problems in causes with the group.

Yes, my patience is tested every day, but it's always my own kids that test my patience more than other people's children. Go figure, the kids I get to hand over at the end of the day are the easiest.

It's amazing how many brain cells I lose (my friends tell me poop consistency is not an okay dinner topic) and how I have lost the ability to dress up. I have a pang of jealousy when I see mom's drop off their children in actual clothes and wearing make up......I showered and threw back on my pj pants because they'll be covered in paint by 9 a.m. I find myself in a kid world everyday, not the real world. I can no longer talk world news and have very few opinions on any matters going on in the world because I'm ill informed. Not because I don't want to be, but because CNN is not an appropriate channel for toddlers.

There are many days when the last kid leaves and I crumple on my couch from exhaustion while my kids run circles around me. There are many days that I wonder what the kids will be telling their parents about our day (my favorite one: I once had a little girl tell her parents I took them to a bar after naps). There are some days I wish there was a re-do button. There are other days that I wish wouldn't end. There are days that I pray things will be better than the day before. There are days when I have a beer waiting at the front of my refrigerator for the moment my kids go to bed. My patience, creativity, negotiating skills, physical, and mental abilities are put to the test every single day. As I always say when I have people gasp at what I do for a living, the benefits are far greater than anything else. I just take the time to find the humor in everything I can, to cry when I need to, laugh when there's nothing else to do, take deep breaths when there's too much to do, and remember not to scream my head off.

Dealing with kids is the hardest yet most rewarding work there is. I wouldn't trade this crazy experience for anything.