I was left in tears this week after a phone call from Nursery. It was about 3pm in the afternoon, and I could feel my adrenaline spiking when I saw the Caller ID display – what had happened? Was Pickle okay? I must have sounded slightly panicked when I answered as the first thing the Nursery Manager said was “Don’t worry, everything’s fine. I just wanted to have a quick chat.”
Let me set the scene. Pickle has only been going to nursery since the beginning of February. He’s not yet had two full months there. It’s still all a bit new to him (and me), and although he’s been seemingly fine and happy to be left at nursery three days a week, it must still be a bit strange to him. He’ll be two years old soon, and he seems to be getting more grown up by the minute. He likes the routine of nursery – he likes getting out of the car, putting his coat on and his woolly hat, carrying his rucksack and holding my hand as we cross the car park and head into his nursery. He smiles at the staff on the door, he climbs the stairs, points to his peg for his coat and happily enters his room, excited and ready for breakfast. Today, he even ran straight up to his key worker and gave her a cuddle. He doesn’t even need me to ask for a kiss goodbye now – he offers me a kiss, gives me a wave and I watch him sit down nicely, waiting patiently for his bowl of cereal. He’s never once cried that I’ve left him.
At the end of the day, I love hearing what he’s been up to. The staff give me a run down of what he’s been up to, what he’s eaten and when he’s had his nappy changed. Pickle sits on my lap, with his arms around my neck as they tell me what he’s played with, or what skills he’s been practicing. I praise him for eating all of his dinner, and marvel at his paintings or hand-decorated chocolates. He likes putting his coat back on, his hat, and wearing his bag, and he happily toddles over to the car with me – always pointing out which one is ours, and I always chuckle at how excited he gets about seeing the car! It’s lovely. This is what I see of him at nursery. This is all I know. For what I’ve seen, and what I’ve been told, he seems to be doing really well. I’m proud of him.
So to get a phone call out of the blue to tell me that they’ve tried him in a different room to help tackle his ‘behaviour’ completely threw me. Sorry? What behaviour? Why is this the first I’m hearing of it? I was too shell-shocked and aware of being on the phone in the office to think about probing further and just decided to ask more questions when I picked him up instead… but it meant a whole two hours at work, worrying and speculating as to what could be the issue. Before I knew it, tears were rolling down my cheeks and I felt like I’d been completely left out of the loop. Maybe he wasn’t getting on as well as I had thought? What was he doing that was so problematic? Why hadn’t they told about it sooner and how bad was it? I feared him being labelled as ‘the naughty one’ and treated differently. I worried other parents had complained. I questioned my own parenting decisions and wondered whether I hadn’t prepared him enough for this change?
But above all, I felt silly. I had just assumed his nursery workers would fall in love with him, our little charming boy. I thought he’d be the kind, sweet, generous soul I see him being at home. I thought he’d make tons of new friends, and be a good role model to others. But maybe I’ve been blinded by mother’s bias, and maybe he’s not any of these things? How had I got the measure of him so wrong?
I shot out of work as quick as I could at 5pm. I practically ran to my car as even though I was so anxious for the conversation that awaited me, I was desperate to know what was going on. I needed to know. I entered his new room, and there he was. My little man. Picking up the toy cars and putting them away in their basket. He beamed at me, showed me the cars and looked the picture of youthful innocence.
I was told: “He’s been much better down here – don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a few problems with him – but he’s been a lot better.” I blurted out that I didn’t even know there had been a problem. No one’s told me anything. What exactly has he been doing?
Throwing. Apparently, throwing has been the problem. He’s been throwing stuff. I didn’t ask for details, but I wish I had (and I need to be more assertive next time to get the full story). I want to know what kinds of things he’s been throwing? Has he been throwing stuff at other children? Has he hurt someone? How long has this been happening? Is there a particular time of day when the behaviour is worse? Is this common? But mainly: WHY didn’t anyone tell me? Is there not a procedure in place for reporting this kind of thing?
On the one hand, I trust the nursery. I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving Pickle there if I didn’t… but on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder what else they haven’t been telling me? I feel paranoid about it. This happened on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Pickle was sent home for a suspected stomach bug and possible chicken pox. I was told he’d done such a watery nappy that it went all up his back. I was told they’d noticed spots on him whilst changing, including a ‘big one’ on his leg. “It might not be anything to worry about, but we have had three other confirmed cases of chicken pox this morning.”
But… it didn’t dawn on me until I’d hurriedly shut down my work computer, left an apology note for my line manager, picked him up and brought him home… that he was wearing the same clothes I’d dropped him off in. They were clean. Surely an explosive nappy of such proportions they were telling me of would have necessitated an outfit change? They told me the poo went all the way up his back. Why didn’t it dirty his vest? Surely the poo would have gone everywhere? I stripped him off at home, to see what spots I needed to keep an eye on… and didn’t find a single one. Not even the ‘big one’ on his leg. Had they vanished already in the space of half an hour?
I’m left feeling like I’m not getting the whole story. That there’s something else at play here that I’m not aware of. I’m reminded of a latin phrase used in The West Wing: post hoc ergo propter hoc. After, therefore, because of it. The assumption that because things happen in sequence, they must be connected. Cause and effect. Maybe this episode of sickness today has nothing to do with the behaviour revelation of yesterday. But what if it does? What if a bit of a loose nappy was a good enough excuse to not have to deal with him today? Or tomorrow.
I guess we’ll just enjoy an extra couple of days at home with Pickle, and keep our fingers crossed that Wednesday’s phone call was nothing more than the nursery being overly cautious at a time when there’s lots of bugs going around. But it’s a lesson for me in being more assertive and demanding with nursery. I need to ask the important questions. I need to know what’s going on.
A much needed postscript:
I’m writing this as an addition to the emotional, hormonal train of thoughts above. Turns out, there was a very biological reason behind my over-reaction to the phone call from nursery: after twenty two months of breastfeeding, Mother Nature has finally caught up with me and I’m back to the normality of having a monthly cycle. My periods are back, my friends, along with the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone that means my mood is all over the place. Joy. More roller coasters here than at Drayton Manor.
Even though Pickle didn’t return to nursery today, I spoke to the manager on the phone to clear a few things up. It turns out I was perhaps reading between the lines a little too much and imagining the worst when in fact:
- they didn’t move him into the new room because he was naughty – they moved him because they realised he was noticeably older and more physical than the other children in his old room
- if there was a concern over his behaviour, they would communicate that with me and call us in for a meeting to discuss an action plan to tackle it
- they are always happy to discuss a child’s behaviour (whether that’s problems in nursery or at home) and are happy to offer advice where they can
- as he didn’t have the stomach bug as suspected, we could have taken him into nursery today as usual
So I completely made a mountain out of a molehill. I suspect this won’t be the only and last time I do this. Parenting with PMS. This is a whole new ball game.