Over the 10+ years I’ve spent working as a child care provider, one thing keeps coming back to me again and again.
Parents, you want your kids to grow up to be happy and become contributing members of society. As a parent myself I get that—I hold the same hope for my kids—but that end game can be hard to see through the slough of diapers, meltdowns, yogurt spills, and the general chaos that characterize the early years of our children’s lives.
I’m here to tell you that it’s OKAY! You are doing a good job – a great job, actually. Not only will your kids grow up to be happy and contributing members of society, they are already doing it! You see, as a daycare provider, I have the unique position – privilege, even – of seeing your kids in their ‘professional’ realm.
Here’s what a typical day looks like:
You arrive with Katie still in her pajamas, giving me a story about how she uncharacteristically slept past her usual 6:15 AM wake time and absolutely refused to get out of her jammies even though she spilt cereal all over them, and how she screamed, “STOP LOOKING AT ME,” all the way to daycare as her brother taunted her. All the while you’re telling me this, she is puddle of writhing emotion at your feet repeating, “I WANT TO GO HOME! MOMMY! MOOOOOOOOMMMY!” You delicately peel her away and explain to her that you need to go to work now, even though she appears completely delirious and oblivious to your words. You give her one hug, then ten, and when I ask if she wants to go play Lite Brite, she first buries her head in your leg and eventually begrudgingly lets go, and you go on your way.
The door closes behind you and then from that blathering, emotional mess on the floor, like a switch—I kid you not—your child turns into a complete professional. She immediately stops crying, runs over to her friend sitting at the craft table, and they giggle and get sticky with glue and silly with stickers.
After a few minutes, I toss her the clothes you packed in her bag and suggest she change. She picks up her clothes with her non-sticky hand and marches off to the bathroom. There, she washes her hands unprompted, and dresses herself from head to toe. She remembers to put her jammies in her backpack, which she zips up tidily, and closes the cubby door behind her before running to play blocks with Billy. At lunch, she eats most of her peas without a peep, scrapes the rest into the bin, stretches to place her dishes next to the sink, and reminds her friends to do the same. She sings songs, navigates conflict without resorting to hitting or name-calling, she cleans up her toys, and helps the toddlers clean up theirs, she giggles with her friend over a game of make-believe ponies, she says please and thank you, naps willingly, and her knowledge of the alphabet is improving daily.
I don’t know what to say to make you believe me, because the moment you arrive, the switch flips back.
After greeting you with a running hug, despite your urgings, she is determined to finish building the tower she was working on. Unlike a few seconds before your arrival, she is now unable to build the tower in cooperation with her friends. She’s bossy and belligerent, she snatches toys from helping hands, and she takes a sassy tone with you when remind her again that it is time to go. When you finally talk her into leaving, I see you in the hallway dressing her while she lays intentionally limp on the floor complaining about the seams on her socks. I am not lying when I say that I have seen some facsimile of this situation unfold thousands of times before my very eyes. There’s no mystery in this shift really. This 180 in behaviour is really no different than how I, as an adult, am able to act completely professionally when a two-year-old comes to me holding his hand in the air full of evidence of the diarrhea he found in his pants, but then completely lose my shit when I get home and find that This is Us has not recorded on my PVR.
We deduce the moments, the situations, and the people which require us to act professionally and those that allow us the freedom and comfort to let our guard down—a valuable life skill. In my experience as a daycare provider, most kids have mastered this very skill by the time they are two.
All this to say, parents you are doing a great job! In the range of parenting techniques I’ve seen employed in my decade in this field, I can tell you that none of them matter as much as the unique love you hold for them. Keep trucking.
All the best,
Your friendly daycare provider.