Friday, October 19, 2007



I should be working right now but something is really bothering me and I am too distracted by it to write, so I'm going to blog about it instead.

As I have said here before Barak goes to playgroup. It is a very Chassidic playgroup a few blocks from us. I walked by it many times last year and thought, whoa, I'm never sending my kid there, it's just way too unsupervised. A few times I saw kids outside out of sight (it is an l-shaped play area) of any adult. I have heard stories about parents coming to pick up kids and finding them on the swings by themselves, with the teacher having gone back inside. There is a teacher and an assistant, and the assistant, while very nice, seems to have some cognitive issues.

Fast forward to last spring, when I found myself needing to find Barak a preschool or playgroup for this fall. He needs to go somewhere--I know that plenty of three-year-olds are just fine at home, but Barak is intensely social and really needs other kids. He is not part of a big family and gets bored and nutsy at home with me/the babysitter and Iyyar all day. So I explored my options. And my options were... limited. The preschools were all extremely expensive, to the tune of $600 a month, and while that might have been manageable the distances were not. The closest one is a mile away, which means four miles of walking each day, and I am expecting a baby in the dead of winter. The few other local playgroups were, by the time I got to them, full--who knew that people start signing their kids up in January? So I was left with the local Chassidic one.

I called around and talked to parents who'd had their kids there before, and heard generally good things. I called the teacher and said I was interested in registering my son but had some concerns about how the kids were supervised outside. She seemed to take them seriously and assured me that the kids were never outside alone that she was aware of, and she would talk to her assistant. I decided to take her at her word, and I registered Barak, thinking, it's two blocks away, I have a babysitter, I am telecommuting, if it turns out to be a disaster I can take him out.

I did, however, come away with the clear impression that she thought I was a neurotic hovery crazy mother, an impression which was strengthened when she called me back later to remind me that she did have a waiting list, I could feel free to take him out, and--best part--that she didn't want to be "hounded."

Did I like this? No. But I tried very hard not to be apologetic, to say, "It's my responsibility as his mother to make sure he's okay, and I'm sure you respect that, and that we both want the same thing--for all the children to be safe." To which, of course, she had to agree, and the call ended cordially. I didn't pull him out, because, frankly, I had no better options. And the school year started.

So far, it's been fine. Barak comes home happy, he seems to really like it, and I have never seen a child outside unsupervised since I've been there. I was a little surprised to see cleaning products on the bathroom windowsill in easy reach of any three-year-old, but I know that Barak, at least, won't touch them and I decided to keep my mouth shut. She's been doing this for twenty years and nothing has happened yet, so either the kids know not to touch or they are not in there unsupervised (which I doubt, but okay.)

Last week, though, he got a note in his parsha sheet that the kids were going to go on a field trip to a park (Parshas Noach--duck pond and all). The park is a mile and a half away. At the end of the note was "Please bring a booster seat for your child and a permission slip."


Barak is not big enough for a booster seat. Even if he were, I would not put him in one, because a) carseats are so much safer at his age and b) I would not trust him not to wiggle out of the seatbelt. The park in question is huge, unfenced, and known to have unsavory activity going on--there was an attempted abduction there a few years ago. There are 17 kids, the two teachers, and the two mothers who were coming with their 10-seater vans. I don't like this. At all. And I can't take a day off from work to bring him myself.

I told the teacher that I would probably not be bringing him, since he wasn't yet in a booster seat. "Oh, we have extras," she said. "Well, it's that I haven't moved him to a booster seat yet. He's still in a car seat." She said she thought one of the mothers would have. Now, if you know me you know how I am about carseat installations. I do not just clip in the seatbelt and walk away--I treat every carseat installation as though I knew the car was about to get in a head-on collision (okay, if I knew THAT I wouldn' t be putting my kid in the car, but you get the idea.) I said, I'm sorry, but I'm very makpid about carseats and if I can't put it in myself I'm really not comofortable with it. I think I'll probably keep him home.

She looked... displeased. "Well, I'd hate for him to miss it," she said. I assured her that we go to the park plenty, and we left. The issue, honestly, was as much the park as the carseat--I won't go to that park myself without a 1:1 child-parent ration, because it also has a huge adventure playground in which children instantly disappear. And Barak is three. And he is... adventurous. And I did not want him to disappear.

The trip came and went. Today, I took Barak to school. I walked in the door and within seconds the teacher was there, holding a bunch of pictures. "Look, Barak! Here are the pictures of the trip you couldn't go on!"

Now, is it just me, or was that a little....!

I said, rather stiffly, "I'm not sure why you're showing him those." She said "I made a picture for all of the children. Would you rather I not give him one?" I said better not, and left.

Now, it's possible--possible--that she just happened to be standing there with the pictures, and didn't mean anything by it. (Possible, but unlikely.) I know she already doesn't like me, and don't want to a) escalate this or b) have her take it out on Barak. She hasn't done anything where I can justifiably pull him out without paying the rest of the year's tuition. And I'm not sure how I would begin to have a conversation about this, and I'm pretty sure that any conversation I did have would not be productive.

But I really, really don't feel good about it right now.


jasmin said...

Ummmm. Yeah....

I'm with you on this. Let's see, it's October now, which means January is only 3 months away, so I'm assuming Barak's name will be going on some sign-up lists at that point.

I doubt she is unconcerned about children's safety, because, after all, that's her livelihood. One questionable incident and she loses her license/reputation/potential income. But it does seem like she's waaay more snippy with you than one would hope another adult would be, especially when they're getting paid by the other party.

Since she's not taking anything out on Barak, and he is still safe there, I would suggest leaving him there. He has friends, he is looked after, and when they do things you don't approve of, you can keep him out of it (whatever the person in charge thinks of you doing this is immaterial). As far as the teacher's concerned, I'm afraid you have to be the more mature one and let it slide, unless, of course it escalates.

caroncm said...

Hmmm. I this point, I would watch carefully for any suggestion that Barak is suffering as a result. I'm assuming he'll go elsewhere next fall so I would take a more avoidant approach to the field trip the future something would prevent school attendance on that day or days.

I think your instincts are correct. I can't see how this particular person would take it well. Afterall, she doesn't like to be "hounded."

Rua said...

I understand how you must feel. I have 2 pieces of advice:
1) Pray for peace and harmony with her.
2)Also, you don't have to give her specific reasons for keeping Barak out of school. It isn't her place to critique you as a parent. At least not for being TOO concerned about your child's wellbeing. Don't confirm or deny her suspicions and/or judgments on your level of protectiveness toward your own small child.

miriamp said...

I totally hear you on both the park and the car seats! Did I tell you that I've been modifying the standard in-town trip permission trips since my eldest started school? Right after the part about not holding the school responsible for anything happening to my child I write in, "provided that, when transported in a vehicle, my child rides in an approved car seat, properly installed, which I will be happy to provide." For older kids in boosters, there's a whole bit about using the booster properly, with both a lap and shoulder belt. And the one time they IGNORED that and just used a standard seatbelt to go 4 blocks, I threw such a fit at the Preschool director that she will never ever forget. Yes, I would rather he walk, okay!?! Or skip the trip. He had a Britax laptop, unfortunately no longer made because of stupid LATCH laws, (and virtually idiot-proof to use) with him that day, but she "didn't realize that" and didn't want to "bother" me by calling ahead and asking me to send a car seat that day, and it was "only" 4 blocks, etc.

Sorry, I'm actually still angry about that. but the school here is good about it, and I had the laptop, which as I said, is not only idiot proof, but works for any kid over 30 lbs, with either a lap-shoulder belt or only a lap belt.

But I also look for fenced parks, so I understand that part too.

k. said...

Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Yes, I agree with you about the carseats and the park--especially when you've witnessed instances of...shall we say, less-than-100%-attentiveness?

But I agree with everyone else--Barak will probably be elsewhere in the fall, and until then, you'll have to be the adult. here. *sigh*

Deborah said...

What a doodle, as we say in this house.
It is hard, but it is better to just let this slide. All the reasons have been stated. And you do not want you son singled out for more 'attention' of this kind.

LeahChaya said...

Just had to add my (same) 2 cents.

I've been generally lucky - the home-preschool we've used was a max of 6 kids group, where the only yearly trip in a car was with (A) parents installing their own booster/carseats in her van and (B) 2 kids - 1 chaperone ratio.

And school is *usually* good about these things. Except for the commercial van that replaced a bus last minute for a class trip - dd knows she needs a booster for cars, but in her head it *was* a bus. And then the professional driver insisted a certain funny seat was meant to be double-buckled, and that's of course where she ended up sitting. I almost took off the teacher's head (politely of course, she was apologetic, and it was after the fact), and told dd that if it isn't a big yellow school bus, she needs a booster AND NO double buckle anywhere, EVER.

(Gee, that didn't sound like a vent or anything, did it? This is almost 2 years ago.)

WAY too many frum families here who believe in the "double-buckle" concept. There's a reason my 10 YO still goes to "camp" with a booster.