Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Revisiting the Daycare Issue

Last week there was a story in my hometown paper about a local daycare worker who assaulted a 2 year old boy. Apparently, this girl was dealing with a slightly troublesome child and felt the need to respond in an aggressive manner. When I viewed the story online, it came with an attached video, the raw footage catching the daycare worker in the act. It's so annoying to me that we are questioned time and again why we don't want to put our children in daycare when things like this happen. And lets not even try to say that this stuff doesn't happen in every daycare and it was an isolated incident in the grand scheme of daycare life. Yeah, this one might be the only one caught on tape so far but I know for a fact that it does happen more often than not. I've SEEN it happen with my own eyes and I, too, have been in that position- a young daycare worker trying to handle a troublesome child.

I passed this story around in an email with the link to the article and video. One of my friends who happens to work at a daycare challenged my comment about this being "yet another reason why our kids will never be in daycare." As I thought about the issue and what I really meant by saying that, I tried to articulate to her my motives for such a comment. To me, it isn't just about the fact that some daycare worker behaved improperly toward a child that was not hers. There are several underlying issues which move to the heart of one of the main reasons why we don't put our kids in daycare. Speaking from my experience working in a daycare when I was about 20 years old with many other even younger workers, for the most part the workers don't seem to have much invested in their job or the children. A paycheck is their motivator. Most aren't really trained to handle children in general, let alone "troublesome" children.

I remember on several occasions when I was the one being physically assaulted by one or more of the children in the classroom I helped in. One time, we had to evacuate all of the children from the room because one of our... lets say more spirited children was going crazy, throwing large objects, hurting other kids, etc. And it was just me and this girl 2 years younger than me, trying to figure out what to do. We weren't trained to deal with that sort of thing.

And I remember the reasons why I quit working there. Aside from the fact that the daycare was run by a totally inept person, there were several things that just didn't sit well with me. I remember coming in at 3 o'clock and waiting for my kids to get there. I helped out mostly in the school-age room so we got them when school let out. They were supposed to get snack but there were no snack foods left in the kitchen. Someone had forgotten to order more. A lot of the time, we were short-staffed or the place took on more kids than were allowed and the ratio of teacher to students was imbalanced which is illegal. Not to mention the fact that most of the time, the kids who liked to constantly be out of control were hardly ever dealt with in a manner that made things better.

The deciding factor for me was an incident that happened between me and one of the kids. In the later part of the evening when all but a few of the kids had been picked up, I was trying to get the room back in order and the kids were supposed to be helping. One girl refused to do what she was asked and was even being mean to the other kids and doing things to keep them from doing what they were asked to do. She started yelling at me and I sat down next to her and tried to calmly tell her to stop what she was doing. She was being disrespectful and not listening to me and started tearing up paper and drawing all over things. When she wouldn't give me her attention, I touched her arm to stop her from continuing to tear up the paper and she jerked it away from me. Then she started crying and telling me I jerked her arm. When her mom came, she told her I jerked her arm even though it was she that jerked her own arm and things went downhill from there. I was suspended from work until they could investigate further and at that point, I just put my two-week's in. It wasn't worth it.

I can say without a doubt that I was not cut out for a job at a daycare center at that point in my life. And even at this point, even though I have 3 children of my own and a lot more experience, I don't think I would be able to handle it. I think it takes a certain kind of person to adequately handle someone else's children day in and day out as they go through all of the things a child goes through as they grow up.. The emotions, the stress, the home and school life, all of that are factors in how a child behaves on a daily basis. Parents are naturally given the foundation to learn how to love their children and deal with them through that love. It's hard enough to change and grow as a parent in order to not fail our children when it comes to caring for them properly through their naturally unpredictable behavior, moods and emotions. I just don't think that most teenagers or young adults working in a daycare, especially if they don't have children of their own, are capable of practicing the same type of behavior needed to take on the unpredictability of children that are not theirs.

And this is one of my biggest reasons my children will never be in a daycare. I just think about how hard it is for me, even though I have the strength of my love for my children behind me, to be the kind of person that can go through each day with them and care for them the way they deserve to be cared for, helping them work through their emotions, giving them the support and guidance they need. If I were here all day with children who weren't mine and even if I liked them and children in general but all that was keeping me here was a paycheck, I just don't think I could do it. There's something to be said for the way God set up the bonds between parents and their children and not even a daycare worker, and especially not a 20 year old making $7.50 an hour, can even come close to emulating that bond. The news story about that daycare worker assaulting a young boy just strengthens that thought and our decision even more.

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