I wish there were a shortcut to Knowing the Secrets to Doing a New Thing.
What I mean is, you know when you start something new? Not, like, a new puzzle or a new TV series. But something BIG – maybe you got a new job, or you just joined a gym, or you are taking a class to help expand your mind or develop yourself professionally or just get out of the house for a while, I don’t know your life. Whatever it is, it’s something totally new to you, but also something that takes some getting used to.
What I want is something to help speed up the “getting used to” process.
When I started my cuurent job, for instance, I wish that someone had told me that we could use these other bathrooms. There’s one bathroom – which holds a single person at a time – in our department, and I thought that was that. But! It turns out there are other bathrooms! With multiple stalls! That we can use, too! That would have been something I would have liked to have known right up front.
Or, our department has this food club, where some people in the department make food for the other people in the food club, on a rotating basis. Membership in the club is extended to everyone, but if you decline to be in the club and bring food, then you are also opting out of eating the food. But one of the new employees wasn’t invited into the club, or she didn’t understand the rules, or SOMETHING, and so she was eating the food. And someone in the club (not me) was GLARING at her! That’s the kind of thing I mean, where, sure, you find out eventually. But man, it would be nice to know up front on day one, so you don’t feel like a butt.
OR, here’s something else! There were these recycling bins in our department, and I kept putting my Coke cans and water bottles in them. And eventually, a big passive aggressive sign appeared that said, this is for paper only, jackhole, stop leaving your non-paper items in here. I’m paraphrasing. But man, I felt like such an IDIOT when I found out! THAT would have been nice to know!
Getting used to something new is tough enough without having to navigate this ocean full of pointy reefs and bitey sharks and sunken ships. I mean, the waves are making you seasick as it is, wouldn’t it be nice if your new shipmates – or the freaking CAPTAIN – would say, “Hey, guess what, on your starboard side is a pod of dolphins, and you’ll want to avoid those… and up ahead there’s a patch of shallow water, so keep your eyes out” so you don’t accidentally blunder into the dolphins and then they get all irritated and scoffy. (I knew I went too far when I started typing “starboard,” but by then I was in too deep.) (That last bit was a TOTALLY UNINTENTIONAL ocean pun.)
All of this is to say that starting the baby in daycare has taken some getting used to. And I STILL, three weeks of full-time daycare plus four weeks of part-time daycare in, I STILL feel like I am sailing in circles with the jib wrapped around my eyes. (I really have no idea what I’m talking about.)
For instance, on the first day, I brought in a big pack of diapers per the form that the daycare had given me – a form specifically directed at Things to Bring on the Baby’s First Day. And one of the caretakers asked me, “Did you write the baby’s initials on every diaper?”
Well, no. The form told me to bring in three extra outfits and to put the baby’s name in THOSE. But initialing the diapers? That hadn’t occurred to me. So she sat there and wrote the baby’s initials on every single diaper, while I sat there holding the baby, holding back tears (first day of leaving my baaaayyyyybeeee), and feeling like an entitled, inconsiderate jerkbag. And I offered! Of course, I offered to help her! To do it for her! And she shook her head and said no, she’d do it, but really, it was important for me to initial every diaper in the future so that the caretakers didn’t have to do it when they should be feeding or soothing or rocking or playing with one of the many other kids in their charge.
And THEN. I was parking in the parking spot closest to the door. Hey! It was open all the time! Why not?!
Except… a few days into doing this, a sign appeared on the wall of the building in front of the close spot. And it said something like, “Don’t park here, jerkbag. This spot is for the daycare bus.” I’m paraphrasing.
But man! I never would have parked there if I had KNOWN! I am not actively campaigning for Biggest Wad in the Universe!
It ALSO would have been nice to know that there are no bills or invoices or whatever. I seriously feel like an absolute idiot telling you this, because maybe this is The Way of the World and I have just been sheltered or something? But I thought that if you render a service, you BILL the client for it. If not for the client’s benefit, but for your own record-keeping purposes. But this daycare just expects you to pay every week. Which, OF COURSE. Of course they expect to be paid! That’s not my issue here! I am not one to shirk my financial obligations! I AM NOT A SHIRKER! But I was just going along, thinking, I wonder if they will send out the bill monthly or whatever, I mean, we paid our first week up front before the week started, and there was a deposit to hold the baby’s spot, but whatever, I was waiting for a bill.
But instead, I got a phone call at work – and yes, of course, if you are trying to collect money from your delinquent clients, you WOULD call them at work! I get that! – and I thought it was an emergency with my baby and I had about thirty seconds of my heart just up and leaving the building while I shouted “Hello! Hello! What’s wrong?!” into my phone, before the administrative person said, “Yeah, jerk lady, you need to pay us.” I’m paraphrasing. And you know what? It is TOTALLY REASONABLE to think I’m a jerk if I don’t pay you! But man, I wish I had KNOWN that there was no billing. (Now we are set up to make online payments, which I foisted off on my husband, so that’s good and everyone is getting paid. Stop shaking your head at me.) (Interesting note: The only credit card the online payment accepts? Discover.)
But here’s the rest of the “getting used to it” that I’m wishing came with instructions.
It’s the whole drop off process. When I first went back to work, I would take the baby in without her car seat, because it was warm and I was the one picking her up (so the car seat could stay in my car the whole day) and I really relished those extra snuggles on the way in the door. So I would go in, hand over her bottles, and just kind of stand there until one of the caretakers took her from me.
But then one day I happened to get there at the same time as another parent, and he brought his kid in INSIDE the car seat, and put the car seat – kid inside – on the floor near the toy chest, and said something like, “Is this a good place to leave him?” And the caretaker said yes, and the father left, and the kid stayed there.
So… Is THAT the preferred way to do drop off? To just…leave the kid somewhere so that the caretakers can keep feeding other kids breakfast or changing diapers or whatever?
Since then, I have been bringing the baby into daycare in her car seat, and then taking her out (snuggles), and then putting her in her crib. But… I don’t know if THAT’S the preferred thing to do either! And of course, I have the added anxiety of wondering how long she stays in the crib, staring at the ceiling, wondering why her mother has abandoned her.
But I wish the caretakers had said, Day One, “This is what you do.”
(By the way, I have asked questions of the caretakers. But they do this very unhelpful thing where they say, “Oh don’t worry about it! You do whatever you want!” Which is nice – I mean, I think they are trying to make it easy on ME, which is kind and appreciated. But it is not HELPFUL in understanding what I really should be doing.)
I wish I’d known that the daycare’s primary means of communicating with the parents is via a bulletin board. (Which hangs above a sign-in/sign-out binder that I ALSO didn’t know about until, oh Week 3, at which point I found out that my baby didn’t even have a sheet in the binder, so it’s not like I could have been filling it out ANYWAY.) Because that bulletin board is how I discovered, on a Wednesday, that the daycare was closed the following Monday for an in-service day or something. Luckily, my mother-in-law was able to watch the baby all day that Monday, which was the beginning of my first full week back at work, and so it would have been bad form to take a sick day or whatever.
And I wish I knew what the REAL policy about shoes is. There’s a big sign on the door to the infant room that says, “Please remove your shoes.” But… many of the parents do NOT remove their shoes.
And the caretakers wear shoes. So… am I needlessly removing my shoes every morning and every evening? I would honestly PREFER a room that doesn’t allow shoes in it – I mean, my kid has a tendency of shoving her face into the floor and licking it, so I think the cleaner the better.
(If you are poised, right now, to say “Germs are good for babies!” or “A little dirt never hurt anyone!” or the like, please refrain. Because I KNOW these things. But that knowledge does not make me okay with my kid licking tiny bits of gravel and bacteria from bathroom floors and leaf parts off the floor. Her immune system is going to get PLENTY of beefing up, believe me.)
(Since I’ve already headed down a side road, let’s go even further off course so I can tell that you that the whole “No Shoes in the Infant Room” policy is one that really gets right up under my goat. Right up in there. [You know I’m picturing a shaggy old billy goat, the kind with a white beard and a long-suffering expression and really beautiful eyelashes.] Every daycare we looked at had some sort of no-shoes policy. One daycare had shoe covers. One daycare claimed that their caretakers had special shoes they only wear inside the infant room. But none of those floors is free of Outside Influence. In one daycare, it was okay to wear street shoes in the crib area, but you had to put your shoe covers on while in the play area. But the caretakers – I watched this happen – would wear their shoe-covered shoes into the crib area. Where non-shoe-covered shoes had the habit of walking. Thus exposing the shoe covers to the dirt/bacteria from the uncovered shoes. Or! Like in my daycare. You can wear your shoes in the main hallways of the daycare. You only take off your shoes before entering the infant room. But the caretakers don’t remove their shoes when they walk through the hallways. So there is no point in them wearing Indoors Only shoes. I know this is a big deal to no one but me.)
(This is along the lines of food service prep workers who wear gloves to make food? But also, they wear the gloves to open the microwave, or to pour new rice into the rice container, or to open doors to the storeroom, or to operate the cash register. The gloves are not there to protect YOUR HANDS, they are there to protect MY MOUTH.)
(Also, recently, I went to a sandwich-type place and asked for a wedge salad, and I watched as the food prep person grabbed a brand-new head of iceberg lettuce from the fridge, all fresh and wrapped in the same plastic wrapper that my iceberg from the grocery store comes in, and she just chopped off a wedge and plopped it on a plate, no washing or anything. Do you know what face I’m making? The Face of Incredulous Disgust, is what. At least it wasn’t spinach! I mean, iceberg is tightly contained enough that it is the least grimy of all the lettuces, in my experience. But STILL. You WASH THE LETTUCE when you are preparing a salad for someone to eat!)
Somehow this devolved into lots of talk about germs. Let’s make a sharp turn over someone’s shrubbery and through the leaf pile on the curb and try to get back onto the original pavement of this post.
Ah yes, here we are: Getting back around to my original point, I just really wish that someone would sit down with you (not YOU, really ME) and spell out all the little quirks and rules and “the handbook says the day ends at five, but no one leaves before five thirty” and “we say that you can sign up for parent-teacher conferences, but no one really does” and “the daycare may be open until six, but the caretakers really hate staying until six and will talk about you, sometimes in front of other parents, if you have the habit of showing up at 5:59” and “your list of Must Bring items includes a sleep sack, but we don’t ever put your kid in a sleep sack, so save your money” and on and on so that you can do things right the first time, and not feel like a jerky idiot after you accidentally find out you’ve been Doing It All Wrong the whole time.
It is entirely possible that becoming a mom has made me even MORE neurotic than I was to begin with.