Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#279 In which our hero relates the events of The Great Daycare Debacle (part 3)

The new daycare was a storefront building. Actually, two storefronts with the dividing wall removed. The space had some nice advantages over the rooms at the church, notably better security and self-contained kitchen space. But, there were some rather big drawbacks, too.

Overall, the space was smaller. Half of the place had been a dentist’s office, and was still very compartmentalized. The other half of the space was essentially one huge room, which would serve as the infants and really young kid’s space. Also, the only outdoor space was a small, fenced-in section of asphalt. This was a huge bummer for the girls, especially after the huge yard and swings and climbing equipment of the church.

Since this was an emergency move, the entire half for the infants wasn’t ready. A big sheet of plywood blocked the entrance to that side. It was really cramped.

But, the girls still got to hang out with all their little friends all day, and still had their favorite teacher, so all was well.

For a time.

Then, Susan ran into money problems again. A significant amount of the kids in her daycare were lower income, and those families paid for daycare with the help of government vouchers. Which was actually great for Susan because, unlike a lot of the parents, the feds always paid tuition on time.

Well, since Susan had moved in and started operating the daycare before renovations were completed, that meant that she was no longer certified by the state. And while you can legally operate a daycare without state certification, there are consequences. The biggest one being that you are not allowed to receive vouchers. Susan found out the hard way that a big part of her venue stream was suddenly shut off at the tap.

Then, things just got weird.

Susan was apparently have troubles in her marriage. Which is none of my business. But it was made my business when her husband emailed a copy of an IM chat to all of the parents in the daycare. In this chat Susan was flirting (rather innocently, IMO) with some other man.

A month or so after that, Susan’s husband called The Scientist at home. He told her that Susan had left him, and that she was now living with another man. And this man had a criminal record. He provided his name and birthday and invited us to look up his record on the Internet.

Which we did, of course. It wasn’t a violent crime, but it still made us feel strange. The Scientist asked one of Susan’s kids (her kids were always with her at the center) about this guy, and she replied that he was fine, “as long as you give him his respect.” This unnerved me, and The Scientist, too.

We both knew that if Susan was living with this guy, he was going to be around the center and, by definition, around our kids. And we didn’t like that.

There was some other stuff happening at the same time, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the little stuff, but the end result was that we decided that it was time to pull the plug on Susan.

It certainly wasn’t an easy decision, especially considering that we had been with her for more than four years and our kids loved it there. But we worried that things were only going to get worse, and perhaps even get to the point where unsafe things were happening.

As it happened, The Scientist and the girls were out of town for a week visiting the in-laws when all this came to a head. The Scientist and I hashed everything out over the phone. I had some time off, so I took it and started to look for a new daycare. Thankfully, there are plenty to choose from in our area.

I found one (more on that later), I signed papers, and it was a done deal. The girls would be starting in this new place the Monday after they returned from their trip.

All that was left was to tell Susan.

I wasn’t looking forward to it. I suspected that she would feel betrayed. Which, I decided, was fine… she could feel however the hell she wanted, because I no longer felt like my kids were in a safe environment, and that was that. It was good that my wife was out of town and I handled the “break up.” The Scientist probably would have apologized, and over-explained and most likely cry. In contrast, I went in, pulled Susan aside, and told her that we were leaving the daycare.

I told her that there was just too much drama around her. Between her husband calling us, her new living arrangements and some other things, we were done. I told her that we weren’t mad at her, but we couldn’t stay. There was no drama in this moment, just me telling her the way it was going to be. I collected the extra clothes the girls had there and their medical records, and was gone.

Meanwhile, The Scientist did her best to prepare the girls for the change that was coming on Monday.

To be continued.




#278 In which our hero relates the events of The Great Daycare Debacle (part 2)

I’m not always as quick on my feet as I’d like, but if you give me the chance to prepare some remarks in advance, I think I can lay down a pretty good argument. So I spent some time putting my thoughts together, and I thought I had a pretty good set of points in favor of the day care moving into the church. They were, in order of importance:
  1. Much-needed income
  2. Lots of new people (i.e., potential members) coming to the church for the first time
  3. More diverse people coming to the church

The “debate” – if you want to call it that—was conduced pro/con/pro/con, with me speaking second.

I found the “con” arguments not very convincing, since they basically boiled down to “we don’t wanna.” One presenter tried to bolster his argument with numbers, basically trying to say that Susan wasn’t going to be paying enough compared to what other tenets paid. Which was absolutely ridiculous, considering that one of the other tenets was a kindergarten co-op which hadn’t had a rent increase in 15 YEARS.

All of this information was presented and we were told that the powers that be would discuss it and get back to us with a decision.

During this entire process The Scientist and I were encouraging Susan to NOT move into the church. I mean, the church was sending a clear signal that they (or, at least, a significant number of them) didn’t want her there… why go knowingly into a situation where the people are already biased against you? But Susan was determined.

Things drug on for weeks, and finally through whatever maneuvering needed to be done, Susan’s contract for two rooms in the church was approved.

As predicted, there were a lot of sour looks from the trustees. And, frankly, they continued to do whatever they could to screw Susan over. First, they made her pay rent that was considerably higher than what other renters were paying. They made her agree to clear the snow and ice by the side entrance herself. She was responsible for hauling trash out to the dumpsters. I found the entire thing rather un-Christian.

That said, Susan was far from the perfect tenant. You’d think that she would tread softly, being that she knew she wasn’t exactly being welcomed with open arms. But she didn’t. She moved in and made herself at home. She helped herself to room within the church’s kitchen, which wasn’t mentioned in the contract. She allowed the kids to run around in the gym, which wasn’t one of the rooms she contracted for. She basically took advantage of what little goodwill there might have been. Even those in the church who wanted her there started to give her sideways glances.

The Scientist and I both saw this, and cautioned her. But Susan is very much a “ask forgiveness, not permission” sort of person.

So, things were a little contentious at the new space. But, after a year or so, things pretty much settled down. I don’t know if the church saw that she wasn’t going to be as big a thorn in their sides as they thought, or maybe they just really started to like the new income.

Susan expanded at the church, renting two more rooms for a total of four. She and the church came to an agreement about using the kitchen and the gym. Honestly, things were pretty good for a time.

Now, The Scientist and I still had qualms about certain things. We were both on her board of directors, but were rarely informed of any significant changes. Staff turnover was higher than we would like. Some of the women who worked there seemed a little lazy. EVERYONE who worked there (including Susan) were on their cell phones ALL THE TIME.

But, we never felt like our children were in any danger, and Susan was pretty aggressive about introducing a real curriculum. Our children (Macey had been born by this time and was at the center) were learning things… it wasn’t just a babysitting service.

But, the wheels really came off a couple years later.

Susan had always wanted her own building. She wanted a space were she wouldn’t have to deal with so many restrictions and, I suspect, so many sour faces. One day she informed The Scientist and I that she had found a place, and was moving forward with plans to open a second center.

I was really annoyed with this. As a board member (The Scientist was the President of the Board, no less), she should have consulted with us first. But by the time we were brought into the loop she had already signed a contract.

My wife had more important concerns, namely, could Susan afford to open a second center? We weren’t privy to her financials, but even though I’m sure she made a profit, she wasn’t raking in the dough by any means. And the space she had put money down on needed significant modifications. In fact, other than the lobby, the entire space had to be gutted and rebuilt from scratch.

But, Susan assured us that she had run the numbers and it was going to work out. She could maintain the current center in the church, and open the new one at the same time.

Somehow the church got wind of this new center, and started asking Susan if she was leaving. No, no, she told them, I’m opening a second location, not leaving the first.

Then, a series of events occurred that didn’t surprise The Scientist or I at all. The construction of the new center was more expensive than anticipated, and took longer than planned. Susan began to run out of money, and became late in paying her rent to the church.

The church—never happy with having her there in the first place, remember—saw this as an excellent opportunity to drive her out (this is only my opinion, of course… but events really seemed to support it).

They demanded the rent in full, even after Susan made it clear that she didn’t have it. One evening (she was already three months late at this point) members of the trustees approached her and demanded she write a check for a partial amount on the spot. She did. At this point Susan’s story and the church’s story diverge: Susan claims that she told them right then and there that there wasn’t enough money in the account to cover the check, but if they wanted one, by God she’d write one. The church claims that she never said anything about insignificant funds. Sadly, I believe the church.

After the check bounced things really came to a head. The church changed the locks on her, and said she couldn’t get back in until she paid in full. They did let her go in and retrieve some of her stuff and pack it over to the new site, but locked her out again (in the pouring rain) before she got everything, screaming at her the entire time.

At this point Susan decided to just go ahead and dump the church and open up in the new space, even though it wasn’t finished. Frankly, I think this was her plan all along: to string along the church until the construction in the new place was done, then jump ship. Even though she swore she never intended to leave.

The screaming/moving/raining incident happened on a Friday, and the next Monday we took the kids to the new place.

To be continued.




#277 In which our hero relates the events of The Great Daycare Debacle (part 1)

Daycare was one of the biggest challenges The Scientist and I had to address early on in the child rearing process. I mean, not just us, most all working parents, but I don’t really care about anyone else’s childcare problems. We don’t have any family in the area (none close enough to sit daily, at least) so we were going to need outside help.

We were told repeatedly that if we wanted quality care we needed to get daycare locked down before we even had children. So, when my wife was seven months pregnant or so, I started to look for daycare. This task fell to me since I was laid off at the time.

We started with the big centers, the KinderCare’s and Child Time’s and the like. We found them to be too expensive. So we started to look for in-home day care. The Scientist had a list of providers that had been vetted to some degree by her employer. So I started there.

Most wouldn’t even talk to me.

That is to say, when they learned that my child hadn’t been born yet, they wouldn’t. “Call back when she is three months old,” was a common sentiment. This, of course, flew in the face of what we had been told about getting everything lined up well in advance.

But a few showed interest, so I went to check them out. One lady had an incredibly small and cramped house, and another wasn’t home when I showed up at our pre-arranged time. Both of them didn’t make the cut.

I interviewed one woman who seemed nice, had a big house with a huge fenced-in back yard, and seemed loving. She was already watching a couple kids, and had room for one more in the fall (when The Scientist was expecting). I liked her, and told my wife that I thought this could work out.

The Scientist went to visit herself a couple days later, and agreed. “Susan” was our new daycare provider!

As new parents, we were freaked out by the prospect of having someone we didn’t really know that well mind our children for five to eight hours a day. But we both needed to work, so we didn’t really have much of a choice.

We liked Susan, and Lily seemed to be doing just fine. She met a bunch of other little kids and developed friendships. In fact, if nothing had changed, our kids might still be happily spending their days with Susan today.

But things did change.

Susan started to get more inquires about childcare than she could manage in her home--Ohio regulates this, and there’s a limit to the number of children who can be watched by one person. In fact, Susan already had an assistant who came in to help her out. It was getting really crowded. So Susan began to think big and branch out into a commercial space.

As coincidence would have it, the church that The Scientist and I attended had some empty rooms in its education wing. These were basically two classrooms that were only being used for storage and the occasional Sunday school. Susan got wind of this and inquired at the church about renting them.

And here’s where it all started to go downhill.

A little background first: this church is a small Methodist church (although the religion really has nothing to do with the rest of the story)--small, that is, in the number of parishioners; the building itself is rather huge (and ugly, it was constructed in the late 60s, I believe; it’s a big grey cinderblock square with an attached bell tower). It’s also an old congregation. The Scientist and I were welcomed with open arms as everyone was happy to see “young people” in the church again. My wife and I were both in our late 30s when we started going there.

We also quickly realized that everyone had their designated roles and didn’t take kindly to anyone trying to rock the boat. How much so we wouldn’t realize until later.

So, Susan sent a letter to the church outlining how she’d like to move her daycare into the empty classrooms. As is their typical process, this letter was shunted to the trustees for consideration.

The trustees, without comment, rejected the idea.

Now, something I didn’t mention was that the church is poor. With a dwindling congregation and a giant space to heat, the bills far surpassed the income. I was puzzled why the church would turn away anyone who came offering money.

Now, I have my theories. The obvious one is that since Susan is black, and the church congregation is wholly white, that someone in the church didn’t think it would be a good fit, to put it charitably. I hope this isn’t the real reason, and I don’t think this church is racist by nature… but I can’t rule out the idea, either.

Another theory (and probably the real reason) is that no-one wanted to deal with what they feared would be additional work to accommodate the day care. The kids would be using a side door that’s not usually used, so in the winter someone would have to shovel and ice that area of the sidewalk; there would be extra trash that would have to be hauled to the dumpsters in back; and, good heavens, can you imagine the noise of a bunch of kids running around in the hallways?

I don't know what made the trustees say no, but no they did say.

This not only puzzled me, it puzzled Susan, too. So much so that she went directly to the pastor for more information. Turns out, the pastor didn’t know anything about it. That is to say, none of the trustees bothered to tell her that a potential revenue source had come knocking, and they refused to open the door.

Now, I should also mention that the pastor at the time had only been at the church for a year or so, and was not very well liked. She had some new ideas that weren’t well received, and her sermons tended to ramble and go long.

But this pastor saw an opportunity to beef up the bottom line and probably--less opportunistically--thought she could reach out to the community, help foster quality child care in town, help a local small businesswoman, blah, blah, blah. But really, I suspect dollar signs were the first thing she saw. I know that’s what I would have felt in her position.

So the pastor pushed back on the trustees, and it got a little ugly. Like I said, everyone had well defined roles in the church, and the trustees didn’t take kindly to this new pastor trying to force something past them. There were meetings and heated words and finally the higher-ups got involved.

The church had a “charge conference,” in which a high-ranking official for the region came in and had a town hall-style discussion in which both sides, pro and con, had time to present their position.

Susan asked me to speak in favor of having the center move into the church.

To be continued.