Note: This column appears in the 7/28 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/29 issue of the Peoria Times
We have to sign our daughter in and out of daycare using two mediums—the modern touch-screen technology of a computer, and the ancient method of a pen and gigantic, alphabetized binder. It is the latter that most concerns me on those days when I am responsible for picking her up.
For you see, it is the binder wherein her daycare includes all parental notifications, and 90-percent of the time that means an “incident report.” There was a time—it seems so long ago—when our daughter played the victim in these reports, and I, the sympathetic father, simply signed the paper, opting not to press charges, and later consoled the precious girl. Somewhere along the way, this precious girl learned to fend for herself, then to defend others—one report detailed how she bit a kid because he bit another kid; hers is a vigilante justice—then to defend her territory—she once bit a girl for having the audacity to sit next to her on the comically small couch—then to defend … her honor? Country? I’m not sure. At this point, she plays the role of Jack in this Lord of the Flies-type environment. The conch is hers, and if you try and take it, expect teeth marks. (The conch is a stuffed animal, by the way. Or, anything.)
This is, of course, very embarrassing to us, her parents. I hold my breath each time I flip to her page in the binder, and I have run out of exasperated expressions upon finding a report. It’s impossible not to feel as though these incidents are some reflection of our ability to parent, although it should be mentioned she no longer bites us, so there’s that. Most of our extended family feels a sense of pride that their granddaughter/niece/cousin takes no prisoners, but I am not sure the parents of her daycare co-inhabitants—I would call them “friends” but, ya’ know—feel similar pride.
The teachers and employees at daycare have done an admirable job of deflecting our shame. “It’s the age, don’t worry!” “My kid was the same way!” But they are paid to say such things. And even faux optimism could not penetrate the binder thickness last week.
As I walked in, the daycare worker at the front desk kindly greeted me, then playfully nodded her head and said our daughter’s name three times. “What happened?” I asked, deadpanned. “Oh nothing!” she said. Relieved, I paged through the binder, eventually reaching our daughter’s page. “Except that,” the worker said softly, wincing.
Three incident reports. Three. All biting. All starring our daughter as the aggressor, for offenses ranging from “standing too close” to “holding a toy.” Black Wednesday, as it will come to be known.
Bereft of any more indignation and frustration—part of our frustration is that our home discipline methods are not exactly matched in daycare—I stared blankly ahead for a few seconds, then regrouped, signed the papers as quickly as if I were closing on a house, and picked her up. As we walked back through the lobby, the workers wore exaggerated frowny faces, and one of them assured me that she had had “a little talk” with our daughter. “Yeah, I’m sure that worked,” I thought, as I smiled politely. The thought never occurred to me to reason with the girl who recently pooped in the bathtub.
People tell us not to worry. That this will pass. I hope so. In the meantime, it would help if they got rid of that big old binder. That thing bites, big time.