So I’ve started my new career as a daycare worker, and to everyone’s surprise (but especially mine) I’m really getting the hang of it. If (when) they cry, you hug them and say “So and So, it’s Lydia’s day to be Line Leader.” If (when) they fight, you threaten to make them take another nap. And if (when) they hurt themselves, you tell them how brave they are and always give them a band-aid…band-aids are the kid equivalent to a stiff drink; they make them feel invincible, courageous, and slightly superior to everybody else.
And though I know it’s uncouth to pick favorite baby-chillens, I do so on a daily basis. (What? They’re not my offspring.) Today my favorite is Matthew.
Matthew is not technically one of my kids. I work in the 3 to 4-year-old room, and Mathew is a semi-potty-trained-terrible-2-year-old. However, I also have the pleasure of working Aftercare. This means from 3-6:00 PM every night I have the responsibility of keeping twelve 2 to 10-year-olds alive. It’s harder (and more maddening) than it sounds. Fortunately Matthew is one of my captives, and thus I have a ray of sunshine to break up the “but Travis said we COOOOOULD” whining I receive from the 5th grade girls.
(Incidentally, 5th graders are the teenagers of 2009. DAMN those hormones in our drinking water.)
But despite my newfound adoration of him, Matthew and I actually got off to a very rocky start. He came to me on the playground, white-blonde hair standing on end and a severely distressed look on his dirt-smeared face. “Thaaand inma choooo!” He said to me. Umm…..what? “Thaaaand inma CHOOOOOOO!!” Then he grabbed my leg for balance, pointed to his sandal and yelled “CHOO. CHOOCHOOCHOO!” But I was still massively confused. So I looked at him, used my 25-years of tried and tested logic to analyze his sign language, and finally deduced his wailing to mean that there was sand in his shoe. Ahha! You’d think it’d be easier for a grad student to understand a toddler, but nay. So I hoisted him up into my lap and carefully removed the accused sandal. Then I wiped off his tiny (and filthy) foot, shook the sand out of his shoe, and said “There ya go, sweet boy. All better.” Everything seemed on the up and up; he was smiling and saying words I didn’t understand, and I felt as if I’d done right by him.
Then I went to put the sandal back on.
Immediately his toes curled and he let out a scream almost too high-pitched for human ears to register. I instantly froze; 2’s are not my forte, and I was afraid I’d inadvertently broken this mini-person’s leg or ankle or foot or what have you. Then my worst fears were realized. He looked at me with pure disdain in his eyes, and in the loudest voice he could muster said “DON’T HURT ME AGAIN.”
Well that pretty much made me want to quit life.
And yet I was confused…I couldn’t imagine what I’d done to hurt him, so I tried to shake it off and be the Grown Up. “We have to put you shoe back on, Matthew” I said. And he said “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NO SHOE!!!! NO HURT ME AGAIN! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! YOU HUUUUUUUUURT ME NO NO!!!!”
By that time the other teacher on duty was looking at me warily; it was clear she didn’t want to expend the energy to intervene, but she also didn’t want me to kill the poor child (which is precisely what it sounded like I was doing). But thanks to Jesus, after 7 more excruciating minutes of “DON’THURTMEDON’THURTMEDON’THURTME” wails I finally succeed in velcroing the damn sandal back on Matthew’s squirming foot. The cries stopped immediately. He looked at me, glared, and hopped down from my lap to reenter the sandbox…and I spent the rest of the day fighting back the assumption that I’d soon be visited by DHS.
But that next afternoon I learned a valuable lesson about 2-year-olds; despite the fact that they know some words (and use them, loudly), they don’t necessarily understand what they mean.
For when I ventured back into Aftercare and was met again with the challenge of monitoring scary-breakable-2-baby-chillens, I heard the familiar screams of “DON’T HURT ME YOU HURT ME IT HURTS DON’T HURT ME” emanating from deep within Matthew’s being. Poor Miss Christie looked just about as terrified as I had felt the day before; she was tugging gently at Matthew’s hand saying “we need to go potty,” and he was responding by accusing her of child abuse.
And that’s the moment when I first realized I speak Toddler.
Matthew knows that being hurt is bad. Matthew also knows that, when it’s not what he wants to do at that moment, things like putting on one’s shoes or going to the bathroom are also bad.
Hence, anything that makes Matthew unhappy…hurts. And whoever is the culprit of said unhappiness…is hurting him.
Now he and I understand each other almost flawlessly; when I tell him to stop throwing rocks and he tells me “DON’T HURT ME AGAIN,” I raise an eyebrow that means I’m not falling for it this time, and he puts down the rocks with defeat and anger in his eyes. (Kids can give THE BEST “go to Hell” looks.) But beyond his terrible-two’s tantrums, he’s really an adorable kid…he speaks a language all his own and has a laugh like you wouldn’t believe, plus he loves to crawl up to me on all fours and bark with every ounce of his might. He’s playing dog. It’s freaking adorable.
Now that my DHS investigation scare is passed, I feel relatively confident with my abilities to keep small baby-chillens alive…and even happy (except for the 5th grade girls, who hate me with a passion and are conspiring to have me fired. You can’t please everyone…especially when dealing with hormone-crazed spawns of Satan.)
But despite my success with Matthew, I'm sure there will be countless other Epic Fails over the summer when these precious lil Monster Babies and I do not communicate properly. And especially now that I have two (count them, two) childcare jobs, I assure you God Willing will recieve the brunt of my "welp, I pissed off another one" stories. So, keep checking in. Maybe next time I’ll tell you about Kavith, who has never spoken a word of English to me but who likes to sit half-nekked on the bathroom floor and sing jibberish to himself. Imagine the possibilities...the possibilites are endless.