A Mother’s Guilty Secret

Okay, here goes…

I dread picking up my children from daycare.

In fact, I find ways to prolong it.

Sick, right?  I’m supposed to want to pick them up.  I’m supposed to miss them so much from a hard day’s work of teaching that I’m bolting out the door at 2:20 pm.  I see a lot of my fellow teacher moms doing it.  Meanwhile, if I don’t have any meetings to attend and I’m not expecting any students to stop by, I find myself locking my classroom door, turning off the lights, and basking in the sweet silence that is suddenly my classroom.

Barring no prior obligation, 2:20-4:00 is the ONLY part of my day I get completely to myself.  It is sacred, and I never want to give it up. It is a time to get tasks done in a brisk, orderly fashion because my children, and the 165 other “children” I have, cannot inundate me with questions, concerns, and demands.  It is pure serenity, even if I’m grading papers, and that’s saying something.

Sadly, my need for quiet time is not the only reason I dread picking up my children from daycare.  Oh, if only it were that simple.

I dread the encounters with the teachers and the inevitably disheartening news I will hear.

I imagine a mom who walks into the classroom, glowing with pride as the teacher recounts with great zest how little Billy (why is it always Billy?) was the perfect angel yet again, sitting quietly during circle time, using the bathroom with no complaints, wiping his table space when lunch time was over.  The perfect angel who shares his toys and makes all the teachers wish he were their child.  Oh, he’s such a little darling.

This is what I get: Big C had a really rough day.  He pulled a girl across the room by her hair.  He knocked over a little boy’s block tower.  He threw sand in another kid’s face. He pushed a kid and took his ball.  He spent some time in the director’s office again (Dear God, it starts already?).  He refused to take a nap and threw a tantrum.  He scratched his arms up during a meltdown. He choked a girl when she took the toy he was playing with.  He threw a chair and hit another child in the face.

The best report I get is, “He had a great day….for him.”

My response to all of this?  Usually, with an embarrassed look on my face, it’s, “I’m sorry.”  Sometimes, I ask, “Is there anything I can do?”  They struggle with this and say ridiculous things like, “Well, just discourage this behavior at home,” implying I am encouraging it?  Gah!

I’ve learned to treat my pick-ups like a war zone.  I keep my head low and scan the room, looking for potential teacher land mines.  I spot Big C over by the puzzles.  I rush over, give him a quick hug, then it’s  Move!  Move!  Move!  We reach the doorway….I think we’re going to make it…and then I hear over the squall of children, “Mrs. Catharsis!  Mrs. Catharsis!  Can I speak with you for a moment?”

Damn schrapnel.

Then there are those days when I finally – finally! – get a pretty decent report on Big C’s day, and then I walk over to Little C’s toddler room only to discover he’s bitten another child.


I actually get excited when Little C gets a note home stating that another child bit him.

There’s something a little sick and twisted about that.  I know.

So that’s my guilty secret.  I love my boys dearly, but a mother can only take so much negative news before she feels utterly deflated.

Sometimes, a mother just needs to sit at her desk in the the dark and dream.

Photo credit: t-dawg / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

This post can also be found on the blog, Sammiches and Psych Meds.

A Mother Divided

Most working moms have apprehension and anxiety over sending their children to daycare.  Fortunately, for most, they will eventually discover daycare isn’t so bad and that their children thrive in the environment.

Most moms ain’t me.

I dread daycare. It terrifies me.  All of those feelings of apprehension and anxiety are completely founded on my part.  My oldest son has been kicked out of daycare.  He has been more or less removed from preschool.  He has caused a nanny to quit.

You can see why today, when I took my two boys back to daycare for the first time since June, I was a little freaked out.  In fact, I’ve been agonizing over it for weeks, getting in touch with the school social worker and psychologist, speaking with his new teachers, making social stories, trying to get everything in place to ensure that this day would be a good one.

That’s a lot of pressure.

But guess what?  It was a great day.

As many of you know,  my four year-old Big C has high-functioning autism and a nasty temper, so daycare settings have proven to be a challenge; however, it would appear all of my dedication with him this summer (along with his social skills class, OT,  Speech, and his visual schedule, God love it) has paid off because he was awesome.  He couldn’t wait to go to school: “I’m all set!”  He was all smiles when his classmates greeted him with a hello by name.  The school social worker (who seriously must have wings hiding behind her cute cardigan) stopped in for a visit to check-in and also commented on how great the day was.  When I picked him up, he was sitting with a group of other boys playing cooperatively.  He didn’t come running to me.  In fact, he looked hesitant, but smiled, and asked if he could stay a little longer to play.

Seriously?  Needless to say, I was all smiles and so proud, even a little tearful.

In swoops the Mommy guilt.  I mentioned it was a great day, but I forgot the qualifier.  It was a great day for my oldest son.  For my youngest, not so much.

Since Big C’s diagnosis last February, I have put so much of my time and energy into ensuring Big C’s success that, on some level, I’ve just been assuming 16 month-old Little C will be “just fine.”  He really is an easygoing kid.

But not today.  He had a rough one.  He wanted to be held most of the day (which is so not like him), he didn’t nap at all (also not like him), he hardly ate (are you sure this is my kid you’re talking about?) and he bit another child (okay, that sounds a little like him).  As soon as I picked him up from the teacher holding him, he clung to me like a little koala and made that sporadic sound of breath that comes after a long cry.  He didn’t babble.  He didn’t smile.  He just held tight.  He did perk up once we got home, but I cannot forget that lost look on his face right before I held him.

I end this post feeling conflicted.  I feel like I have a great success story here with Big C. He has been my main muse for much of this blog thus far, and since its inception, he’s made some amazing leaps and bounds.

But what about Little C?  When is it his turn for a little attention?

Tomorrow is always a new day, little buddy.  Let’s tackle this biting bit, shall we?

funky fat girl / Foter / CC BY



“When did you first suspect your son has autism?”

Um, never.

Autism was never on our radar, mainly because my husband and I had no real concept of what autism even was (we are learning quickly).

Regardless, I have been asked a form of this question by countless therapists, doctors, psychologists, pediatricians, teachers, social workers, friends, and family these past two months.   I’m never quite sure how to answer them.

And it’s a dangerous road to travel down, the “I should have known” road.  Trust me.  I’ve been down it.  It’s dark, dangerous, and inevitably leads to a dead-end.

The reality is that Big C is my first child, so I have had no frame of reference for what is ‘normal.’  To me, he is a perfectly ‘normal’ kid, albeit with some quirks (who doesn’t have those?), a bit of eczema, fearlessness, and an impressively high tolerance for pain.  He didn’t have any of those potential “red flags” of delayed speech or developmental delays.

But, oh, that temper.

It’s not uncommon at a family gathering to hear, in reference to my son, “He comes by it honestly!”  Both my dad and I are notoriously known for our hot tempers, so we’ve always chalked up Big C’s aggressiveness merely to temperament and family genes.

But then it got worse.

Big C started attending daycare at five months of age and everything was pretty smooth until he reached about 13 months.  Then, the shoving, slapping, and biting of other kids (and daycare staff) moved beyond the realm of ‘normal.’  The temper tantrums were getting more elevated and he was starting to bang his head on the floor when he got frustrated.  There was talk of  suspension (you can imagine how good that felt).

Then, it actually happened.  I’ll never forget it.  It was September 2012, the end of the first week of school (I’m a teacher: we’ll open that can of worms at a much later date).  I was pregnant with my second, and I got a call (not even a face-to-face) that Big C  wasn’t welcome at the daycare anymore.  I remember having to hang up the phone because I was sobbing.  I had never been so humiliated in all my life.  I felt like I had failed my son and so failed as a mother.

But we picked up the pieces.  My husband and I both took days off of work while trying to find another alternative (we had my parents to help too which was incredible).  We decided a nanny was the best fit for Big C at the time.  He simply wasn’t ready to be in a group setting.  We found someone we immediately connected with.  Big C liked her.  We liked her.  It was a done deal.

In the spring of 2013, little C was born with no complications, I took some time off of work to be with my boys, and the nanny said she’d love to watch both of them at the start of the next school year.  Life was pretty perfect.

And then it wasn’t anymore.

In the fall of 2013, we thought it’d be a good idea for the nanny to take Big C to preschool twice a week so he could start getting acclimated to other children.  It had been a year since he’d been removed from his previous daycare; we assumed he had matured and would be fine.

But he wasn’t.  He struggled immediately, and after months of trying, we chose to remove him.  It wasn’t a good fit.  Meanwhile, our nanny was visibly stressed and struggling with Big C.  She made comments that it felt like he was regressing and that she didn’t know what to do anymore.  Then, in December, right before Christmas break, she quit.

I didn’t cry this time.  I laughed.  Granted, it was hysterical laughing, but I wasn’t throwing a pity party this time.  I took it as a sign that he needed to be in a daycare again, full-time, one that could provide him with the resources he needed.  What those resources were, I had no idea , but I wasn’t going to have him form an attachment to another nanny, only to have it severed again.

We lucked out.  With some recommendations from friends, we found a daycare through our local school system who claimed they had never kicked a kid out (seriously, I asked).  We decided to give it a try, and Big C is still there now.  They’ve been incredible working with him, challenges and all, and have guided us through some pretty overwhelming stuff like the creation of an IEP.  I have no doubt they will be a tremendous asset to us as we continue to deal with this very recent diagnosis of autism.

So how did we finally find out Big C has autism?

You’ll just have to read the next post, my friends.

Photo Credit