#209 In which our hero gets to the bottom of who is hitting his eldest, and why.
Coming home from daycare yesterday, Lily and I had this conversation:
LILY: Miss Angie* hit me.The Miss Angie in question is a worker at the daycare. She’s always been great with our girls; and we’ve actually had her over to the house a couple times to babysit. In fact, we had talked to her about babysitting tonight.
ME: What? Miss Angie hit you?
LILY: Yeah, she hit me.
ME: Where did she hit you?
LILY: On the hand.
ME: Why did Miss Angie hit you?
LILY: Because I wouldn’t go to sleep.
ME: How did she hit you, honey?
LILY: Like this (in the rearview mirror I can see Lily making hand-slapping motions).
ME: Lily, is this for real, or for pretend?
LILY: For real.
ME: And did it hurt you?
LILY: Yeah, it hurt me.
ME: Did it just hurt your feelings?
LILY: No, it hurt my skin.
* Not her real name. Don’t sue, please.
Now, Lily has a very active imagination, and has in the past accused schoolmates of doing or saying things we know for a fact aren’t true.
But Lily isn’t a liar, we can generally tell when she’s telling tales. And the exchange above didn’t sound like a made-up story. Needless to say, I was more than a little alarmed at the notion that one of my daughter’s care providers hit her.
So I called the owner of the daycare, Karen. We’ve known Karen for a long time … I first sat down and talked to her about daycare while The Scientist was still pregnant with Lily. So about four years now. When we started Karen was running her daycare out of her house, by herself; now she’s in a facility with a staff of eight. I told her what Lily said, and asked if she knew anything about it. She didn’t, and Miss Angie had already ended her shift. But Karen said she’d call her at home and get back to us.
When The Scientist got home I had Lily tell her the same story, and it was unchanged (another sign that I didn’t think she was making it up). We were both upset by this.
The thing is, we’re not overprotective parents. We let our kids fall and scrape their knees (or worse) on their own.
We hope that we’re raising them to be strong and independent. But there’s no escaping the urge to protect them. To make sure they’re safe. And there’s also no escaping the reality of our situation, which is that both my wife and I have to work to live the kind of life we want. So we put our children into the safekeeping of several strangers five days out of the week. For those eight hours a day we could either fret helplessly, or trust that these people are going to keep our kids safe for us. By and large, we do trust them. Our kids always have returned to us in one piece.
But yesterday threw everything into a tizzy for a moment. The fear that we had left our kids with people we shouldn’t have came crushing down. You read stories all the time about daycare abuse… could that be happening here, to our little girls? I mean, neither of our kids were coming home with bruises, but what level of smacking toddlers around is acceptable? The Scientist and I tried to think of a scenario in which it would be okay for a daycare provider to hit our kid… none came to mind.
But, as it turned out, there was an explanation. Apparently, right around nap time yesterday, one of the little boys peed on the floor. Miss Angie grabbed some paper towels to clean it up. Lily and one of her little friends wanted to “help” clean up, and both grabbed for the urine-soaked paper towels on the floor. According to Karen, Miss Angie “quickly moved their hands away,” but I suspect (based on Lily’s story) that she smacked them away. Not to hurt Lily or her friend, but probably just as a reaction, Hey! Get away from that!
And I’m okay with that. Lily, naturally, didn’t mention the pee on the floor part, but rather made it sound like she was being punished for not taking a nap. We had asked Lily if she cried when Miss Angie hit her, and she said yes… but it sounded a little sketchy. Like Lily was making up that part. And Karen tells me that she was there shortly after the “hitting incident” and Lily didn’t cry. I believe her.
So, drama over. But it was a frank reminder of how fragile our arrangement is… how our kids are out of our sight for a third of the day, nearly every day, and how we can’t protect them during this time. How bad things could happen, and we wouldn’t be there to shield them. How precious those little red-headed moppets are.
I just hope that next time Lily shares an alarming story like this, that the explanation will be as reassuring.