Day Care…

I cruise into a small parking lot at the side of the school, and find a space as quickly as possible. It’s only my fifth day at a new job and I’m already late. I suck at punctuality, always have. Hopefully I won’t suck at it forever though, as I’m only twenty five.  I keep telling myself that I’ll grow out of it. Every night I go to bed determined to jump up with the first alarm. I picture myself, all wide eyed and bushy tailed, singing in the shower with more than a measly twenty minutes to get myself beautified. It never happens though, and I think I secretly know that it’ll never happen because no matter how determined I am, I still set at least three different alarms… Just in case.

Each morning it’s the same thing. I hit snooze a few dozen times while I’m wedged into a weird sleepy autopilot state of consciousness. Then once my mind is finally able to register why exactly those alarms are going off, my eyes shoot open in a panic. I look over at the bright numbers screaming at me from on top of my nightstand. They confirm what I already know, and that’s the fact that I’m sure to be late again. Depending on the day, my time frame ranges from twenty to forty minutes to get myself out the door. Today I lucked out and it was a forty minute day, so I was able to shower and kind of do my hair.  Somehow, I still managed to be late.

“Good job Daphne.” I mumble to myself, before stepping out of the car.

I fiddle with the key card dangling from my neck while I speed walk through the parking lot. The school is fairly small, but still big enough for an entire elementary, and highschool to be compiled into the same facility. They’re separated into two opposite wings of the main building, and by a variety of small buildings outside of the far east end. There’s an outside playground for the younger kids on the west side. The way they’re able to keep the high schoolers separated from the elementary kids is actually quite impressive.

My new job doesn’t have anything to do with teaching, or with the school kids.  I love kids, and would absolutely adore working in a classroom, but in this case I don’t. Unfortunately my lack of any education beyond a high school diploma is holding me back. Shocker… Sometimes I wish I had the ambition to further my education, but for the most part I embrace the fact that I’m too lazy.

I swipe my key through a metal slot on the outside wall of a set of double doors that lead into the elementary side of the main building. Hurried feet rush my body through an empty hallway, past a small gym, and I stop at a large metal door that reads DayCare. One great feature of this school, is that it provides day care service for the employees. So every morning before the kids start piling in, all of the teachers and teacher’s aids drop off their babies and toddlers at this very door.

Large fluffy looking clouds, a rainbow, a sun, and a few apple trees made from thick card-stock paper decorate the wall around the door. Each apple contains a tiny little hand print smeared in white paint, and a name of the child it belongs to. I smile every morning when I see them. It really does lift my spirits. It’s my fifth day here, so I’m starting to get to know the little ones fairly well. Before I reach for the handle I find the apple that’s been hand stamped by Steven. I know we’re not supposed to play favorites, but this kid is quickly filling the bill.

I chuckle a little to myself as soon as I spot his apple. It’s hard to tell that there’s even a hand print there, it’s mostly just a thick lump of paint with his name on it. I admire a few more of the familiar names and prints as I reach for the handle.  It’s impossible not to, even though I’m running late, because the cuteness of the decorations are very demanding.

The morning chaos of the room grabs me by the ears and shakes my head violently. We have a great schedule for the kids, and we follow it to the dot. Each slot in the day’s to-do’s lasts anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, and it goes something like this: Free-time, learning sign language, snacks, story time, learning crafts, lunch time, naps, free-time again, singing and dance, and then last but not least is movie time until their parents show up to take them home.

The very first hour of free-time is out of control. It isn’t uncommon to have literally every emotion known to mankind experienced in the form of a half dozen pint sized humans.  I brace myself for the impact of four different twenty pound bodies slamming into my legs full force.  As soon as they let me go, I drop to my knees in order to give each and every one of them my full attention.

“Mrs. Daphne! I love your shirt!” Steven shouts, squinting through his bottle cap glasses.

“Why thank you Steven, I love yours too. Is that a monster truck?”

“Yeah, they my fav.” This kid’s slang is to die for.

He throws his arms around my neck and squeezes tightly, pulling on the heart-strings. From the two inch distance his face moves from mine, he flashes me the biggest grin his little face will allow. I can clearly see what he had for breakfast because there’s a piece of bacon lodged in the large gap of his front teeth.  Before I can help him remove the leftovers he’s gone, running off to help his best friend Thomas push around a giant toy truck.

“Mrs. Daphne, Mrs. Daphne, Mrs. Daphne.” Joey repeats over and over, even though I’m making a very clear eye contact, and now giving him my full attention.

“Hi sweet-heart.”  I say, trying not to giggle.

“Mrs. Daphne, Mrs. Daphne.”

“What can I help you with?”  I ask him patiently.

“Hi.” He finally says.

“Well hello friend.”  I smile, glad he was finally able to spit it out.

The other two little culprits of my initial leg attack, give me hugs and then move on. Apparently neither are in the mood to chat. It’s funny how attached you can get to kids so fast. In these short few days I’ve made quite the variety of little friends. All pigtails and dinosaurs, snot and spit. There’s never a dull moment.

I return to my feet, greet the other five women in charge of the kid’s care, and then poke my head around the corner, to check into the infant side and say hello. The toddlers and infants are separated into two different large rooms.  A tightly secured baby-gate fills the door-less frame between them. There are never less than two people on both sides of the gate at all times. The babies are only allowed on the toddler side when they’re in the arms of an adult. There’re only three babies in our care right now, and nine toddlers. It’s a comfortable number.   

Free time today goes fairly smooth. There’s only one melt down from the drama queen. Her name is Adalyne, and she’s a tornado of dramatics. She’s quite possibly one of the funniest four year olds I’ve ever came in contact with. I’m sitting on the floor in the middle of the room with two others playing babydolls when it happens.

Adalyne shreeks, “hey!”  Drawing the attention of the entire room.

You’d think someone murdered her dog.  I look up to see her arms thrown into the air as her entire body melts to the floor like butter. The noise she makes isn’t quite a groan or a scream, but it isn’t a sigh either. It’s more like an exaggerated “Moarph”.  Her entire body is on the floor, then she sits back up with her feet straight out in front of herself and points at Thomas yelling.

“You’re the most disgusting kid ever!”

Mrs. Kerry, a co-worker about my same age, moves to the scene almost as quickly as I do. “Adalyne, it’s not nice to point and call names.”  Mrs. Kerry tells her, “Now what happened?”

“He got spit all over my dress!” Adalyne accuses, still pointing and shouting.

“But, but, but, but I only sneezed.” He says, with the tears forming.

I pull Thomas into my arms and tell him it’s okay, while Kerry makes an effort to calm the crazed Adalyne. It could’ve easily been much worse. Everything grosses Adalyne out, and spit is at the top of her list.  This disaster could’ve quickly transformed into a kiddie-fight, had it been any other child in the room aside from Thomas. He is sweet and timid, and would more likely studder and cry than defend himself. Thomas’s tender heart is an admirable quality that most kids sadly lack these days.  He even shares his snacks and toys with the kids who are clearly less fortunate. I try not to play too much into it, or I’d end up bawling like one of the babies in the other room.

It only takes a few minutes of consoling and the water is calmed. After all the toys are picked up and hands are washed, we line up a bunch of cute little miniature plastic chairs into a half circle around the television. Signing time is interesting. We play a Sign With Me movie and help the kids with the signals. I love this part of the day, it could easily be my favorite. The kids are actually quiet, and they pay close attention. We sing the songs and sit in front of them doing the A.S.L. ourselves, encouraging them to follow our lead. There are a few who have it down, they’re amazing little signers. There are also a few who struggle hilariously twisting and tangling their fingers together, but at least they try.

As we’re finishing up the last round of ABC signs, a certain scent takes over the room.  

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