Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Child: Handle with Care

My day started off on a bit of a sad note... As we were walking up to the place where I leave my daughter for Before-and-After-School Care, she asked me, "Who's at the door?" I looked up and there was, in fact, a lady, with a baby in a stroller, standing on the stoop and talking to the caregiver. This may not seem weird, but it was because I drop my daughter off about an hour before anyone else does.

Now, I'm not the nosey type, so I just stood at the bottom of the stairs, out of earshot, waiting for the conversation to end. At one point, the caregiver leaned out, gave the lady a quick hug, then indicated that I was waiting to drop off my daughter. The lady moved aside to let us pass and, as we did so, I noticed the lady was crying and I heard her say, "...daycare is starving him. I was just hoping you had a spot open..."

The next couple of minutes were filled with me getting my daughter in the door and talking to the caregiver about the pick-up and drop-off arrangements for the new school year. The whole time, the lady with the baby stood on the steps outside, sobbing. If I'd had a bit more time to think about it, I'd probably have been quite uncomfortable with the whole situation (I don't usually know how to deal with "emotional people") but, as it was, I had a bus to catch and was feeling just a little rushed. As I made my way back down the walk, I turned to give my daughter a wave good-bye and saw that the caregiver was inviting the crying lady inside.

Once on the bus, I had some time to reflect on what I had just witnessed. Obviously, this lady was having a very difficult time with her current child care solution, based on the "starving him" comment and her being desperate enough to knock on the door of a complete stranger at 6:30 in the morning just because there was an "Approved Child Care" sign in the front window. Although I've never been pushed to this point myself, the whole scene reminded me of the few times that I've had similar predicaments and how helpless I felt. I once picked my daughter up from daycare (she was an infant at the time) and was told by one of the staff, "You should take her to a doctor. She's had a fever all day." What?!? And I'm hearing about it now? At the end of the day? Needless to say, I completely lost it and my daughter was out of that daycare faster than you can blink. It's a horrible feeling when you find yourself without someone to watch your child so you can go off to work. Worse still is having to leave your child with someone, then spending the whole day wondering if they are okay.

When I was a young lad, things were different. Most families had one parent who worked and one who stayed home to take care of the kids. Mom was always there to see us off to school, to have lunch waiting for us, and to make us do our homework before we went out to play. Nowadays, though, it's almost impossible to raise kids on a single income. Sure, I manage well enough on my own with my daughter, but it's still the same thing: Every parent in our house has to go to work. In turn, that means the kids have to go with someone in the meantime... someone that can be trusted and counted on to take decent care of them and see to their basic needs.

I don't know what's going to happen with the crying lady and her little baby. I do know that the dayhome I'm using is pretty full. Of course, I also know that my daughter's caregiver is a woman with a big heart and an amazing reputation in the neighborhood. Hopefully, even if she can't help the lady out personally, she'll be able to point her in the direction of someone who can.
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