Too Cool for School: My Baby Was Booted from Daycare

August 17, 2017 | add comment

Elliot, then eight months, had been in daycare for all of two months. Brian and I were under the impression our sweet baby was thriving. So it came as quite a blow when we learned the opposite. We were told he was overstimulated…stressed…pooping his pants. And that we should find other childcare arrangements. Permanently. I was blindsided by the news and shattered upon learning he was struggling.

Like any mom inclined to perfectionism, I blamed myself. Leaving Elliot in somebody else’s care was hard enough. When I realized he was far from flourishing, the ensuing anxiety was a bullet to the heart. And even though I continued smiling and cooing at him, he sensed I was upset. I couldn’t disguise it. In the days that followed, he protested naps and woke up fussing in the night. This led to even more mom guilt. I knew it was temporary, but it felt eternal.

When I grew tired of blaming myself, I started blaming everyone else. My mind raced months and years ahead. What if Elliot doesn’t like grade school? What if the teachers give up on him? How will he ever become POTUS now?! Nobody was protected from my scorn, not even the toddlers at daycare. Why did they have to be so shouty and unpredictable? Why were the other babies such babies? Why did the childcare providers say nothing until they found the situation insurmountable? Maybe everyone, even the daycare dog (that b*tch…literally), should’ve tried just a little harder.

I found a large saucepan and headed to the freezer. I filled the pot with vanilla ice cream then piled on toppings — almond butter, smashed pretzels, crumbled up chocolate chip cookies. Hell, why not add potato chips. I stole a bib from my baby and spoon-fed myself with a ladle. I didn’t skimp. Didn’t question. Didn’t share it with Brian. And I’m only slightly exaggerating.

My mind was still reeling as I wiped ice cream from my brow. It was time to stop dwelling on this. I considered going for a run. Or going to a bar. Or running to a bar. Instead, I grabbed my laptop and started writing. I wrote a nasty email to the daycare owner, telling her how unprofessional and unfair her actions were. How I should’ve known they were bad news the time I picked up Elliot and found him “napping” in the back room, crying and furious, with a leaky diaper. I did not hit send on that email. Instead, I revised it until it took on a diplomatic tone, honest and as charitable as I could muster. With each word, I let go of the anxiety, the hurt, the subtle desire to cake the daycare lawn in dirty diapers.

Three months have passed since the day I walked out of there stunned, choking back tears. But looking back, I am glad Elliot got the boot. He has a different way of looking at the world. Sure, he may be sensitive. He may dislike toddlers playing peekaboo in his face. He may feel more deeply than most. GOOD. FOR. HIM. He’s tuned into his surroundings and is damn observant. This morning I looked him in the eyes and said, “Mommy wouldn’t change a thing.” And isn’t that the best feeling in the world?

I channeled this newfound bliss into a dance party with Elliot. Rather than defaulting to Caspar Babypants or, worse, The Wiggles, I put on something with moxie — “He’s a Rebel” by The Crystals. “When he holds my hand, I’m so proud. ’Cause he’s not just one of the crowd. My baby’s always the one to try the things they’ve never done.” Preach.

After weeks of feeling guilty and anxious and angry, I knew there was only one way out from here — forward. Elliot’s track record has its first hiccup. There will be many, many more. They may scare me, they may infuriate me. In time, they may very well amuse me. I’m already laughing about the situation, even though our dog Lemmy tried humping half the nannies we interviewed.

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