Before I was 2 I had been bathed in cold water because I cried too much and caught pneumonia, had arrived with my mom to our home and found out the locks had been changed, and had gotten a horrible diaper rash that bled because my care taker, though she provided very little care, decided I was too much of a hassle to care for. I don’t remember any of this, and feel no resentment towards the people that were suppose to look after me while my mom worked, but the horror stories of how someone could have so little regard for a child stayed imprinted in my memory.
I listened to one story about how she was riding the bus, with me in her arms, tears streaming down her face. One of the instances I described above had just occurred. She didn’t know who was going to take care of me and less what she was going to do to make ends meet until she figured it out. One of the women that rode the bus with her frequently, noticed her crying and asked her what was wrong. After my mom explained the situation, the woman said she knew someone who watched children and that she might be able to watch me. Though the woman wasn’t really in the position to be able to watch another child, for some reason she said yes. After the first day she told my mom that her young son was so excited to be watching a baby girl and she was thrilled to watch me for as long as my mom needed. This woman eventually became my Godmother.
I understood when I was younger how much it meant to my mom to not have to worry that I was being mistreated so she could work to be able to feed us both. Now as a mother myself, and having had to go through our own sets of heartbreaks, I have a better understanding of how much my mom must have felt her heart split in pieces.
Less than 3 weeks ago I received news that the daycare I took my son to would be closing. I was distraught to say the least. I thought we were finally getting our footing, I had just got a new job that made our foundation more secure, we were getting used to our routine, I was finally done with classes. But with very little notice had gotten news that to me felt like a ton of bricks.
When we started going to the daycare that’s closing soon, my sons sleep schedule was so severely off, he had serious separation anxiety, was still not potty trained, and was struggling to communicate so he let out his frustration as most young toddlers do, hitting and biting. He had gone through 4 care provider changes already. He was only 18 months. But I spoke to the teachers and explained our situation, and to communicate with me freely about concerns. And the teachers he had were patient, they gave him a lot of love, and it got better. I was no longer afraid of getting a call saying “you have to pick up your son we’re not going to watch him anymore” as had happened twice before. They worked with me and they worked with my son.
Before we got the news about the center closing, he had a friend whom he anticipated the days she arrived, on most days he would give me a kiss and say goodbye Mom, communicated well in both languages, and demonstrated a lot more emotional maturity. I know it wasn’t just because he got older, it had a lot to do with who was with him everyday helping him grow.
And so when we got the news I worried, what changes were we going to start to see in his behavior? What regressions? When I was in classes part time and working full time, his separation anxiety worsened again, and so did his ability to control that 3 year old temper. Similar to how his sleep schedule went off kilter and his frustration grew from not being able to understand the teachers when we had moved back from Chicago.
You’re thinking, OK, but you can just find another daycare right? Yeah I can find someone to watch my son, but tell me about finding quality care AND nurturing, that’s a a different story. We’ve gone through a lot of changes with his daycare situation. And that doesn’t even begin to address the issue about how he’ll get to and from school, who will watch him before and after, and will his mind also be nurtured all the while.
I did find a place I feel comfortable placing my son in, it’s not a perfect solution, but I think it’s a solution where he’ll thrive versus a solution that just scrambles to put one foot in front of the other every day. And at least like other times when I get a weekend to figure things out, I had a few more weeks to prepare him, tell him all the good things about his new school, make sure that there’s no time left where he’s without care and find ways to make the transition smoother.
But that’s me, where I had options. My heart yearned for the staff that was without a job with very little notice, for parents in situations that would make it more difficult to find care, and for the children that would say goodbye to the teachers and friends they had gotten used to seeing every day.
Why am I writing this post. Two reasons.
Quality care for children shouldn’t be a luxury. A safe and consistent place that understands the needs of children shouldn’t only be available to children whose parent’s haven’t had to move, who have a family member(s) who can afford to stay at home and care for the children part time or full, or who can afford to pay upwards of $800 a month just for care. But that’s where we are.
And a more personal reason. I was hurt, that of the people I speak to regularly, just my sister and my mom offered a hug and an “I’m sorry”. It wasn’t that other people didn’t know what was going on, they knew. And I understand on a level that some people perhaps couldn’t grasp why this mattered to me. But I was hurt that when over a month ago I shared I was jumping into a new job, the congratulations poured in. But when I reached out to people saying hey this is weighing heavy on me, it was silence.
I felt a little bit the way I did when I moved back from Chicago, feeling like I had a burden on my shoulders, and people avoiding me like I had leprosy. And I understand this situation isn’t so severe. But it’s all the things that have lead up to here. The unreturned phone calls, the broken promises of “we have to catch up soon”, the invitation rsvps that don’t come, the complete sense of apathy for anything going on in my life and that of my son. So I’ve been pulling away from people again, trying to avoid those exasperated feelings by keeping myself busy since that’s my coping mechanism of choice, trying to focus on the future that centers on my son.
And in doing that I felt deeper kinship to the family members I noticed do the same things over the years. The mother whose work, social and personal life are her family because after a personal loss she saw how few people were there for her in her time of need, the woman who shows affection and glee outside to the world but whom in private struggles with depression from a lifetime of deceptions, and on and on.
Maybe it’s just my family that I noticed these patterns, maybe other families are better at picking friends that aren’t just there for you when you’re smiling but can offer a hug when you’re not.
And I admit I am not great at being a friend, I forget birthdays, one year I had a valentine friend and I sent the valentine late, worst offense is doing the same thing I’m upset of being done to me today, not been there when someone really needed me. I haven’t consistently been the friend that’s offering hugs to friends that need it.
But I recognized long ago I struggle with this. So I had been trying to figure out how to do better. I paid attention to the friends that have been there for me, and tried to strengthen that bond and be there through good and bad for them. But it’s hard to figure out how to be a good friend when the leading example is to pull away from everyone.
All this to say, I’m figuring it out still. My nature tells me to pull away from everyone, my research tells me that lonely people die sooner, and my heart tells me pulling away from everyone doesn’t make having no one to talk to any less harder. But I want to figure it out, because this not having friends thing is not an example I want to set for my son, and it’s not the life I want to lead.
I’ll keep you posted