Monday, September 24, 2012

Day Care-Induced Mommy Rage

My phone rang at 10:30am: day care. My heart sinks when they call me during the day. Something is wrong. Immediately the assistant director says, "Hello, your son is perfectly fine." Me, aloud: "Okay." Me, silently: He's clearly not perfectly fine, or you wouldn't be calling me at 10:30am.

Long and short: Munch fell on the playground and scraped his "cheekbone." He was running and fell. She's looking at him now and he's not crying. It didn't bleed or break the skin. They put a little ice on it and he went back to playing. I confirmed his eye was fine. Oh yes, doesn't affect his eye at all.

So, I got through the work day with my anxiety level elevated and increasing as I imagined picking him up and trying to figure what his cheek will look like--is it a long line of a scratch like he sometimes does to himself when I neglect his nails a day too long? Or is it a "patchwork" scratch, like he got when he skinned his knee the first time?

When I pick him up, the room is chaotic because several parents have arrived at once. I immediately see the mark on Munch's face and they're right--it's not terrible. He is smiling and running for his bag as usual.

And, his mark is not nearly as horrific as the poor little girl whose mother is clutching her in the "circle time" area. This little girl has a massive what appears to be a gash-like mark vertically down her face from above her eye, over her eye, and onto her cheek. I would have FREAKED if I was her mother.

Okay. Details about Munch's "scratch" that I can assess now that I see him in person:

  • It is not on his cheekbone. There is a dime-size mark directly below his eye, on his orbital bone or whatever-the-hell.
  • There is another mark, this one a small dot of a purple bruise directly ABOVE his eye, below his eyebrow.
  • It likely did not bleed because this seems to be more of a bruise than a cut.
I can feel myself inwardly clenching. Apparently, the assistant director's powers of observation aren't up to snuff. Or, maybe she's not sure where the cheekbone is. I would not characterize this as a cheek injury; it is an eye injury (but, again, in comparison to the other kid, hardly worth noting). 

Then I turn my attention to the horribly named "incident report," where they list out a narrative of what happened and whether the kid was taken to the ER (obviously no) and the teacher signs and the parent signs. "CYA" if you will.

The incident report states that Munch attained this injury when he was sliding headfirst down the slide. 

Not running, tripped, and fell.

And, his teacher informs me, all the other teachers were "on the other side of the playground" and therefore he did this when no one was watching and apparently they were alerted when they heard him crying. 

So, to sum up: My 18-month-old son obtained a relatively innocuous eye-area injury when he, on his own and with no supervision, climbed to the top of about a 4- or 5-foot slide, went down head first, and presumably hit the ground with his face. 

Okay. Time to get out of there so I could RAGE on the phone to my husband.

I am not good at reacting "in the moment" to things like these. I absorb all the information, do not think of appropriate followup questions ("Why were all the other teachers on the other side of the playground? Are the kids often left to play unsupervised?"). I go home, stew, and plan my next day's conversation with the teacher or director. I obsess over this until I talk to someone in authority. 

And, I'm sure I'm known as "that" parent in the day care. I called immediately when I found a scratch on Munch when he was about 5 months old that he probably did himself, but how could I be sure?? When we discovered that we received another kid's bottle at the end of the day and that child happened to have a rare letter in her name in common with my son, I convinced myself that he had drunk her breastmilk, likely would be coming down with a communicable disease, and it was all day care's fault. Not that the bottle was put in the wrong bag. 

I question everything. 

However, I feel it's better to be "that parent" than the one who goes blindly along, not reacting to circumstances or her gut. When my gut says something is amiss, I listen, and I address it. Especially when my son is not old enough to tell me what actually happened, when he literally cannot speak for himself. I must speak for him. 

And these are the days that I rail and rage against the necessary evil in my life that is work, a paycheck, health insurance. I know that day care is beneficial for my son and I know he greatly enjoys his days there. But on days like these, when I have to say to myself, are these people truly watching him like I would? I hate it. 

I understand that he's a little boy and little boys will get all manner of bumps, cuts, and bruises. However, I could have gotten behind that argument when I thought he had been running along, stumbled as he is wont to do, and tripped. 

That is apparently not what happened. Someone wasn't watching him and they should have been. I understand that there will come a time when I take my eyes off him for a split second and there will suddenly be broken skin. I understand we all make mistakes.

But I entrust this most precious thing to these people and I expect that my 1-year-old will not be able to climb to the top of a freaking ladder and face-first plummet to the ground without SOMEONE having a clue until he cries out. 

And so, tigress that I am, I will stew and wait for the morning when my husband will talk to Munch's teacher at drop-off. And I will absorb what he learns then and take all my information to the director when I pick Munch up tomorrow afternoon.

And the beauty of this is: this is another "welcome to motherhood" moment. This is my life. At this writing, my mother-in-law is with her 29-year-old son who had an accident at work and needs to have surgery tomorrow. My mother reminds me of the time in 9th grade I was hit at school in the forehead by a softball and I was knocked out cold. No one at school called her, and she didn't know what happened til she saw the massive goose-egg on my forehead and rushed me to the ER. (I was fine, no concussion.)

These feelings induced by seeing our offspring damaged, in any way, will not go away as these tiny beings grow and age. This is life. This is motherhood. Seeing these marks will hurt more than if I'd banged my own eye. And all it feels like I can do is rage. And advocate until I'm hoarse.

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