This year has been challenging for my eldest at daycare. The daycare has preschool prep and a younger program, so both of my kids go there and have been for the past two years. We started at an in-home daycare, and although I loved my daycare provider, we realized we wanted more. (And I wanted to have help with drop off and pick up, as I was the sole provider there.) In any case, we switched both kids to a local daycare that had longer hours, went outside, and had several teachers in each classroom. They also did curriculum and brought in several programs like Tumblebus, a music lady, and yoga. All bonuses. The first year went very well. Both kids did well, minus of course, the new sicknesses that come with a larger daycare. We knew that would happen, but again, we were okay with it. The greater good, perhaps. And their immune systems would strengthen as time went on (which has, actually, happened). This year, however, has been a trial for my eldest (I’ll call them “E” for eldest).
We started the year with one teacher who had just switched into E’s classroom. We knew of the teacher from my youngest’s classroom, and she was a “floater” and had worked there for awhile, so we were okay with that. E was super happy to have this particular teacher in the classroom, as E loved her. A month or so in, the teacher was asked to leave for reasons unknown. In came a new teacher, who seemed to be a relatively seamless transition. E was still happy, although E asked often after the first teacher. Hard to explain, E, hard to explain. We had a smooth few weeks or months. Then, the phone calls began.
The first one was at my work. Now, mind you, the place I work is very difficult to get through to me on my work phone. I always request that unless it’s an emergency, for the daycare to call my cell. I am always checking it throughout the day, so I know when I see a missed call and voicemail, its not necessarily an emergency. So you could imagine my surprise as I am in the middle of a work meeting with at least 20 people, that my phone rings and its the daycare. I excuse myself, and on the other line is E’s teacher. “I just wanted to let you know that E has been having trouble listening today…” Once my heart stops racing when I realize they aren’t calling to tell me they are on the way to the hospital for a head wound, I politely say, “if this isn’t an emergency, can we talk later? I’m in the middle of something here.” The teacher sounds surprised, but agrees that we can set up a time to talk later on. I receive a couple more phone calls (on my cell) until I tell the director to ask the teacher to save phone calls for emergencies or sickness. Everyone agrees.
Thinking nothing of it, because E is 4 and E is acting normal, I go about my business, but check in with the director of the daycare. Things are quiet for some time. Then the notes start. They are left in E’s lunchbox for me. A string of “E was pushing friends today” or “E spit today”. Jesus. E never spit before in their life. Oh, and the whole “not listening” thing. Really? What 4 year old DOES listen? In any case, I followed up each time, with the directors (skillfully, but it was easy as the teacher is only there for a short amount of time each day), and made sure they knew I was on board with whatever they wanted to do. I didn’t want to have “that kid” and I was sure as shit to not be “that mother” who was in denial about their child’s behavior. I wanted to be in with both feet on whatever behavioral plan that the directors (and the teacher) came up with.
Flash forward a month or so. I get yet another note after floating on a sea of happiness and good behavior. After this round, I agree to a behavioral chart and we start it immediately at home. E responds so well that E gets all of the rewards we provide. Two weeks later, I get another note. Upon talking to the director, I find out that the teacher hasn’t even started a behavior chart at school for E. SERIOUSLY?!?! No wonder why E is still acting up! Whatever. I move on, after telling the director I was still on board with whatever they decide for E, even though I was seething and wanted to scream and rant about how much this not-following-through teacher annoyed me.
Again, we sail along on a highway of happiness and good behavior. Then, on a Friday, I get another note. It asks for me to please call the teacher to discuss E’s behavior. I am so angry that I practically throw the note at my husband, declaring “I am done” and that he will need to call the teacher. He agrees, as he knows if I talk to her, some choice words might be said. He discusses E’s behavior, but to try and get a read on why E is acting this way, he asks the teacher how she deals with it. Upon discussion, he finds out the teacher asks E why they act this way. Not, “don’t do that” or “you have two choices:”. Just “why are you doing this?” No wonder why E is acting up! E is 4. 4 year olds haven’t a clue as to how to explain the WHY behind anything. It’s usually just “because” at this point. Nothing else. Even when you try to delve deeper, they can’t do more than surface information. He explains this, and the teacher says “ok” and that she understands. He relays this all to me, and I thank him profusely about his ability to handle the situation, all the while we both know that the teacher should really be thanking him (because I would’ve had a field day!)
The worse part about this isn’t the fact that I got another note about how E was acting up again and had to talk to the daycare owner and director, who tried to schedule a meeting (which I promptly ignored). The worse part is that I find myself second guessing my mothering. Am I a good mother? Would E be better if I did something else? I have talked to so many people about this, not just my family, either, and everyone I talk to assures me that we have a good kid. I have even had people tell their friends just how good E is: helpful, listens, sweet. I can honestly say that this teacher has made me dread taking E to school. Luckily, E is no worse for the wear: they can’t wait to see this teacher, even saying they love her (yikes). Regardless. It makes me worry. Constantly. I wonder if I screwed E up royally. I wonder if I really do have the “BAD” kid, even though many of the behaviors are typical 4 year old (and a few years above that) behavior. It’s bad for my kid, obviously, but it has also hurt my own judgment and my own confidence in my parenting skills. And I hate her for it.
E is polite. Listens to us as parents. Is sweet to our youngest, always (giving up toys, cleaning up after them, all of the above). Finishes everything on their plate. Asks for help when they need it. Excitedly talks about their school day. Stops whining when I ask. So why do I continue to question how I am parenting?? As I struggle with not becoming “that mother” and the so-called behavior issues that E has, I also wonder why I am letting this teacher get to me. If everyone else is telling me that E is a good kid, why should I listen to the one who only sees E about 5 hours a day (yes, she is part time, which is also annoying)? So as we wind down for the summer (this particular teacher takes the summer off, and then E will be in a new class in the fall), I just think, we can get through these next few weeks by keeping our heads bowed and surviving. And I’ll try to stop second guessing my mothering skills based on one teacher who I wonder if they even know jack about E.