Inside the tall walls of day care you either get busy living or get busy dying. I know my 2-year old son has done some easy time and some hard time there. As a three-day a week guest of the establishment he’s still not a completely institutionalised toddler, like the full-timers. He understands the system, knows when it’s lights out for nap time and who he can trust in the yard. He knows to stick to his own drink bottle and watch out for teething kids with wild eyes. But for everything he’s learned in his 18-month stretch, earlier this week things went wrong and he got hurt.
So how many day care incidents are too many? That was the question burning in my head as I drove my little man home. I’d been asked to sign an ‘Incident Report’ for my boy, in response to the deep red scratch running from his eyelid halfway down the side of his nose.
The Incident Report stated that he’d been fighting with another child over a toy and had been scratched. Then the universal cure for all day care related injuries was applied – an ice pack and Arnica cream. I’m sure if a kid got shot with a RPG they’d probably administer an icepack and Arnica cream expecting remedial results.
As a father I find these incidents difficult to deal with. Firstly, because I feel a strong sense of duty to protect my children on a physical level, and I can’t do that when my son is in the yard at day care. Secondly, it’s the unknown factors that bug me; who started it? Who walked away with
the toy? Has my boy got moves or did he get owned? What does the other guy look like? But ultimately, I hate it because of what I do know; that my boy had his eye scratched at with sharp, untrimmed little fingernails. He would have felt hurt and cried and wanted his mum or dad and we just weren’t there.
Now I understand that’s the arena all the kids play in, but that arena isn’t meant to be the freaking Coliseum. It’s also not an isolated incident either, he’s had a plastic spade wrapped around his face in the sand pit, he’s been pushed off things and he’s been nibbled on about four times. Like any parent I don’t want to think it, but he’s probably been responsible for the incident reports of other kids too.
The fact is that toddlers are impulsively violent little creatures with no regard for consequence. But at what point do day care providers accept some form of responsibility for failing to protect the children that we take there to be … protected. It seems that day care centres are so focused on protecting children from exterior dangers with little responsibility for the dangers within their own walls. I don’t expect rubber bullets and water cannons, but if kids are being smashed with plastic spades, maybe give the plastic spades a rest for a while.
On an individual level, the women who work as day care teachers are amazing, and do a challenging job for a modest salary. But I do wonder if there are systematic safety failings within common day care systems and physical set ups. I also wonder if growing parent paranoia will see CCTV monitoring of play areas and classrooms become standard practice in the near future.
The awful case last year of a 4-year old Aldrich Viju who died in what was labelled a “tragic accident” at a Takapuna day care centre must have scared every pre-schooler parent in NZ. The idea that your kid might not survive the day in childcare is harrowing, but it was the childcare centre’s shameless arse-covering that was equally frightening.
When questioned about the death, the unfortunately named Angels Childcare, responded by saying that two teachers were supervising seven kids in the play area at the time, so they were within their precious ratios, and that the teachers were first aid trained. The centre then set up a Give a Little page to pay for the travel costs of the grieving family.
Ok, so a kid died in your care, you’re showing no accountability, minimal sympathy, and you’re getting other people to pay the families costs. Love your work.
Despite the centre claiming they’d communicated the details around the little lad’s death to the family, a family spokesman said they had not. Months later, following an investigation it was vaguely revealed by the centre manager that the death occurred because “the child got caught on something.” Great learnings – thanks for sharing bro, we all know ‘somethings’ can be deadly. This warm character elaborated further saying that the ‘something’ was an “apparatus used
throughout many childcare centres in New Zealand.” Oh thank god, we were worried there until you reassured us parents that the same kid-killing equipment was probably at our local day care centre as well. Maybe this manager should have taken advice from a human, instead of a lawyer.
The story of Aldrich Viju really needs to be told, but with a lighter hand than mine and in a heavier forum than this cheap-gag dad blog.
So if a day care centre can weasel out of any serious repercussions when a child dies in its care, like hell they’re going to feel responsible for a little friendly eye-gouging. I guess that’s just how things are at the big house.
It’s going to remain difficult for me to know how to approach day care ‘incidents’. A part of me wants to teach my son how to use his baby teeth to fashion a shank from a rusk, and carry it for protection. But another part already knows that the day care exercise yard is an early precursor for adult life, and a place where he has to fight his own battles.