My Child is Average

This week Chick had his annual Early Intervention screening. It is a two-hour long screening, a combination of questions and hands-on exercises that determines whether or not Chick still qualifies for the program.

It was conducted by a speech therapist and Chick’s EI coordinator who has been working with him every week for the last year. His comfort level with her is very high- he smiles when he sees her and gives her giant, spontaneous hugs. It’s darling

Both Mr. O and I were there at the assessment, answering a ton of questions like “Can he feed himself?,” “Does he acknowledge you when you walk into a room?” You know… basic stuff. Since his coordinator sees him so regularly, she was actually able to answer a lot of the questions. It made me realize just how much she has seen him develop over the past year.

I won’t lie, there were some times when I felt nervous when we determined Chick wasn’t doing something yet. Like feeding himself with a spoon- he is trying but really it is mostly using a utensil to mush food around. What does it all meeeeaaaan?! (Thankfully, I couldn’t not really google during the screening, or I’m sure I would have found tons of examples of how this lack of regular spoon-feeding resorts in children who are miserable and hate their mothers.)

It turns out that it all means that Chick is now officially average. With the exception of language skills where he needs work, he even scores above average in several categories. This is a big deal. Let us remember when I brought Chick home, he was basically a fetus. He should have been cooking for another 6 weeks, and I was warned how that may impact his development. I’ve long toggled between his chronological age v. his gestational age when I chart his growth. Now, it’s like that whole being born early never happened. And now that my child is average, he no longer qualifies for EI services.

I am relieved? Kinda? Yeah, I think that’s the word for it. Maybe. I’m also a little bit sad. Okay, yes. I am sad my child no longer qualifies for early intervention. Ick. That makes me sound terrible. I don’t mean that I want him to be delayed. It was just so nice to have someone who was singularly focused on my child’s development, in a way that most daycares can’t really provide.

Don’t get me wrong- Daycare is really good for Chick. They seem to have intuited that he likes a lot of “hands off” playtime. He prefers less guidance so he can explore stuff on his own. In fact, even after all the dramz with EI, our coordinator noted that this is a good environment for him. I chalk his steady development up to their care, as well as our own and Early Intervention.

In a way, having these weekly EI visits meant that I got the benefits of a fancy schmancy daycare without having to pay for it. Chick got one-on-one assessments. As his parents,  we got weekly development reports and plans. I would be paying $30K a year for that some place else.

And then there is the other thing. I actually really like Chick’s coordinator. I would hang out with her, if that would not be unprofessional. She is compassionate, funny, and committed to her work. (Hell, you’d have to be to work in early intervention.) I love all these things about her.

When the assessment was over and we tallied Chick’s score, it was a happy/sad moment. I don’t think any of us are quite ready to say good bye. Which is why we’ve scheduled one more visit for next week to transition. I suspect it is more for me and her than for Chick.

Update on Daycare-gate

I owe you all an update on Daycare-gate. It’s okay now (or will be soon.) I just haven’t had a chance to fill you in. So why don’t I stop blathering on and just get to it.

After being told that maybe “This is not the daycare you’re looking for.” the Early Intervention office called the state governing board. Lo and behold, they have mandatory reporting laws that mean they are supposed to alert the state when daycares aren’t allowing them access. So in a way the whole “Do I report them/Do I not report them?” conundrum was out of my hands.

This turned out to be a pretty beneficial thing because it sounds like the governing board came in and helped them figure out how Chick could still have his EI appointments on site while also accommodating the larger needs of the daycare. (It also led to a truly awkward conversation with the director who asked me point blank if I called– thankfully I had no idea that this was happening, so I looked sufficiently surprised.)

I still have to write up an email to the director to finalize our new plan, but Chick should resume his in-care EI visits in two weeks.

In the meantime, I had been researching other daycare options, and was quickly reminded of why I was with this daycare in the first place. Though I found three other plausible options, they were a) out of my way, b) out of my budget, c) not working-parent-schedule friendly, or d) all of the above.

[Insert rant about how our country doesn’t prioritize quality early education care here.]

So for now, Chick is staying put.

I feel… okay about this decision? The truth is that this daycare is the best option for us, but honestly not the *best*. This whole thing drove it home for me. There are other daycares that wonderlands of early education. A friend of mine is in this amazing co-op which I coveted… until I realized it is twice as spendy as mine (which is already more expensive than my rent in an already expensive city.) It also requires she volunteer for two hours a week, a full day a month, and come in on one Saturday a month to clean.

This 9-5 bread-winning mama can’t do that, thank you very much.

I know, I know… in the scheme of things, Chick is perfectly fine where he is. He is doing great, actually. He continues to amaze me with how he hits his milestones regardless of his premie status. It seems to me that this is the first in many angst-ridden decisions I make as a parent, giving Chick the best that I can while knowing full well it isn’t always going to be the best that there is.

I’m a Fighter! (Or Am I?)

Why, Universe?! Why must you keep punching me in the face?!

So daycare is quickly imploding. That’s happening.

About a week ago, I got a text saying that daycare would no longer be allowing our Early Intervention coordinator to visit Chick on site. Less than 24 hours before her scheduled weekly visit.

The reasons given were weird– a combination for “too many kids in the classroom” and “another kid is having anxiety issues.” Regardless, the results were the same. No Early Intervention. No way, no how.

On short notice, Chick and I were able to meet with the EI coordinator at my home, but I ended up being two hours late for work. Daycare was all “This was a great solution, let’s just keep doing this!”  I was all “My being two hours late for work isn’t a solution at all. Let’s find a way for him to meet on site!”

Still no dice.

The emails back and forth have been so frustrating. With each and every one, my daycare seems to be showing that they don’t understand the regulations that are laid out by the state. It’s a little unnerving. Not only is it illegal (yes! ILLEGAL!) to deny services to children with developmental delays, it’s downright shitty that they are prioritizing the needs of other children to the detriment mine. This part is a little bit selfish, but as Chick’s parent it is my job to be selfish.

Through these emails, they have also divulged information about other children and families that I’m not supposed to know about. I’m not a childcare professional, but damn it, I even know this.

Last night I got an email which basically says it would be totally okay for us to find care elsewhere. A nice way of saying “Take you and your needs out of my classroom.”

Today I met with the EI coordinator and her office’s child care advocate (basically the liaison to daycares.) They were helpful and supportive, reiterating that I’m in the right here.

The trouble is… I don’t know if right really matters.

I’m caught between doing what’s right and doing what’s right for Chick.

What’s “right” might be educate them on how children with developmental needs should be cared for and what is covered under the law. Perhaps even point out that they are in violation of the licensing board and force them to see Chick on site.

What’s “right for Chick” might be to remove him from this place entirely. Start over somewhere else that understands the value of Early Intervention. (That also has availability, extended hours, and is in my price range. Ahem…)

There is a part of me that just wants to take my toys and go home. This is bullshit and I don’t want to deal with it anymore. Another part of me wants to stand on principle and fight. Because this can’t be the only EI kid they will ever care for. Maybe next time, they’ll understand the level of care and flexibility that they are required to provide. (BY LAW. Did I mention that?)

Not to mention I really don’t want to find another daycare. This one was working so well, until… well, it didn’t work out at all.


A little Early Intervention PSA: These are programs supported by states that help children who are identified as having developmental challenges. Since Chick was so early, he qualified for the program fairly quickly as is the case with a lot of premature babies. Fortunately, he is meeting all his developmental goals despite his premie-ness. For this I am grateful. Still, most programs don’t recommend ending services until the child is walking and talking.

If you suspect your kid may have developmental delays, I would totally encourage seeking an evaluation. It breaks my heart when people don’t want to get their children evaluated because they think this means that their child isn’t “normal” or that they are “stupid.” Yes, your child may need different kinds of support, but this makes them no less perfect.

 

 

No In-Betweens

Here’s my realization on juggling parenting, working, and life-ing: When it works, it is awesome. When it doesn’t, it is a complete shit show. There are no in betweens.

On a good day– when Chick wakes up well, eats well, gets to daycare on time, and my day is only 50% meetings– I feel like this is all totally doable. Harried, but doable.

If one tiny thing is off– say Chick pees and pukes all over the place, requiring two changes of clothes before 8:15 am– the rest of my day is off kilter. It’s like a domino effect of crap.

So when something big is off– say my daycare saying the our Early Intervention coordinator is no longer allowed to come for her weekly visits with Chick– it is like napalm has been dropped into my otherwise happy little existence.

I’m not going to go into details because this is an evolving thing– in fact, denying access to the EI coordinator could actually be illegal. I seriously doubt that this will end up in court, but you know… just in case.

I will say that on Tuesday I was given less than 24 hours notice, and found myself scrambling to make sure Chick could keep meeting with his EI coordinator. He has been making great progress, hitting all the major milestones, and I like to think that is in part because of the extra care and attention he is receiving. So imagine my surprise panic when the director told me that they wouldn’t be accommodating EI visits anymore.

The rest of the week has just been miserable. The emails back and forth, trying to understand what is going on with daycare, balancing this with work, all day trainings, presentations that I literally made up IN THE MEETING 5 minutes before I was about to go on, a job interview… On one hand, I give myself props for not completely dropping any one ball.

On the other hand, I’m tired. TIRED.

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This may have been me this week. Maybe.

Then I got an email about sippy cups which sent me over the edge. As if it weren’t enough that I’m barely keeping up at work and daycare is being remarkably inflexible and vague, I’m apparently supposed to be introducing sippy cups to Chick now? WTF? How did I miss the parenting memo on SIPPY CUPS?! I AM THE WORST PARENT EVER!

After some sobbing (which may or may not have been in the shower at 6:15 in the morning while I was also trying to wash my hair and brush my teeth,) I got my shit together and realized I am not the worst parent ever. I’m just like every other parent– trying their damnedest to keep up.

ARTICLES: The Do Nothing Summer

In the past few days, a few posts have popped up in my Facebook feed that make me want to roll my eyes. Or punch something. It entirely depends on where my pregnancy rage is at these days.

They go a little something like “This summer, my kids are doing nothing.” These articles expound the virtues of not over-scheduling your kids this summer and embracing the art of slow parenting. Here are two that have been making the rounds:

The aforementioned “This Summer, My Kids are Doing Nothing”

“I’m Opting for a ‘Slow Parenting’ Summer”

Admittedly, I’m not currently searching for camps. Chick will be attending Camp Uterus this summer, where I am the one and only counselor. However, when I read both these articles, I just had to wonder who these parents are and who they think the rest of us parents are.

Over all, I agree that kids these days seem to have a lot of extracurriculars. I remember having hours of free time in the summer to lounge around in bed and read all day. It was glorious. I also, however, had parents with exceptionally flexible schedules. Unless something drastic in my life changes between now and when I’m facing this dilemma, I will still be working 9-5, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Into the summer camp fray I go.

So yes, it sticks in my craw that these articles imply not sending your kids to camp is some how “better.” They fail to address the reality of working parents– camps aren’t about making sure your kids are always busy, but also about making sure they have a safe, engaging place to be while you’re at work. It isn’t because we want our kids to be over scheduled, more like we don’t have a choice.

It also echos the larger debate over daycare. I’ve lined up daycare for Chick because I have to. Neither my husband or I want to give up our jobs because they are the foundation of our financial security (yes, even with the obscene tuition rates of infant care.) For some, being a stay-at-home parent is a more viable choice. If that is something a family can afford and prioritize, fantastic. It is equally fantastic if a family can arrange to have affordable and safe childcare outside the home when the return to their jobs. For many, this isn’t optional– going back to work after having children is the only way to provide a stable future for them. Can we just get away from this whole parenting-pissing contest, please?

Do I begrudge these parents for having their flexibility for a slow summer? Not really. If they can be around with their kids in the summer, that’s wonderful. But for the love of Pete, I do wish that people would realize the act of parenting is complex, and certainly not a one-size-fits-all job.

#rantover

ARTICLE: Time to rethink our social construct of motherhood

When I spoke with my benefits coordinator a few weeks ago about maternity leave, it was a bit of an eye opener. Not in terms of my benefits– I had those practically memorized. What struck me as nuts was the tone.

You see, I am one of the few employed Americans who works for someone who does offer some kind of paid parental leave. (And by paid, I mean 60% of my pay for 6 weeks.) During my conversation, I was reminded repeatedly how “fortunate” I was, and how “generous” this policy was. It was mentioned more than once that my employer isn’t required to extend this benefit– it is a choice the company makes to better support its employees.

Sadly, I am aware how fortunate I am. The vast majority of Americans do not receive any paid paternity leave because as a country we do not prioritize the needs of working parents. I don’t believe this has to be an issue of gender– dads are parents too. I’ve always believed this is more an issue of economic policy than anything else. As I recently learned, paying for childcare can cost as much as college tuition. Without paid family leave, working parents have to make hard choices that have real impact on their financial health and their family structures.

Which was why I was so happy to read this op-ed in the Boston Globe by Katherine McCartney, “Time to Rethink Our Social Construct of Motherhood.” She argues that our country’s stunted policies stem from deep seeded cultural beliefs about what role women should play within the family. Some of my favorite bits are:

When correspondent Meredith Vieira left her job at “60 Minutes” after the birth of her second child, commentators lauded her decision to put her children first. Employed mothers like me felt too guilty to publicly proclaim that we, too, put our children first.

For some, employment isn’t a choice but a necessity that allows them to financially support their children. Jobs are not always “optional.”

Our romanticized views about motherhood continue to sow division and guilt, undermining our energies to organize for the policies that employed mothers and fathers deserve.

As long as we hold on to an antiquated idea that all childcare must happen in the home and must be done exclusively by women, we will never be able to get policies we need.

Mother’s Day is a good day to double down on the work required to reconstruct our conception of motherhood. An essential step is to make the invisible visible, helping young mothers and their partners realize that social constructions of motherhood are just that — constructions.

This Sunday, as you celebrate all the awesome moms you know (yourself include, if applicable), take time to re-evaluate what motherhood means. It isn’t about fitting into one model of parenting. It is about making the best possible choices for your children, and advocating for policies that give all parents the freedom to do so.

(Aaaand I step down off my soap box.)

Daycare: The Saga Continues

As of my last daycare update, I was “on tour” having called two local daycares I had heard good things about. There are developments. By which I mean, there are no real developments and I’m still looking. Here’s what happened.

I called the first one on my list, which I liked a lot. A few friends sent their kids there, it is close to work, and part of a nice community of parents. I had a delightful conversation with the coordinator, and set up a tour. Which is when they sent me tuition information, and I promptly  had a panic attack.

The sticker price for this lovely little daycare? Over $30,000 a year. For reals, ladies and gentlemen. Daycare for Chick would cost me more than my last year of college– which included room and board! (Admittedly, I did go to college a while ago.)

But still, I went on the tour. I figured it can’t hurt to know what the Taj Mahal of Daycares looks like so I can compare it to the Shanty Town Daycare I will be able to afford.

Taj Mah Daycare is awesome. No, really. It goes all the way up to pre-kindergarten so transitions for children are easier. They have a developmental specialist on staff to help with lesson plans. Not to mention their teaching philosophy closely mirrors what I personally believe about education and discipline. And yet… $30K? No. Just no. I can’t pay that much, nor am I convinced that this is the best option for my family regardless of finances.

I realized that the more affordable option for me would be family day care, rather than larger centers. I’m totally down with this, but finding small family daycares is a lot harder than just googling. (The ONE time Google fails me!)  Where am I to find information about licensed caregivers?

Lucky for me, I live in a state that has one of the highest standards for licensing childcare providers, higher than the Federal standards. I took some solace in this as I jumped head first into a massive online database run by my state. I limited my criteria to a 5 mile radius… and came up with over 300 listings.

Unlike when I am shopping for shoes on Zappos, 300 returned results did not fill my heart with joy and possibility. Not to mention that there is bare bones information in each entry. Some included times, pricing, emails, etc. But the majority just included a name and a phone number. So this intrepid bird spent an entire afternoon sifting through that 300 narrowing it down to 25.

25. That sounds like a perfectly reasonable number. I should be able to find one daycare in a list of 25 that will take Chick in November. This is turning out to be a lot harder than I thought.

After my experience with the Taj, I got wise. Rather than nice-y nice talk with coordinators, I cut straight to the chase. First things first, I have to know availability and affordability. Getting this information is a lot harder than you’d think. There are at least two that were happily exchanging emails and returning calls… until I asked for tuition upfront. All communication has ceased.

So far, I have contacted 10 of the 25. Of the ones that have daned to return my calls, they are either not accepting infants in the fall or their tuition is astronomical. More than one has told me that they aren’t accepting students “mid-year”, a concept I find baffling since this is an INFANT we’re talking about. How was I supposed to know I should have timed my IVF for a September 1 start date?

Just as I was about to lose my shit (since that’s my new fave!) I actually got a polite and prompt call back from Our Radical Daycare*. Our Radical Daycare is pretty much perfect. It is 15 minutes away from home, on the way to work for both me and Mr. O. Accepting infants in November. AND within our budget. I almost peed myself with joy.

Mr. O and I went on a tour this morning. Our Radical Daycare is run by a middle-aged eastern European lady out of a big house with a back yard, along with four other caregivers on staff. The daycare has been in practice since 1998, and loads of kids have come through. She maintains close ties with her former students, some of whom come back and volunteer with the kids.

Um… I love her. She is warm, but also to the point. She took us through the house, explained how days were structured, how caregivers communicated with teachers, etc. In addition to the yard out back, there is a big park down the street where they take kids on warmer days. She answered our questions nicely, but with an efficiency I just adore. We came during drop off time, and all of the kids were so excited to be there. So damn cute

As we were leaving, she did encourage us to secure a spot (obviously, she is a saleswoman to a certain degree.) She gave us some additional information to take home, then followed up this afternoon with references for current parents.

Um… I LOVE HER.

Here’s the thing… Am I just jumping the gun because I’m desperate to find a daycare, and I’m striking out everywhere else? Or is Our Radical Daycare the one?

Is this true love or the sweet smell of desperation?


*Our Radical Daycare is a fictitious name. But then you probably knew that already.