“Everyone, including members of the public and professionals who work closely with children, is required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. If you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection, you must report it to a children’s aid society (CAS).” This is what the Ministry of Children and Youth Services website says.
I guess that’s good. What puzzles me, however, is that we, the parents are to be scrutinized and reported by any and everybody out there who might suspect that we are neglecting or abusing our children. But on the other hand, our government leaves ample room for people who couldn’t care less about children, to open licensed home child care centres.
Today, I want to share the story of my first attempt at putting my 6-month old in a home childcare establishment. I have certainly heard of different issues with daycare centres; some I hear are too strict, others too permissive, or too expensive, and the list goes on. What I didn’t expect to come across, however, is a licensed childcare centre that is flat out negligent and reckless.
When I first met her, I thought ‘what a pretty name!’! She told me it meant “the lucky one” in Somali. It definitely deserved to be on the list of contenders if I had a daughter one day. As we chatted on, she didn’t strike me like the typical daycare educator… but hey, this is my first time searching for daycare so, t’s not like I’m an expert in the matter! Plus, in Toronto, finding a daycare for a 6 month-old is nearly as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack, so not too many choices out there.
I also found that she seemed sort of set in her ways; but that was to be expected – she’s already a grandmother, and she’d been doing this for 12 years. Plus, all I really wanted was someone who would care for him, play and laugh a little with him while I got some work done. So I decided I was going to choose my battles. I’d be very specific on some important elements and if she could respect those, I’d let her do the rest as she saw fit. This was just temporary.
I felt relieved. Finally a solution that would help me focus on my work, my course and my upcoming meetings for the next month or so. This also meant that I wouldn’t have to try yet another immature babysitter who only hears half of my instructions because she’s checking out her friends on Instagram. Or one who will accidentally drop peanuts in the baby’s sheets… I can only go up from here, right? So after careful consideration, I made the decision to entrust Ayan with my life’s MVP, my reason for being, my EVERYTHING.
Drop off: 11:00AM – We went over all the details of his routine; feeding, napping, etc. I said I would bring a cheque for the payment that evening and she insisted that it was okay, I could bring it anytime. How understanding!
Pick-up: 5:15PM. Little Bethany (3 years old) was playing with him on the floor. They seemed to be having fun. She stood up to go grab a toy and Makai didn’t like it. Suddenly Ayan jumped in and said to Bethany “Don’t leave him alone! You see!? He’s going to cry now!”
Iish! What was that?? Village style daycare? The 3-year-old has to play her part in entertaining the 6-month old. Slightly annoyed, I decided to take note and keep watching for the next few days, maybe just a cultural difference there. Okay, time to go! I asked her where his hat and sweater were. To my surprise, she said I hadn’t left them with her. Because I don’t trust my memory much lately, I had a moment of doubt. But frankly, why would I drop off my lil’ guy somewhere and leave with his hat and sweater!? Sounds like nonsense. And nonsense doesn’t sound like me. Forgetfulness, maybe. Thankfully, I always have extras so that was that and off we went.
While her sweater & hat story seemed fishy, I still checked everywhere and they were not at home!
Drop off: 11:00 AM – The mystery was finally solved. She had carefully folded and placed his hat and sweater in his bin. Hm… No humility to admit that she had found them though. But I chose to overlook and focus on the brighter side. At least, things didn’t disappear mysteriously. Now I could go on with my business without a worry. But before I left, she asked me, “did you bring the cheque?” Is my mind playing me tricks, or she told me just yesterday that there was no rush? But I remembered what my mother used to tell me “Good accounts make good friends”, so since I still couldn’t find my cheques, I said I would give her a money order by end of day. I also informed her that Makai had had his last bottle at 9:30AM and he’d probably be hungry soon.
Pick-up: 5:30PM – Little Bethany opened the door this time. And within seconds, I felt like a husband coming home to a resentful stay-at-home mom who never really wanted children. The barely disguised whining began. “Today Makai cry cry cry. I don’t know. Maybe he miss his mom. He cry too much! And he don’t sleep. Babies his age they need sleep you know! To grow! He slept only 15 minutes, 20 minutes, like that! I found a pacifier in his bag, I gave it to him, you have to teach him to use the pacifier, it will help you too. Now I just change him, he just had a poo. Does it smell like poo here?”
WOW! I don’t think I need to comment, here; you get the picture. I glanced at Makai and saw the big smile on his face. He didn’t care about all this, he was just happy to see mommy. But before we headed out I wanted to go through the usual questions. Did he feed okay? did he spit up a lot? She said he fed okay, and not spitting up. So why was she giving me only one dirty half full bottle? Did she mean to tell me that from 11:00am to 5:30pm, he only drank 75ml? “I keep trying and he refused but he ate cereal very well.” she said. I know my little guy can refuse to feed sometimes especially when we’re travelling – maybe this is his protest because mommy is leaving him alone with strangers! We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I made the payment and we left.
Mama bear unleashed. We got out of there and never came back. I should have trusted my gut feeling.
Drop off: 8:30AM – This time I reinforced that she had to keep trying if he refused to feed. He should have at least 150ml every 4 hours. She said no problem. I left, but as I hopped on the subway, I realized that I was feeling sort of uneasy. Was this arrangement really going to work out for the next few weeks? We’ll see, but meanwhile, I had to buy a new phone as my phone had crashed. If anything were to happen, I needed to be reachable.
Pick-up: 4:30pm – I surprised myself. My usually fashionably late self arrived early this time. Someone buzzed me in. As I got closer to the door, I heard an intense, painful cry but I was still too far to recognize my baby. Suddenly, my heart was pounding and I found myself speed walking through the long hallway leading to her door. I reached for the door but it was locked. I thought, ‘if she doesn’t open the door right now, I AM GOING TO BREAK IT DOWN!’ Finally someone opened the door. I quickly scanned the room to see where he was. No questions asked, shoes on, I didn’t care that it was raining outside. I rushed in and picked him up. He was shaking and he continued to scream as he held onto me. “What happened?”, I asked. “I don’t know, I just changed him, he keep crying crying crying! I don’t know why when he start to cry he don’t stop. I just changed him because he pooped…” If she said one more thing, I feared the neighbours would have to physically remove my claws from her flesh.
Really, Ayan? Why would you open a daycare if you can’t stand a crying baby or if you are disgusted by the thought of changing diapers, or if you can’t follow basic feeding instructions? And can you explain the soreness and redness in his diaper area? Did you wipe so hard that you made him bleed? Did you keep him in the same diaper until the doorbell rang? Either way, this is called NEGLECT! Come to think of it, who were the 3 school aged children who were sitting in the play area when I arrived? Why are they different from the ones I saw the day before? How many children do you ACTUALLY watch in this daycare? Last time I checked you were only allowed 5 and you had Bethany, her two brothers in the after school program and Makai. How easy is it to open a home childcare business?
Anyway, no work is worth letting this happen. I should have trusted my gut feeling. I am done with this daycare. As a matter of fact, soon enough, you will be too.