Friday, February 4, 2011

The Daycare

Before I get into what I've been thinking about today, of course I must talk about the kittens. We're giving them another medication now. Oh yes. One or both has a parasite and so they need a week of meds via syringe. Two syringes each, actually. What could be better for trust building than holding up your new kittens by the scruff and forcing nasty liquid down their throats?

We do this at meal time, which I make them wait for so they'll be plenty hungry and won't run off while there's still food. *Sigh* But what else can we do? But I'm super glad we got them, because maybe another adoptive owner wouldn't be so concerned about health or so diligent in their care.

Sprinkles started cuddling my legs last night and Beatrice is no longer running from me and lets me hold her a little. So things are looking up.

Now about my topic of interest today. I've been working on a lot of educational videos and today I was doing one that made me think about this daycare I went to. This place left a bad impression on me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was mostly a very useful life experience. I only stayed there a year or two too long. And when objectively considering the facilities, I can understand now why my mom kept us there so long.

I started going to this place when I was 3. It was right beside my school (Yes, I entered kindergarten at 3. December birthday and such.) and so I'd get dropped off, walk there in the afternoon and then return after school. It was a structured place with about 20 kids, two age grouped rooms and about four staff, including a cook.

It used to be an old school. The principal's office was turned into a kitchen, the handicap bathroom turned into a unisex bathroom where the small children kept their toothbrushes and facecloths, the girl's one-toilet closet became unisex and the boy's bathroom was kept for older boys because of the urinals. The room closest to the entrance was for the kids in grade one and up, and the second room near the exit was for kindergartners and younger.

Each room had a sink, the Big Kids room was also an office of sorts, a couple long folding tables, two large hollow cubes, board games, some books, a black board, paper and markers and gimp and other such arty materials.

The Little Kids room was more exciting. In front was a low shelf of monthly rotating toys, and a collection of blocks. To the back right was the kitchen with costumes, to your left of the entrance was a corner with a felt wall screen and books, and in the far diagonal corner was the sink and crafting station. There were four or five tables with chairs for lunch and snacks.

Outside was a small fenced-in playground and outside the fence was a small barn of trikes, balls, shovels and pails, wagons and other things. Behind the playground was a basketball court. To the left of the building was a baseball diamond.

This was a very stringent place. Everyone knew the rules. The adults told them to you, but mostly the other kids made sure you remembered. One child saying "yes" and forgetting to say "Yes, please" would hold up everyone else getting their lunch. The staff would stand there and keep asking, "Yes, what?" and the other kids would hiss, "Please! Say 'please'!"

Every kid had to have their own bottle of sunscreen. So in the summer it would take 10 minutes for everyone to get slathered, older kids helping younger kids to get everyone moving. We were a 10-minute walk through a long field to a campground, which was owned by the parents of a staff member. So the Big Kids would walk to the campground's pool and swim for free. That pool is where the older kids taught me how to swim.

Behind the building there were raspberry patches. So the Big Kids would also harvest several plastic margarine containers full of berries and bring them back for everyone.

All of the girls made jewellery out of the gimp and threads and sold them at the school and brought the money back to the daycare and pooled it together. The owner used the money to buy us more crafts. The big cheese of this daycare, being a hardass, decided that since none of the boys helped make or sell, this special box of crafts were only for the girls. The boys complained but still never got involved.

As I got older, I started standing out among the kids. I'm pretty sure I held the record for lengthiest attendance at this place. 3 years old till 10 1/2. I was in grade 6 when I was taken out. Again, December birthday. Mix in a single parent and being the oldest and that's how you wind up in daycare in grade 6. I kept things interesting as best I could. One day I gathered the Big Kid girls and we made a circus day where we put on a gymnastics and clown show and painted faces.

It was around grade 5 I started to resent it. My classmates were starting to take notice I went to daycare after school and I was embarrassed. The girls closest in age to me were in grade 2. I got to be the cool (in comparison) older kid with them, but it's a lot more fun being the younger party in that sort of friendship. I remember those girls to this day and have fond memories, but at the time I was willing to say adios so I could be more like my classmates.

By the time grade 6 rolled around, I was not just a Big Kid, I was The Big Kid. About four grade 1 girls wanted me to draw them a princess every day. So I would. Four original princesses, every day, five days a week, about 80 a month. Then I would read a book I'd have selected from the library. Then we'd have to go outside and I'd play with the grade 1 girls by pulling them around in a wagon. Around this time, even being a kid myself, I really started learning a lot about relating to children. For awhile younger kids were my main companions for several consecutive hours on a daily basis.

Before I turned 11, my mom pulled me out of the daycare and changed her hours so that we could take the bus and that when we got home we'd only be alone a half hour. She saved money on childcare and gas, and I gained my dignity.

For years I could only remember the bad things. I remembered how snotty I thought the staff could be, how they would sometimes squirt us with water guns in the summer, how they were hard and authoritarian about the rules, which lent no understand to individual circumstances. I remembered childish injustices, some of which I fought personally and came out victorious (The younger kids would let me speak for everyone).

Five years after the fact I was called to babysit a girl who was one of the princess group. She had saved my drawings until her dad had thrown them out. She had me draw new ones and told me none of her other princess group friends believed I was her babysitter. So I had to draw more princesses and sign autographs. I'll probably never be called upon again to give an autograph, now that I think of it.

When I was in grade 7, my school was 400 people large, and could only handle 200. Another school was built and half of us left. The daycare lost most of their clientele. I've seen it in the years since. The playground was torn down, the barn was gone. And maybe because I was just older, but it almost seemed to have gotten smaller. And sadder.

And that made me sad. Even though I fought for years to leave that place and never looked back, even though I no longer live in that city, I still feel a small sense of loss. I suppose it's just a desire for some continuity and that the things I experienced weren't a blip in time. Maybe because I still say "Yes please" and "No thank you" at the dinner table and it's because of the daycare. Maybe because I can to this day draw an original princess in under five minutes. Maybe because I know where my ease with children comes from.

Memory is a funny thing. Don't know why it took me so long to understand what that place did for me.


  1. This is heartwarming and very charmingly written. :)

  2. Really well done for the blog.these are so sweet and pretty!

    Kids Day Care