I love my daughter's daycare program. I've mentioned before that it costs a little more than most, but they do such an outstanding job with her that it's worth it. It is set up like a school, payments are referred to as "tuition," and they go out of their way to provide an enriching environment.
There is a little bit of the modern "everyone wins!" approach to things going on there, which honestly makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. Because, you know, it isn't like that in the real world. Not everyone wins. Not everyone will like you. You won't get invited to every birthday party. There will be things that you aren't good at, and you're just not going to succeed in those areas. That's life. And it's OK, because none of these things add one whit of value to a human being. So, I don't let DD win when we play Candy Land, and she's learned to be a good sport about winning (and losing). When DD tells me that so and so was mean to her at school, we talk about how not everyone will be nice to you in this world and role play how she can handle it differently when it happens again. Tough love works, and it's necessary preparation for growing up.
Over the last six months or so, DD has had two holy terrors in her classroom. The first one, L, was really disruptive, but the fault lies squarely at mom's doorstep. The child should be placed in the preschool room, but for whatever reason, mom has insisted that he attend the pre-kindergarten class, even though it means that he will have to be there for two full terms. It doesn't make him smarter; it makes him frustrated and bored. The kids in pre-kindergarten are advanced in using phonics. They are reading. They are doing basic math operations. L is not prepared for this, it's hard for him, and he naturally acts out. Mom and the teacher have been working on this, and L has lost some privileges at home, but he is calming down. I still feel sorry for him, because it simply means that he's stifled his boredom. Which boredom will still be there next year when he has to sit through the entire curriculum again. Nice going mom, but it's your call, not mine. My objection came because L was taking a lot of the teacher's time, and she had eleven other kids, including my own, to tend to and teach. I wasn't the only mom with this concern, but it's worked out.
But A, A is another story. He was destructive. Hard to manage. And he liked to hit, shove, and kick the other kids. Including mine. One day, DD told us that he hit the teacher in the stomach and in the face! In response, they developed a special program for A to socialize him, because the green-yellow-blue-red color change system they used for the other kids simply wasn't working for him. (Everyone starts and potentially stays on green, and they move down a level each time a bad choice is made - red means that mom and dad are called). The new program involved placing stickers on a chart on A's cubby. The class was advised that they all had to work together to help A make good choices. And then they sang Kumbaya or something afterward (no, I'm making that last part up). So, A apparently gets to smack anyone to his heart's content, and the penalty for this is that he won't get a sticker. A plan that was oh so consistent with the everyone wins/make good choices philosophy.
But A was still hitting, shoving, and kicking the other kids. Including DD. So, I told her that were two things she could do about that. The first was to tell the teacher, and she must always do that. However, I also gave her permission to whack the little brat back if she wanted to. She was rather puzzled about this, because we don't spank, and she knows that hitting is wrong. But hello! It is also wrong when A hits her. I don't think that anyone should be a doormat (and this is especially important for young women to know and practice IMHO). Four is as good a time as any to start learning that. I told DD that there might be consequences at school for hitting A back, and she might get a color change. Even so, she wasn't going to get into trouble at home for standing up for herself. But she should never hit anyone first, not even A. She understood. (And lest you think for a New York minute that I would feel differently if DD were the perpetrator -- don't. She wouldn't get any sympathy from me if she threw the first smack and received one in exchange.)
Two weeks have gone by since then. A hasn't hit DD, and she hasn't hit him. So far, so good. I remember thinking that maybe the sticker program was working. Yesterday, however, I received a voice mail from DD's teacher that I unfortunately didn't pick up until after she'd gone home for the day. It was cryptic, telling me that "something" happened today, it didn't involve DD directly, but I really needed to know about it. She added that I should call the director or contact her by e-mail to discuss it further.
I immediately thought horrible thoughts, because I always jump to the worst possible conclusion. But, it wasn't anything as bad as I had imagined (I have one heck of an imagination).
Apparently, all of the kids were sitting on their cots before nap time, and the teacher was doing a little science Q & A with them. A was not sitting on his cot, preferring instead to sit under a table. Respecting his choice not to participate (how nice!), the teacher told him that if she got to his cot and he wasn't there, he would lose his turn. He did manage to make his way over to the cot in time to answer the question.
After he left his spot from beneath the table, the teacher saw and smelled some smoke. And so did the kids, who were immediately ushered out of the room until everyone could figure out what was going on. The teacher told them that it was just dust in the air and apparently ignored their comments that it certainly smelled like smoke.
What happened, you might ask? A brought in a lighter from home and was apparently quietly flicking it under the table. I don't know why there was smoke, because we were advised that he didn't start a fire. I guess his mother smokes and left the lighter out where he could get to it. So he grabbed it and brought it in, and mom was apparently unaware of it. It was just fortunate that he was using it out in the open. I can't wrap my mind about what would have happened if he'd made his way into the bed storage area and started lighting the sheets.
The rest, as they say, is history. A was "disenrolled." And the director, while not telling me who the child was (as if I didn't know!), actually sounded disappointed that they couldn't work with him any longer. That's easy to say when you are the one sitting in a front office and not the one being whacked, but she may have a point. The child is clearly out of control and mom hasn't figured out how to handle him -- and he's only four. I hesitate to think what she's going to do when he's fourteen, but it doesn't take much imagination to figure that one out, does it. And that will be a terrible waste of a life.
But in the meantime, I would be less then honest if I didn't admit that I'm secretly glad that A won't be around to hit DD or the other kids anymore. Given the smiles and winks from the other moms at pickup time, all of whom had heard the news, I think that I'm not alone.