Childcare and the drug of a nation

The childcare thing is just not working out for me. The Montessori experiment did not suceed due to a combination of Small Z and the distance involved in getting there. They also expected her to be ready for four short days or two full days once she turned three (i.e. now) and it is blindingly obvious to me that it would not have gone well…

And the childcare place around the corner? Small Z started there a month and half ago, twice a week, a few hours each time. I built her up to four hours, probably too quickly, and had to go back to leaving her for about an hour and a half. As well as staying there for ten to 15 minutes when I first dropped her off. In retrospect, she enjoyed it when it was new and interesting to her, but this quickly waned.

I picked her up after lunch on one of the days that she stayed the longest, and she was doing a painting at an easel. About four of the other kids were engaged in some creative activity. And the other 15 or so were WATCHING TELEVISION. Maybe I’m a bit naive, but I thought that was odd. Do all childcare centres have televisions? Am I weird to think that it’s weird?

“It’s so funny,” said one of the carers, as she saw me looking at the TV. “I just could not make Small Z look away from the TV. She was totally fixated! I actually had to stand in front of her, block it from her sight, and ask if she wanted to do a painting. And she did!”

“Well…” I said, feeling like a hippy, and wondering why I felt like apologising for what I was about to say, “We don’t have a television at home. So Small Z has never really sat down in front of one before. She watches a few things on YouTube and iView but… How much TV do they watch here?”

She looked at me like I was a bizarre relic. “Um, not more than half an hour – just while we’re cleaning the lunch things away and mopping the floor. How do you feel about that?”

“I suppose that if that’s the way you do things, and Small Z is coming here, then it’s not too much drama. But I’d be happier if you could get her doing something else, like painting, instead. If it’s possible.”

If Small Z had been happy there, the TV thing would not have been a big issue. I was prepared to live with it – particularly as I hoped to drop her there early and pick her up immediately after her lunch. However. Each time I took her she would cry or nearly cry and say, “But I don’t want to go, but I don’t WANT TO GO.” And I had to wheedle her there, thinking that she would like it once she was inside and involved in some activitiy.

But she didn’t so much like it as tolerate it. It began making me feel revolting as I would conspire with the carers to convince her she was going to have a great time. I sat down with her on a few occasions and asked her what she didn’t like about it. “The shopping,” she stated, somewhat obliquely, “And Daisy.” It took me a little while to realise that whenever I left I either said I had to go shopping or go home and feed Daisy.

When my mum asked her if she had a friend at childcare, she said “Nikki.” My mother thought that was lovely. Until I told her that Nikki was one of the carers. D’oh.

Last week I left her there again. Again under duress. As I walked up toward the building 90 minutes later to pick her up I heard her outside out the back crying, “Where’s my mama?” It broke my heart. She is sad there. She is bored there. I am going to figure out some other way to get my work done. Because to me, it’s just not worth the battles with her and I don’t feel comfortable leaving her somewhere that she’s not happy being.

An alternative I’d been keen on was family daycare. A woman in our local area had been recommended to us by three different people. I called her and M, the Smalls and I went over to meet her. We walked in the front door. Looked to our right. And saw four small children slumped on the couch in front of a huge plasma screen. M and I sneaked a look at each other.

In my opinion, kids under two should not watch any TV. And those who are in the first few years over two should watch maybe half an hour or so. There’s a bit of information about this here. A couple of the kids there were definitely under two. Anyway. We were there, and had to go through the whole charade. I was still interested in knowing how it all worked – maybe if it was all great, then I could just deal with the TV thing, or pick up Small Z early.

But there was just something about the house that didn’t sit well with me. Regardless of the television thing – there was no ZING to the place. Despite there being little kids there every day, and the woman having littlies herself, there was minimal evidence of much FUN. The playroom had lots of neatly stacked plastic toys. Small Z went for a toy turtle, until the woman handed her a doll, took her over to the dollhouse, and explained that she could ‘sit the dolly on the couch in front of the TV’. M and I choked in silence.

In the conversation that followed, I asked about how much television the kids would ordinarily watch and was told that they were allowed to pick out one of the DVDs there and watch for an hour while she had her lunch and cleaned up. (This seems to be a theme.) On the other hand, Small Z appeared to like it there, and she liked the woman who ran it. However, it seemed to me that the business side of things (i.e. the income) outweighed the fun side of things.

Both different sets of parents I know that send their kids to this particular family daycare have lovely kids, and are happy with the service. Obviously I am feeling a bit like a latte sipping television nazi, but I can’t understand why these people feel the need to use TV as a babysitting tool. Isn’t that their job?

If this woman had had some mobiles hanging from the ceiling, some paintings hung up to dry and had told me the kids would watch Play School every afternoon while she had a cup of tea, I would have had no issue with it. But she and I just inhabit different planets. It would never have occurred to her that I might object to Small Z sitting in front of the TV for an hour. Because for her, it’s not an issue.

So when I called her and said that I couldn’t take the place that she had offered Small Z and she asked why, I said that it didn’t fit in with the time that my mum could come and look after Small DB. I didn’t want to raise the issue with her, because what would be the point?

And yet again I’m envious of our lovely friends up on the North Coast of NSW, where (despite being very watery at present, and hotter than I like) there seems to be a few more options for kids who have parents with similar ideas to me. More freaks in one place. I think I’d find it comforting.

Yesterday Small Z and I were in the supermarket carpark; from there we could see all the hats of all the kids that go to childcare (she called it ‘three group’).

“So,” I said, conversationally, “Do you want to go back to threegroup?”

“Yeah!” she said.

“You do?”

“Yeah! I want to go back to threegroup. And get my hat. And then go again.”

“No worries. I think that’s what we’ll do.”

Television, The Drug of the Nation – Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy


Under the trees


Fatigue and fallout


  1. Maybe she’s brighter than the other kids and gets bored at daycare? Could be she’s used to the one on one time she gets with you so maybe being in the daycare with other kids just doesn’t hack it? Hard to say. I agree with you about the T.V. but admit that I did use it as a baby sitter myself putting on the children’s programs for them to watch while I did my thing. Of course now it’s computers. When does she start public school? Hopefully by then she’ll be more interested. We talked my son into going to a special school for gifted children, he hated it and stuck it out the one year and then went back to his normal school. Later I found out that at lunch time he’d just sit by himself in the cafeteria. I guess it wasn’t worth the enrichment experience to not be with his friends. Well that and it was a lot harder doing the homework.

  2. beth

    I think she is bored. She was also in a group that was aged from three to five – so I’m not sure how that was for her. She was almost the youngest there for the whole time she was there. I think it was a combination of bored and that she’s just not into other kids…and she’s used to one on one…

    I’m with you on the TV – when I babysat kids and they wanted to watch ‘The Little Mermaid’ two or three times – I would totally let them. Never thought anything of it. But a childcare centre…that’s a different story…

  3. Jen

    *note from north coast friend*
    Claude’s family day care mum not only let them watch TV every afternoon in her boring house, but Claude came home wanting to play “You be Baby Jesus and I’ll be Mary”. BWAAAHHHH!
    Home life *always wins I reckon Beth – at 10 she’s neither a TV addict or interested in going to church (!)- but her three years with this carer taught her sooooo much about mucking in, cooperation, making friends and tolerating/negotiating the ones she couldn’t stand and/or found boring – and despite the carer’s religious bent, I thought she was kind, caring – and sometimes shitty and over it, just like the rest of us.
    Marco on the other hand (unlike Claude) watches (too much :/) TV at home, but has a super saint of a Steiner day care mum – who also gets shitty and over it, but would NEVER turn on a tv or anything electronic… or with a battery in it for that matter. Go Figure! All works out in the end…
    *no such thing as always
    lots of love you!!!
    Jen (aka The North Coast Aint all it’s Cracked up to Be, But There Sure Are a Lot of Crack Pots here) xxx

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