ABOUT ME

About me: My husband Chuck, our six-year-old Junior, our three-year-old Everette and I live in a town in Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite (aka my childhood hometown). My friends call me Nutjob, and they're right. In my husband's spare time he dresses up as a Viking and chases ghosts (and I'm the nutjob?). When I'm not busy working as a graphic designer, I lie in a ball in the corner.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I guess you could call frostbite and shrub lacerations dramatic



A pre-preschool and preschool opened up right next door to my office building. For a year I’ve watched it being constructed. Every time I imagined it completed, it had a golden hue and was blanketed by sparkly clouds and rainbows.

How ideal it would be to have a place for Junior to go a few days a week when Chuck gets a job, so we’re not relying solely on my mother. Or back-up if Chuck selfishly gets sick. Junior could make friends, sing songs and experience the toddler rite of passage: learning how to share.

So last week, Chuck and I went to the open house. The Director, Karen, dropped words I had never heard before. Words like “creative curriculum” and “dramatic play.” The center even imported a local grandma. “Without a mullet!” she promised.

By the time we were done, Chuck and I were so stuffed with fluffy kinder-speak I felt the need to stick my finger down my throat. Still, the sparkly clouds. Friends for Junior. Chuck and I agreed we would try a few hours each day this week to see how Junior acclimated.

Well, I’ve been to the land of the sparkly clouds, and I have one thing to say: zombies. The 20-year-old “teachers” are the biggest collection of apathetic, bored, disengaged zombies I’ve ever met. The first day, I thought Hmmm, maybe it’s just me. The third day, I tried rousing them with loud speech, like “I’M JUNIOR’S MOTHER! IT’S NICE TO SEE YOU ALL AGAIN! HELL-THE FUCK-O?”

By today, co-worker Judy was tired of listening to my incessant questions: Were my expectations too high? Was I overreacting because I’m a Junior zealot? Why isn’t parenting easier?

Judy suggested a stealth mission, to see if the teachers were more engaged when the parents weren’t around (because that’s so typical). When no one was looking, we escaped from work, snuck across the parking lot (again), climbed a shrub and looked in the window—in a snowstorm, I might add.

The teachers were sitting in the hallway, staring at the walls. The kids were roaming aimlessly. Even the imported grandma was zombied out! Granny, no! Junior was having a great time entertaining himself, but I was livid. Having someone neglect your child shouldn’t cost you money.

I went back to my office and called Karen the Director. She listened politely then explained that I must have observed “creative play” every time, which is uninterrupted, free play. She suggested I go back at a different time to observe “dramatic play” of dress-up and pretend.

“Would you like me to let them know when you’ll stop by?” she asked.

“Hah! And let you foil my plan to unsleuth your zombie workers? Never!”

Chuck had already picked up Junior, but Judy and I went back at three anyway. This time we managed the shrub better. We peeked in. The kids were staring vacantly at a boom box. I don’t expect anyone’s head to be up a child’s butt for seven hours a day but eye contact would be nice. Or that thing people do with their lips called smiling.

A few years ago, I might have let this go. But this place is brand new and next to my office. I can walk over and have lunch with Junior. He can ride to work with me. Plus, despite the zombie teachers, he loves it.

I want this to work for me, and I don’t give a shit if that means I have to write Joyce a letter a day.



I’m going to stop in every chance I get. I’m going to keep a written log. I'm going to be “that mom”—the one who’s like a burr in their asses. I’m not going to let a couple of bubble-brains—who clearly don’t enjoy children—ruin this just because the other parents are willing to accept mediocrity.

I am going to be someone who gets the hype she was promised. Vivacious granny and all! One for the people! Hip, hip, hooray!

(Oh God, please don’t check in next week when I write about how Junior’s back at home full-time with Chuck and there’s a restraining order again the “crazy shrub lady.” Ok?)

23 comments:

Jen said...

Finding a good pre pre school, or what we call daycare here, is difficult at best. Not that I am defending them in any way but they get paid peanuts (the "teachers" not the school) to engage many children. There are many jobs on this planet I never want to do but daycare teacher is at the top of the list. However, be their thorn in their side, pain in their ass and stick in their butt (that one isn't quiet right) do what you have to do because otherwise the place is perfect.

Mad Woman said...

It's so hard to find a good place, but they are out there. It would piss me off though, if I was paying for a place and was seeing stuff like that, I'd do the same...become a huge PITA!

Mrsbear said...

Is there a learning curve for newly opened daycare centers? Maybe they just haven't found their preschool groove? They're relying on bright colors and early learning terminology to distract you from their zombie curriculum. If you're paying for it, you should be satisfied, and not compelled to sneak looks from behind shrubbery. I think you could get arrested for that.

Pricilla said...

What's in the water? Maybe I can give it to the roosters and they will stop attacking me...

Jenni said...

No, we've been doing preschool visits too, and even during free play, the teachers should be engaged - encouraging the kids, helping them share, things like that.

Most of the places we've gone, free play takes up probably half of the three hours, but it is broken up. Like, AM free play/art project; snack; circle time; PM free play.

It seems to me like you are pretty clear on your expectations - that Junior become socialized with other toddlers, that he learn to share - and I don't think that's too much to expect.

Lindy said...

I was "that Mom" too. E came home crying one day b/c another kid said she was going to kill her and when we called the teacher on it, she said she "didn't think it was that big of a deal."

HELLO!?!?

Needless to say, we were the reason the Handbook was changed.

It's your kid. You are paying for it. You have every RIGHT and responsibility to make sure he gets what he needs out of it!

Well done, Stalker Mom. :)

Casy Schweickart said...

All the daycares around here are the same way. We were really lucky to find a private sitter that is sweet and takes wonderful care of Em. I feel your pain though. If they are supposed to be a "school" then they need to hire professionals that will pay attention to the kids and not sit and text on their phones all day.

Magpie said...

I love that you're peering in the windows.
That kind of apathy would make me insane too. Keep poking them. Is it a one-off place, or part of a chain? Profit or not-for-profit?

Sara said...

I just posted about why we didn't send James to preschool. Apathetic teachers didn't even occur to me. Hope you get some changes made. I'd be that stalker mom too.

Buggys said...

I am so thankful that I never had to send my kids to daycare. Though my Buggy girl did go to pre-school and that was fabulous. She started at age 3 and did 1/2 days 3 times a week. It was run like a real school though. Keep at it!

Keely said...

Yes, absolutely you should be "that" Mom. I don't know that you'll get the existing zombies to improve, though. They may be obliged to replace them with "new and improved" zombies.

Preschool/Daycare shouldn't just be somewhere to stash your kid. That's what closets are for. Socialization and interaction aren't really high expectations, the place should definitely be able to meet them.

rachel... said...

That sucks! Even though this one is super close and convenient, I think I'd look for another pre-school. Or just stash Junior under your desk at work.

Loving Wife, Working Mom said...

For the very first day care we enrolled our son in, they had webcams in the classrooms. More than once my boss caught me checking on the kid. She didn't care. She would actually ask me to point him out and "tell" on the other kids if something happened. :)

Mrs. C. said...

I applied for a job at one of those preschool centers right out of graduate school, because they needed a "kindergarten teacher". They interviewed me, told me all about their cognitive development, creative interpretation, this and that. Now, I was fresh out of school with Master's degree and would have been glad to tackle the job with enthusiasm. However, it became clear that my main job was to provide child care for kids either going to or coming from a "real" kindergarten class at public school, and as such I would make just a bit more than a regular day-care provider, degree or not. And oh yes, the kids needed their "A game" for the REAL school so I shouldn't expect too terribly much from them. After all that, the director turned me down but then called me back about a week later to say that the first person they'd offered to changed her mind and they would LOVE to have me join their staff. I passed. I wanted to TEACH, not oversee Jonestown.

When centers aren't willing to try to get good staff, and pay good staff, they get indifferent staff. And parents should NOT have to pay for someone who is just going throught the motions.

Lea said...

I don't blame you a bit. Day cares are so hard to rifle through.

I gave you an award at http://shhmommaswriting.blogspot.com/2010/01/thank-you-for-my-first-award.html.

The Mommyologist said...

This was hilarious! I can't stand those 20 something zombie types!!

The Mother said...

And people actually question why my kids don't go to public school.

kyooty said...

Great spy work! see you're being involved. Sooooo not tv? what's wrong with them?

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dagmar said...

My son is in a preschool he loves, thank goodness. He loves going there, makes something crafty every day, learns about Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. The other day he came home with a painted groundhog and his "shadow". So cute. Guess we are lucky...

Go with your gut. You know when something isn't right there...

BTW, I adore your tweets :)

Dagmar
Dagmar's momsense

ShellyInOz said...

Good for you for not accepting mediocrity.

Enjoyed reading the post though, especially the note.

blognut said...

LOL! I'd be a crazy shrub-lady, too.

Seriously, trustworthy child care is a big step and you're right to demand they do it well.

SLColman said...

Oddly enough I am on the board for the Preschool that we are starting here in Nowhereville. Actually I am going to be the director... What you are talking about is one of the biggest fears that I have. I do not want people to be worried that they are paying for nothing. Needless to say that I am fighting for real curriculum to be in place! Good luck in getting things done!!