T: Amazing Husband ST: Three-year-old Wonder Prof. G: Advisor I Prof. C: Advisor II Julie: Stylish Sister Rob: Awesome Brother Belle: Our Cat Bill: Grumbling BIL Rita: Uncomplicated SIL SMU: Smallish Midwestern University Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Friday, September 23, 2005
Expecting Too Much?
After ST was born in 2003, I stayed home with him for five months. It was a glorious time: I played with my adorable child, I studied a little for my last comprehensive exam, I did a little RA work on the side (toting adorable child to the library, nursing in the stacks), and I silently dreaded going back to school full-time and having to leave ST at daycare. I researched various daycares for several months, and finally decided to send him to an in-home daycare just a block away from our house. Overall, it has been a good decision.
I have become good friends with ST's carers, "Robin" and "Luann." Robin and Luann are mother and daughter, funny ladies who truly do love the children in their care. Robin (the daughter, about 35) is a driven, silly lady who keeps a very clean house and is a fairly strict disciplinarian. Luann (the mother, about 60) is a big softie who, despite numerous health issues, is quite active with the children. Robin has two daughters who are delightful; both girls help with the daycare during the summer months. We also know Robin's husband quite well, and have in fact done business with him on more than one occasion. Overall, they are a lovely family and we are lucky to have them in our lives. ST adores them all; sometimes, he insists on going to visit Robin and Luann on our walks around the neighborhood, and he asks about what they're doing every day, even if he's not going there.
ST is in daycare four days a week, from about 8:30am-4:30pm, which allows me time to work on the dissertation, attend meetings on campus, go to the library, etc. Robin and Luann have been very flexible with my schedule -- in the past two years I've switched from having ST in daycare two days a week, to three days, back to two days, and then to four days. Robin and Luann have never had a problem with this, and they've also been very supportive of my upcoming trip to Berlin, when ST will be in daycare five days a week (just for November). They have also been supportive of my parenting decisions -- they've willingly used cloth diapers on ST when I asked, dealt with breastfeeding issues with me, separation issues, etc. On the whole, I have very few complaints.
Lately, however, I've been sensing that 1.) Robin and Luann have accepted too many kids at the daycare, almost more than they can comfortably attend to; 2.) because of this, the kids aren't doing as much there as they used to. During the summer, Robin and Luann had only 5 kids there, total. One toddler under one year old and four older toddlers ranging in age from 2-4. Now they have eight kids there, two babies, a toddler under one, and five older toddlers. This is still a decent carer-child ratio, but to be honest Robin and Luann don't seem happy with the arrangement and neither am I. They are always busy with "administrative" issues instead of playing with the kids like they used to -- washing bottles, changing diapers, feeding babies, etc. As a result, I think the kids are watching far more TV than they used to, are playing as an organized group less often, are outside less regularly, and are a bit less well-disciplined. Last week, for example, when I asked what the kids did outside that day (it had been a gorgeous pre-fall day), Robin told me that they didn't go outside all day because "there were too many kids to keep track of." She said it in a funny, off-hand manner, but it really bothered me.
I know that having babies around is difficult. I know that it's hard to send the kids outside when you have to attend to the littlest ones. I understand that. But somehow, I don't think that my very outdoors-oriented toddler should be stuck inside all day because of it. And I don't think my toddler, who watches maybe 15 minutes of TV per day (if that), should have to resort to watching PBS cartoons because his carers are busy taking care of babies.
No, I can't prove that he watches a lot of TV, or that they don't do stuff during the day. I'm not there. But I do know that ST suddenly knows A LOT of characters from daytime PBS shows (I looked them up because I had no idea what ST was talking about!) and that he doesn't bring home as many crazy drawings and paintings as he used to. He also tells me when they don't go outside, and he doesn't like it.
My problem is this: how could I possibly broach this topic with Robin and Luann? I don't want to offend them, but yet I am paying for a service they provide. I am a friend and a customer*. How can I tell them that I'm concerned about television, and that I really think ST needs to be stimulated with activities like drawing, playing outside, playing games, dancing, singing, etc.? I don't want them to feel bad, but I hate feeling like I do today -- silently resentful, and very guilty for spending the day on the computer at home when I could be spending it with my delightful, smart little boy. Any advice?
*And please, don't tell me to never do business with friends. It's impossible NOT to become friends with people who love your child, and who you see nearly every day.