A Day at the Family Center

I love going to the family center. Everyone looks at me with their eyes bugging out of their heads when I walk in with four or more kids. How am I going to defend all of theirs from all of mine?

I’m usually the one being ridiculous on the floor with ten kids around me because, you know what, it’s easier for me to play with kids. I’m beyond the toddler years, and I’m not always careful about what I say (who, ME?! Nooooo!). I feel like I’m insulting people when I say things that are too callous. Plus these are usually parents who don’t have their kids in day care so they’re not used to kids banging and bumping and being herded by someone like me, mean old Amy (as you will see soon enough).

What a bargain for me

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Another thing I’m beyond caring about is looking like a fool. So Miss M and I are playing with these AWESOME Duplo dinosaurs (gotta get me some, they probably don’t make them anymore) and she has a random cowboy guy riding one, so naturally I am the voice of the cowboy. “Fine mornin to ride my bronto, wouldn’t chya agree ma’am? Oh the dinos are goin’ in the house? Well what in tarnation? Whoever heard of a dino in the house?”

Miss M said it was time for them to go to sleep. “Well, nachrally!” I was having way too much fun with the cowboy voice. A dad was hovering over his daughter nearby, smiling benignly, like he was too close to a mental patient and had to keep everything calm.

We tucked the dinosaurs into some beds and as I said before, I am now being swarmed with kids. A boy has brought over a stuffed cow who also wants to go in the house, and now somebody else found a matching cow and brought it over because they heard me yell “A cow!? A cow in the house too? Cows don’t belong in the house, they live in the barn, dagnabbit! Oh well, I guess we’re just havin a big ol’ whoop-de-doo in the house today!”

While we’re playing dolls and dinos and the twins are doing puzzles, Tornado decides to do one of his favorite tricks. I call it, “empty the bookcase by throwing the books on the floor behind the shelf, which is where I think they really belong.” He does it at my house and it’s quite orderly and methodical, and honestly kind of interesting to watch, so I let him do it. He clearly gets something from it. I just don’t pick up the books until after he goes home.

I pull Miss D over next to me (she had just showed me the 7th puzzle she completed but I’m not allowed to touch it, I just have to look at it and go, “Awesome! You did the puzzle!” then she puts it back on the shelf). I ask her, “What is Tornado doing? That is so silly!” and she giggles.

Another boy wanders over and seems intrigued, but also a little bothered by Tornado’s project. I say, “I know, we have to put the books back. Isn’t that silly to put them behind the bookshelf?”

The boy and Miss D dive right in and start picking up the book mess, water-bucket-brigade style. I want Tornado to help as well so I put him behind the bookshelf, except he gets very mad at me and starts screaming at the top of his lungs. My mentor and friend Lynne runs the family center and she comes over quickly to see what the disturbance is. As a sort of explanation and apology to the parents who don’t like to see adults making kids cry, she says in a nice loud voice, “Oh Tornado, natural consequences are hard sometimes!”

I understand why Lynne is concerned about people’s response, but I’m not backing down. As I’ve said before there are reasons to why I do what I do, and I’m not going to go easy on a child because it makes someone else uncomfortable. My relationship with my day care children is between me, the child, and their parents, and no one else. Asking a child to help pick up a mess they’ve made is not tantamount to torture.

But we are in a public place where everyone is watching everyone else, and no one wants their kid to be the one who’s crying because that means they’re the bad parent in the group. I’m used to the sound of crying, and a lot of it (in fact, soon there will be a post about how crying is GOOD for children). It doesn’t scare or bother me.

So we struggle through the cleanup and when I say it’s done, Tornado turns to walk away. But because he’s not familiar with the space he slams his head directly into the radiator. Metal BAAAAANG! More loud and baleful crying! Immediate blue raised bump on the forehead!

Of course. Now the people who secretly thought I pinched him while getting him to clean up have the proof that I’m an abuser.

Well I’m happy to tell you what happened next. I sat down to comfort him, and he cried for a little while but then he settled down and…FELL ASLEEP ON MY LAP!!! I just looked at Lynne and said, “Well if he trusts me enough to fall alseep on me then I guess I’m doing an OK job.” (He did not knock himself out, if that’s what you’re thinking. He was just tired, that’s why he was standing at the door crying to go home earlier in the morning. Oh yeah there wasn’t a moment without embarrassment for me today!)

We laughed at the drool all over my shirt and then Lynne admired the setup in the doll house: the baby dino tucked into bed with the cowboy sitting on the chair watching over her. It was adorable. I thought of the scene from “True Grit” where Matt Damon sneaks up on Mattie. And then I thought of him talking with his swollen tongue and laughed out loud for no reason. But all the people there already thought I was weird so – oh well.

As we’re leaving we see Miss A and her mom picking up my other Miss M from preschool. They come over to say hi and while my back is turned for one second the Tornado plunks himself down in the front passenger seat of my car. There are, of course, about five other moms and dads waiting in line at the preschool while I bodily force Tornado into his car seat (with him kicking, screaming, and fighting me the entire time) and lock his belt before he can escape.

Ahhh, I love making a spectacle of myself in front of all the good parents of my town.

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