Lessons I Learned from Daycare

As part of my unemployment journey this year, I worked at a job that I wouldn't have taken under normal circumstances. I was the 12-18 month toddler teacher at a daycare. I was in charge of 6-12 toddlers for 9 hours every day. Here are a few of the lessons I learned.

1. The training is laughable. If you're asking yourself, "How did Mary get a job at a daycare? She's never had any training," you are correct! I can't speak for every daycare, but they threw me to the wolves after one day of "training." The training consisted of videos that told me in several different ways that I shouldn't beat the children. It actually also told me that I should never "use a harsh or negative tone of voice with the children" HA. You try to sweetly coax a toddler down from sticking their finger in a socket while three others are climbing onto the table. As one of my coworkers said, "Honey, they look cute, but these things'll eat you alive." The training also told me to eat lunch "family style" with the toddlers. I quickly learned that if I followed that advice, I would never eat again. Watching a child take soggy chewed bread out of their mouth which they then feed to another child just makes you lose your appetite.

2. You will be sick. Always. I expected to get sick. Children are disgusting germ monsters. Everyone knows this. The first week, I felt like I had a really bad cold. I took some days off because my method for combating illness is to take some time off so I can get better faster. That worked...until I went back to work and the cold came back full force. Meanwhile, all of the kids were having disgusting diarrhea blowouts (more on that later) so I lived in fear of developing that as well. The cold continued to get worse, so I went to the doctor where I found that I actually had both bronchitis and sinusitis. I was prescribed antibiotics and after getting an allergic reaction that made me look like Madam Mim for a while, I started to feel better over the weekend. Then I went back to work. I was hit again with the same thing, this time with fever and vomiting as well. I've never been more ill in my life. And I had swine flu in high school.

3. Don't let them hand you anything ever. Toddlers don't know how to play. They have three things that they like to do with toys: dump them all over the floor, bang them against things to give people headaches, or hand them to you and wait for you to hand them back. Most of the time it's the third one. A cute little child would come up to me and hand me a toy horse. I would neigh and make it gallop and point out its eyes and its hair. The child would stare at me blankly. I would hand the toy horse back. The child would walk away to find something else to hand to me. This was all well and good until the toy they handed me was wet and I didn't know why. If something is wet, I need to know why! Even better is when they hold out their hand and give you a dried booger they found on the floor or a wet one from their face. Thanks...awesome...

4. Parents don't believe you. Toddlers bite each other. Can we all just agree on this? If your child gets bitten at daycare, it's probably because they were taking a toy from someone or had a toy that someone wanted. Toddler politics are not highly advanced. Parents would grill me on what exactly happened, where was I, what did I do to stop it, how can I not magically keep a room of 12 toddlers under control by myself? One parent mentioned that the bite mark on her child's arm had a full set of teeth. "I didn't think toddlers had all their teeth," she said slowly, "she had canine marks." She then looked at my co-teacher and I pointedly. Um, I did not bite your child, if that's what you're insinuating. I am not about to put my mouth on something that germy. We later observed the child biting her own arm. Apparently she had a full set of teeth.

5. If a kid has a blowout....I learned nothing. Really, all you can do is panic. As I mentioned before, there was a particularly nasty bout of diarrhea making its rounds through the toddler room. "They doctor says it's not contagious," every parent said as they dropped off their child. The Typhoid Mary's dad literally said, "the doctor says it's not contagious," immediately after he said, "yeah, it's pretty bad. We've all had it." There were blowouts, of course. By the end of every day we had several kids running around in just diapers because they had blown through their supplies of emergency pants. But there was one day that I will forever remember. We were sitting in the corner reading when one of the kids farted pretty loudly. I chuckled to myself and continued reading (obviously a mistake from the context of this story).

A few minutes later, I noticed there was a lot of some mysterious goo all over some of the pillows. In slow motion, I traced the goo back to its source, a little boy we'll call Johnny. He was covered. The room was covered. The other kids followed my gaze and started trying to touch the goo. I immediately grabbed Johnny and held him at arm's length. And then....what? What do I do!?! I looked across the divider at my co-teacher and apparently the horror was loud and clear. She immediately rounded up the other kids and brought them over to her side. I carried Johnny to the changing table, still not sure how to tackle this. He and I stared at each other for a second, neither one of us being capable of solving the situation. I could see the shame in his eyes before he burst into tears.

Luckily, word had somehow gotten out about my predicament and other teachers came to the rescue. A veteran daycare worker talked me through the process like she was teaching me how to dismantle a bomb. "Ok, easy, easy. Just slip his pants off, but don't let them touch the table. Just a little further. There you go. Good job." We got Johnny into his emergency pants after scrubbing him down in the sink. Then came the work of cleaning off the pillows, books, toys, walls, and carpet that had been compromised. Then, I needed to change into one of the daycare's shirts because, of course, mine had been covered during bomb squad duty.

That was the day I put in my two weeks notice. But, on the bright side, I still have the shirt. I would call it free, but there was certainly a cost.


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