Daycare drama

02/17/2011 at 11:50 am | Posted in Motherhood | 20 Comments
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I’ve been debating writing this post.

First, it’s embarrassing. I feel like I failed my daughter.

Second, there are folks who read this blog who know our situation, including details about the “old school” and the “new school.” I’m afraid of offending anyone.

But I need to write it. If anything, to show how CRITICAL it is for parents to speak up on behalf of their children.

A couple of weeks ago, Small Fry and I showed up at her daycare for Monday-morning drop off. We were greeted by strangers. And told, without any explanation, that the center’s director and assistant director had “left.” I asked what had happened and got no clear answer. Then, instead of turning on my heel and marching Small Fry out of there, I meekly walked her down the hall to her classroom.

Everyone’s doors were closed. In a tiny building that’s usually bustling with early-morning activity, laughter and chatter, this was alarming. Thank goodness Small Fry’s favorite teacher was there. She was afraid and confused. I asked her more questions, but she didn’t know anything either. And there were only half as many kids in the room as usual.

I took off Small Fry’s coat, gave her a hug and kiss, and said goodbye.

I left her.

Panic struck on my drive to work. I called Marc, and he comforted me. Calm and collected, as always. When I got to my computer, there was an e-mail from the former director saying briefly that she had been unexpectedly fired on the previous Friday evening. She is a single mom. Without a job now.

I picked up Small Fry early that afternoon, and the building was still eerily quiet. I nervously and oh-so-politely asked the woman in the front office again what had happened. She waffled and gave me the phone number of the owner. By the time we got home, Marc had researched half a dozen other childcare facilities in the area and booked tours.

Small Fry never went back to that school.

We scrambled to enroll her in a much better preschool, just around the corner from our house. One where they teach Spanish, music and yoga. And where “corn dog nuggets” are not on the menu.

While on our tour, we ran into one of the other mothers from Small Fry’s old school, and she told me she had withdrawn her daughter months earlier because of questionable disciplinary practices that got a teacher fired. I had no idea why the teacher had disappeared earlier that fall. Small Fry’s teacher.

And I never asked.

I also never expressed my concern over the fact that, on many occasions at pick-up time, I’d find Small Fry sitting in front of a TV, or perched by herself on the floor while the teacher mopped (with ammonia) around her.

And I left her on that day in the care of strangers. With no information about what had happened to the director we loved.

Aside from my immense guilt, the moral of the story is: it is our right as parents to request and receive information about our children’s well-being while they are in someone else’s care. Our RIGHT.

I’ve been kicking myself for days over this. I was too concerned with being polite, being the nice parent, wanting them to love my kid, not causing any problems. I ignored the red flags and squashed my concerns. But I should have been louder. More inquisitive. Braver.

My only saving grace right now is my sweet girl, grinning from ear to ear, clutching her lunch bag, on her first day of “new school.” She is safe, happy and cared for.

And I will never EVER keep quiet again.

I will speak up. It’s the only choice.



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  1. Wow. That must have been odd and freaky and scary for you. I am sure that your little one just got through the day and didn’t notice that much of a difference, despite the changes that stuck out so strongly for you. Kids are extremely resilient. You didn’t do wrong, you just caught your thoughts later than you would have liked to. But then you followed your gut and got her into a new school. So first of all, good for you! And for posting this! And reminding moms that we know what’s best for our little ones.

    And next, CUTEST PICTURE EVER. And last, my little girl wants to know who that is, and what’s her name, and can she come and play. So we have to get that set up sometime, M’Kay? 😉

  2. It’s a tough line to walk. Stand up, take action, get answers. Be polite, don’t jump to conclusions, demonstrate “good” behavior. As a parent it is our right to do what needs to be done, but society teaches us to be good and do as we’re told. Don’t beat yourself up, you have obviously done what needs to be done to take care of your child and to put her in a place you are more comfortable with.

  3. I’ve been in your shoes before so I feel your pain. When we lived in AZ, Big Roo went to a home daycare and we had a few incidents that should have made me pull him out before I did (like giving a one year old peanut butter without checking with me first!!). I’d gently scold her but also didn’t want to ruffle feathers. Sounds like she’s in a great place now (in fact, I KNOW she is) and you can leave it all behind now!

    And yes, adorable pic!

  4. ooh i can so relate to this! i recently took S out of his preschool too after two incidents where they were disciplining him in very ineffective ways. He was totally anxious about going to school, which is unlike him. It seemed to get worse and worse instead of better as you would hope when your kid adjusts more and more. We took him out a couple of weeks ago and DAILY i am reminded that we made the right decision.

    It can be soo hard though. you don’t want to offend. you don’t want to be the “picky” parent, or have people think you are spoiling your child. and on and on. But i finally realized that it comes down to this: Solo is depending on us, and us alone as parents, to protect him, speak for him, seek only the best for him.

    Happy sighs. So glad you made this decision and you all can be at peace now!!!

  5. Wow. What a experience you had, Suzanne. First in your defense: there is a shock factor here that forced you into so called: automatic pilot action…You didn’t see it coming and you didn’t have plan B. How could you. My guess is seeing a familiar teacher allow you to leave Lilly there.

    There is one more thing that protects your child now and always will: she knows she is respected & loved and this what she deserves from everyone everywhere. Best regards,

  6. I don’t think you should be embarrassed at all. It is so hard to know what to do in a situation like that. I feel the same way about brining up concerns with Ian’s school. There has been a lot of turnover at his school recently and he has new teachers in addition to being in a new classroom. We are always notified ahead of time or immediately after a person leaves though. It is a lot of adjustment for us all. I am now walking the fine line of when to say something while giving the new teachers time to settle in. I still haven’t figured out at what point I speak up…you have definitely given me something to think about!

    I am glad you all found a new place and Small Fry is happy!

  7. Oh wow. What a crazy experience. Glad she happy & safe & yall feel much better about the new place.

  8. You did beautifully & you did the right thing.

    & you’re CONTINUING to do the right thing by writing about this. It’s brave & it needs to be said.

  9. SO glad you found a new place! And don’t beat yourself up! You see the best in people and that is a good thing.

  10. I think a ton of moms have been their. Something seems wrong but you have to get to work. It’s only in retrospect that we realize we didn’t make the right choice. You have a healthy happy little girl and a new school you feel good with. There’s nothing better than that!

  11. I’m sure you are not the only one to have been in this situation. You did the right thing, as soon as your mom radar went off you acted on it. There is no fault in that! Now you have a better place to send her and hopefully you will help another mom be brave enough to ask the tough questions by writing your story. That is being a good mom!

  12. Hi Sue – I too have been through this before…unfortunately on 3 different occasions with Jackson! The last time was so devastating that I cut back my work hours to get him into a much better school that didn’t have a full time spot. It was a tough decision….take a substantial pay cut ( & I’m talking substantial pay cut) or keep my son in the bad situation until I could find a full time spot at a better school (mind you this was back when there were waiting lists with more than 100 kids on them…we couldn’t even get him into his Dad’s work daycare…I was told he’d 213 on the list! Meaning he may have gotten a spot by the time he’d start kindergarten!) Needless to say I took the big pay cut & put him in part time care & then manage the remaining hours doing a kid swap with another Mom in my Neighbor…it was an extremely stressful time & is part of the reason I am paying for him to go to a very good school even now that he could go to public school! I vowed I would never go through that again no matter the cost!

    You did the right thing & don’t beat yourself up saying you should have noticed sooner…these places are good at telling parents lies!!


  13. I totally agree, as a school teacher myself, that you have that right. You are your child’s biggest advocate. I have an open door policy and treat every child with love and respect. I hope this new school is better! (and don’t beat yourself up, there’s only so much you can do without knowing the whole story!)

  14. You did the right thing. You really did. Look at that happy smile. She’s ok.
    The important lesson is what you stated, that we all have the right to ask and know.

  15. Good for you. I can totally understand how that could happen, and I could see myself not questioning things either. Good reminder. Thank you.

  16. Just FYI…the director did not get fired. She had put in her 2 weeks notice and on the Friday of the first of those weeks the owner (who is a real jerk, which is why she had put in her two week’s) came at 5 and told her that he had found someone to replace her. She is super, super glad to be gone and already has a new job. He was all over her to get the daycare bumped up from 3 starts to 4 but would not put out any money for it, just pressure on her. What a drag.

  17. that is stars, not starts…duh

    You could have left baby girl there and ignored that “voice”. Things could have been 100 time worse, but you did what was best for your daughter AND yourself. Kudos to you. Being a parent is hard, especially your first go-round. You don’t want to be “THAT MOM” that everyone hates, but sometimes it is what you have to do to provide and make the best live possible for your child.
    I have had two instances like this.
    1. My daughter was about 6 months, and I enrolled her at an in-home daycare. I got references, friends referred her, I met with her and her husband. They had raised 3 children who were grown, and adopted about the same and were grown. They turned part of their home into a daycare. I loved it. It felt very “homey” and I was comfortable leaving Z there… or so I thought.
    My daughter had a lot of health issues as a baby, and she couldn’t keep formula down. Luckily by 6 months, we realized she was lactose intolerant with severe acid reflux, so there was minimal items she could have. She was on soy milk, and i had a list of items that were “approved”. Yes, I made a list. So I dropped my baby off and cried all the way to work. I figured this was normal, but I just had this bad feeling.
    I picked baby girl up that afternoon, and she had brown stuff all over her face. She was sitting in the lady’s husband’s lap, and he was FEEDING HER HIS CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE! She was 6 months old!! I was soooo livid. But, not wanting to seem like a “young single mom” who didn’t know what I was doing, I just ignored it. My daughter was sick for 2-3 days after.
    And, I took her back.
    A month passed, and I found myself crying every morning after dropping her off. I slowly realized that something was not right. I had to get her out. So I pulled her from the daycare. After the fact, I realized a lot of things that I just couldn’t put my finger on. She had too many children in her home. They were all older, so when I would pick my daughter up, she would be in the back corner in a crib, crying, and often times she wouldn’t have any clothes on but her diaper. These things I didn’t really notice because the lady was SO NICE and basically a sweet-talker. She made excuses and told me what I wanted to hear. But my sixth sense kicked in and I finally had had enough. She would always say “ask your mom what she thinks” or things to that nature. I was young, about 24, and she treated me like a teenager. Yes, I was new at being a parent and was doing it alone, but I still knew what my daughter needed. I finally had the courage to stand up to her and pull her out, even without having another daycare in place. I was willing to lose my job if it meant she didn’t have to go back.
    And that sixth sense?? I found out months later that a child died in her care. I was terrified. That could have been my baby girl.
    The second instance was at her now-daycare. There was a child with Asperger’s and he was violent towards my daughter. She would come home with bite marks, scratches, bruises. I knew that he was the one doing it, and they would try and keep them apart, but he just kept going after my daughter. After repeated discussions with her teacher, and her coming home with three bite marks, I finally had to call DHS. They came and interviewed the school, and of course everyone knew that I was the “pot-stirrer”. BUT, they ended up moving my daughter up to the next classroom, and it resolved the issue. The director called me and we had a meeting, and they were going to do everything they could to fix the issue. It was different since the child had Asperger’s–they couldn’t just kick him out for fear of a lawsuit. And after speaking with her and them doing what was best for my daughter, I was at peace.
    I 100% think you did the right thing. Trust your instincts, momma. If you think something is wrong… it probably is.
    Big hugs to you both!!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your stories! It’s such a relief — and so very reassuring — to hear from other moms. Also: I’m VERY impressed that you’re a single mother. Your daughter is very lucky. 🙂

  19. The important thing is you followed your instinct and got her out, and into somewhere better! My kids were in daycare for 3 months while I was student teaching, and I was constantly on edge about them being there. One day I came to pick up my daughter and it was insanely hot in her classroom. I said something to the director about it, and she said “oh, they just came from outside”…That may account for why her body is hot, but the classroom? Despite finishing my degree, I’m now a sahm, and glad I don’t have to deal with worrying about their daycare center anymore.

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