Shout Out to Childcare Workers

     This weekend I took Baby Bee to a birthday party for one of the boys in his class. It was a fun time…cute theme, the kids were so excited to see each other outside their normal setting and I got to see my little dude’s manners and social skills in action. Proud moment. But, I overheard a conversation that has bothered me all week and I feel that I need to address it.

      Most of the party goers were family members of the birthday boy, although there was another mom from our school. She, along with the birthday boy’s parents, know that I am a teacher at our daycare. Nobody else present knew. One of his aunts was watching the boys play and mentioned how it’d be fun to be a fly on the wall in their class, just to see how they interact throughout the day. She then followed up with something along the lines of “although I’m sure the teachers wouldn’t appreciate that since I’m sure it’s not as educational as they’d like you to believe. I used to work at one, I know how it is.”

      I opened my mouth to say something, but then didn’t as I wasn’t part of this conversation and didn’t know this woman at all. Blessedly, the other mom from our school spoke up sweetly and said “Oh I don’t know. I’ve had to drop the kids off late every day this week, and every time we come in, both classes are sitting down doing activities.” Auntie said “Really? Wow that’s surprising.” The conversation moved on and I bit my tongue solely to avoid confrontation. I’m not the type to pick an argument with a stranger at a child’s party. That’s like my worst nightmare. But her snide remarks have stuck with me all week and I feel that it was totally unfair. Yet, I get it.

      I, too, was worried about that with Baby Bee when he first started daycare. I still sometimes get a bit concerned about his writing, spelling, counting, letter recognition etc. But I know his teachers, I know his class and I know my child. He is wicked smart and still just a child. Four year olds should not be expected to be doing 4th grade math and have excellent penmanship. They are FOUR. Why is playing such a thing to be frowned upon? Why can’t we nurture imaginations and problem solving skills and creativity? Why is how soon a child can write their name the mark of “good” education? I’d much rather have my son have a firm grip on manners, social skills, and self awareness before he can do simple math and write his full name legibly. Play is so much more important than people realize. Children learn important life skills during free play…storytelling, cooperation, diversity, problem-solving, coping, social skills….the list goes on and on.

     That being said, childcare workers are not lazy babysitters. We are qualified EDUCATORS who understand that one, two, three, four and even five year olds cannot be expected to sit at tables and do mind-numbing writing exercises all day. They need creative freedom, physical activity, routine and exposure to other cultures, traditions and beliefs. Yes, we work on the alphabet and counting and shapes and colors. But we also work on coping with disappointment, following directions, regulating emotions, cultivating creativity , and finding a child’s niche–are they movers and shakers? Quiet observers? Extroverted storytellers? Natural born leaders? Early childhood educators learn a ton of information about a child’s personality, developmental levels and abilities by observing them in play, along with structured large and small group activities. This information can be relayed to parents to address behavioral concerns at home and school, answer questions about social or cognitive development, and highlight educational milestones. I hate the idea that play is not educational. Why the fuck isn’t it? Why do tiny children have to be turned into genius zombies at age 12 months?! Let them be little, and trust the process. They are learning more about themselves, society and life than you could ever imagine while they play. Cramming facts, rules and expectations into their developing brains is wiping away their personalities and confidence in themselves. 

      I’m not saying never teach a toddler or preschooler numbers and letters. But let’s do it at a developmentally appropriate level. Let’s do it in a way that resonates with that individual child, not a politician’s or center director’s or parent’s expectations. Let’s sit back and enjoy the beauty of P L A Y. 

    I know that’s what is happening at my center. My fellow teachers and I have busted our asses to better ourselves, our classrooms and our building for the sake of the families that we serve. We have stressed over making a cookie cutter curriculum fit to the need and level of our class. We have tiptoed the line of letting the children be creative but not destructive. We have had to defend our teaching over and over to parents, teachers, corporate bigwigs, directors and potential clients. We are constantly reassuring parents that their child IS learning and is within developmental “norms.” (And to be honest, I’ve been one of those parents.) Yes, there have been teachers that sit on their derriΓ¨res and watch the kids go crazy all day. And ya know what? They don’t work with me anymore. Yes, there are daycares that are lax in their rules and curriculum. But not all of them. Don’t group the good ones with the bad ones. That’s not fair to the teachers working their hearts out for other people’s kids. 

      I am constantly looking for teachable moments in the everyday mundane. My mouth never stops talking to little ears, my feet never stop moving after balls of endless energy. I help barely verbal human beings deal with HUGE emotions. I walk them through milestones and encourage their interests and abilities. I teach them how to interact with others in a socially acceptable manner. If that isn’t educational than I don’t know what the hell is.

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A letter to my 4 year old

  My love,

  Today we had a bad day. We both got angry and we both got a little out of control. There was yelling and tears and glares. I know we were both tired, probably a little too hungry. You needed one-on-one attention after being in a class of twenty kids all day. I needed one minute of alone time. Regardless, we both lost control and I want to say (again) that I’m sorry.

   As your mommy I should know all the right things to say when you’re upset. I should have all the techniques and tricks to help you self regulate and regain control of your body. I should be able to quietly talk you through your emotions and too strong feelings. And I DO know how. I’ve read countless blogs, articles and books about just that. I know from experience when I escalate, so do you. We feed off each other’s emotions. But sometimes, honey, Mommy gets wrapped up in the moment and I lose all that information. All I can think about is how disrespectful you’re being, and how exhausted I am and how we shouldn’t even be fighting over stupid Goldfish crackers to begin with. When that happens, I lose my patience and yell louder than I want to, or mean to. I make a scary face…I can only imagine how scary it is to your young, sensitive self. Then your face crumples and you cry REAL tears, and often times, so do I. You tell me that yelling scared you. I hate these moments, Baby Bee. I should be the example here, the example on how to handle anger and disappointment. I should be protecting you from scary things, not BEING one! Instead I lose control because you’re losing control. And that’s not fair to you. You have only been Earthside for 4 years, 2 months and 2 weeks. I’ve been Earthside…a lot longer. I should know better. And I do. But some days Mommy is too weak to remember, too weak to lead by example. You, unfortunately, get your short temper and over-emotional side from me. We explode like Roman Candles, cry for awhile, and then we apologize. I will always apologize, and I hope you will too. I can’t promise I won’t make mistakes, won’t hurt your feelings, won’t make you mad. But I will always apologize when I’m wrong. When I’ve hurt or scared you, or acted wrong in a situation. You are my Saving Grace and I am trying my very hardest to give you a happy, loving and secure life. But I also refuse to raise an entitled, disrespectful, spoiled brat. 

      Life isn’t fair. It never has been and it never will be and the sooner you realize that the less troubles you will have in life. You are a bit young to grasp that concept, and I get that. I’m not expecting you to succumb to the injustice of every “no” you hear. But I want you to understand that you absolutely CANNOT throw a shit fit and expect to get what you want. The world doesn’t work like that, and neither does our house. It can make you angry, it can make you sad, and you can even tell me “it’s not fair!” (Even though that is really pushing the line), but you cannot scream in my face and pound on the door and lose control of your manners. We will continue to work together, calmly, to find a way for you to express your anger in an appropriate way. But honey, as you get older, you will realize an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine being turned off is the least of the bad stuff that can and will happen to you. But until then, I promise you I will work my hardest to find solutions for us. I hate battling you after being apart all day. It hurts my feelings that you are an extraordinary gentleman to everybody but me. But I can’t turn those feelings against you. I want to help you get through these gigantic emotions of yours, not make them worse.

    You are incredible. You are amazingly intuitive, a total ham, and so, SO smart. I can see behind those big, brown eyes that you know you’re not supposed to act like that, but you don’t know how to stop. That’s where I’m supposed to step in, take your hand, and guide you through. Tonight I failed you. And I’m hurting so bad right now because of that. I don’t take failure lightly, especially when it comes to you. I’m sorry I lost my temper, sorry I yelled. I love you with every fiber of my being and am trying to make all my wrongs right.

      Thank you for snuggling up next to me on the couch tonight. I know that was your quiet apology and act of forgiveness and my heavy heart swelled with that one little act. I don’t deserve your unconditional love, Little Man, but I’m sure glad you keep giving it to me. 

You are my angel, my darling, my star and my love will find you wherever you are.” 

Meditation and ADD

I have recently started to slowly, tentatively get back into my mediation and yoga practice. It’s something I’ve missed for years and I finally got tired of making excuses. I spent a little extra money to buy a few things to help the process and set up a small area in our bedroom. I don’t do it every night, but am trying to establish it into my routine. It’s been great physically and mentally and has already taught be something about myself:

I suck at meditating. 

My brain is not quiet. Even when it wants to be, my hyperactive brain waves never cease. So I decided to not EMPTY my mind, but to acknowledge each thought that comes up, then dismiss it. Good Lord, do you know how EXHAUSTING that is?!?! Here is just an excerpt of my mind during meditation.

  
“Inhale. Exhale. Be still. Man my shoulders are super stiff. I feel crooked. Omg am I crooked!? I probably look like a witch from a fairytale I’m so crooked. Oh damn…Be still.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still. It’s hot as shit in here. I hope the incense doesn’t make the fire alarm go off. You’re supposed to be focusing! 

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Be still. That means quit fidgeting. Pretend you don’t itch. Oh my God why does everything itch all at once! Now my hand is asleep. How can my hand be asleep when I’m sitting up right!? Carpal tunnel, dammit all. I have to call the doctor. That’s gonna be expensive. Shit, I need to pay my student loan. The other one will have to wait until payday. Did I pay my credit card? I have GOT to get some sort of budget scheduled so I don’t forget. Crap. I’m supposed to be meditating.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

I wonder when my prayer beads are going to be delivered? I bet those will help me so much! I’ll be a zen master in no time!

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

I’m doing it! My mind is so still! Nothing in it but my mantra! Oh. Damn.

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Inhale. Exhale.

I’m bored. It’s hot. I suck at this. C probably thinks I’m crazy. Shut up! Just do it!

Inhale. Exhale. Be still.

Inhale, fuck it I quit.