I spent lunch yesterday with the old work crowd, lovely women who devote their lives to enriching the lives of and caring for children in less than ideal situations. I admire these women because they do so within ridiculous restraints and regulations. Praise the Lord I am now in a position to air my grievances with the system. Here in all their glory the opinions I am no longer duty bound to keep to myself.
The program of which I am writing (which shall remain nameless as I’m afraid they may have a band of careful ninjas that would find me, put me in time-out while maintaining my self-worth, then make me hug them and say I’m sorry) is designed to help children in low income families. Many of the parents don’t have a high school education and their job situations are tenuous. Most are single mothers. So, these are children and families that need help, compassion and above all encouragement, assistance and guidance to get on the right track to succeed. Children and families that are dependent upon programs like this. Sounds great right? Let’s explore.
The children can arrive at 7:30 in the morning and may not leave until five pm. Some are dropped off by mothers or grandparents in pajamas and picked up by mothers or grandparents still in pajamas. The theory is that the children are better off in the classroom with the caregiver than in their home situations (I’m guessing it’s to a lesser degree than other kids better off out of their homes that are put in foster care). Unfortunately there is nothing in place to help make these homes better environments for the children. The classrooms are mixed age to allow the children to bond with the same caregiver from six weeks to three years old. An arrangement they will not have in any other daycare or school for the rest of their lives. The constant and lasting bonds should be forged with parents. So much responsibility is taken off the parents that it may hurt the children in years to come. In a program for at risk youth why isn’t more done to reduce the risk long term?
The mixed age classrooms are also a strain for children and caregivers alike. The two month old that needs to cat nap, feel secure and know its needs will be met is competing with the attention of rambunctious toddlers and is constantly subjected to their noise. A three year old in a room may have no one his own age to interact with. The teachers are constantly pulled in two different directions.
The real risks it seems they are sheltered from are not lost family connections or absent parents dependent upon the government but things like coloring pages, glitter, playground equipment that poses a challenge and learning to care for themselves. No coloring pages, we wouldn’t want them to feel constrained in self expression and glitter (GASP!) may get in their eyes! Oh, and sweet mama louie the chocking hazards! The program is requiring an old majestic tree near a playground to be CUT DOWN because it drops ACORNS. Go ahead, read it again. Removing nature because it may be hazardous. Not a bee hive or a nest of Copperheads, A TREE. If only Richard Louv (author of Last Child In The Woods) knew kids were so far removed from the outdoors that we’re removing the outdoors. Playground equipment must basically touch the floor. No Little Tykes climbing pieces or slides because the kids might fall….or climb. They can crawl through tunnels and that’s about all. There are no challenges for their developing bodies.
When feeding a baby there are no highchairs, you’re not to sit across from the child to spoon feed. The child sits in your lap which is supposed to be a bonding experience. In my opinion a child sitting sideways in a lap to eat is missing out on engaging with the caretaker and learning from their speech and facial expressions. They see spoon to mouth, spoon to mouth. The caregivers are also expected to discipline without use of the word “NO”. How does that work? “Timmy dear, you ought to slow down, cooperate and come back to teacher since there’s a Mac truck barreling your way-oops too late”. Kids need no. Once you use so many words a kid has already tuned you out. Life is full of NO.
From working with caregivers in the program I know those kids are well cared for and very loved. But ultimately the rules and regs they work under may hinder them from helping those children to reach their full potential. Sadly the program is ensuring its own survival by not properly equipping children and families but keeping them irresponsible, unchallenged and dependent. But at least they won’t choke on any acorns.
If you’re interested in more on helicopter parenting, the disconnect from children and nature, and crazy legislation regarding the “safety” of children these days you should check out:
Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Childhood We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry and her blog www.freerangekids.wordpress.com.
Last Child In the Woods Richard Louv
A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting Hara Estroff Morano
No: Why Kids-Of All Ages- Need To Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It David Walsh