Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mom's Morning Out ... or lack thereof.

Today was one of those rough parenting days.

Not because the boys were hard to deal with.  They were, but that's just a day in the life.

It was one of those days when you start to doubt your decisions.  I really really hate those days.  I'll take hard to deal with kids any day over those days.

I have been taking Brennan to a Mom's Morning Out program at a church near our home since the fall.  It's a drop-in setup on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8am and noon, so we use it as needed/desired, without having to commit and pay a fee whether he goes or not.  It's not a structured learning environment, just a place where he can go to socialize with other kids and get a little independent time away from Mommy.  He really seems to enjoy going to "school".  

When the brothers were still taking a morning nap, I dropped Brennan off at the church and took Beckett & Kiernan back home with me to nap.  The MMO ladies would often comment that I should leave them so that I could get some time to myself, but I knew better than to mess with naptime.  

Now that they've completely dropped their morning nap and are on a solid afternoon nap schedule, I decided to leave them at MMO with Brennan and try to enjoy some alone time.  Freedom was so close, I could taste it.  They went once or twice before Christmas and all was well, aside from a little fussing from Beckett.  Because we've all been sick, they didn't go for most of January.  When I finally got everyone healthy again, I decided to take them back.

The first day back was a disaster.  They started to cry when I handed them over to the MMO ladies, but they often do that when I leave places and usually stop crying in a few minutes, so I felt comfortable leaving.  I ran errands and enjoyed my time in peace.  When I got back to the church, I walked in the door, spotted both Beckett & Kiernan crying, and was immediately informed by one of the older women that they had been crying the entire time.  

I had mixed emotions.  At first I felt awful that my kids were so hard to deal with.  But then I got a little frustrated.  They had my phone number - why hadn't they called me?  After speaking with my favorite worker, I felt a little better.  She said that they had calmed down for a bit here and there, and she encouraged me to bring them back on Thursday with the hope that it might become a familiar place with familiar faces.  

So on Thursday we returned.  I took them in late and promised to return early.  Of course, I worried the entire time I was away.  I wasn't worried about them crying - it certainly wasn't going to kill them.  I just felt like they were being a nuisance.  Just as I was heading into the grocery store, my last stop before heading back to get them, my favorite MMO worker called to tell me that the boys were doing just great and that I should take my time coming to get them.  Hallelujah.  When I returned they were all smiles and got great reports.  We agreed that they needed to continue coming frequently as it seemed to be working and they were growing familiar with the surroundings.  

Of course, they brought home some germs and we spent the following week dealing with nasty colds.  Green snot = not allowed at MMO.  So we were forced to skip a week.  

This week we returned.  Both Beckett & Kiernan started crying the minute I handed them over.  I pointed out the milk and snacks I had packed for them and made sure that the ladies knew that their lovies were in the diaper bag too.  And then I told them that I was just headed home to clean and that they should call me if the boys didn't settle down.  

Two and a half hours later I returned.  When I walked in, both boys were happily walking around.  As I was breathing my sigh of relief, the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy director of childcare walked over to me and said "They screamed the entire time."  No smile.  No "but now of course, they're happy" with a laugh.  Nothing.  Even my favorite worker seemed a bit frazzled and told me that I almost got a phone call.  

Why didn't I get a phone call?  

They went on to say that the boys would calm down if someone was holding them, but the minute anyone put them down they were fussy again.  In the director's exact words - "We had 25 kids today.  We can't carry your kids around.  We have to take care of everyone."  Wow.

Look, I understand.  I, of all people, totally get it.  My boys are going through a tough age right now.  They're clingy and teething and Mommy-obsessed.  It drives me crazy too.

But I was really uncomfortable with how irritated they seemed to be with my children.  My 17-month-olds.  Meanwhile, Brennan was having way too much fun and wasn't responding to the young woman asking him to come get his shoes on.  One of the older women walked over, grabbed his arm, and brought him up to the front to get his shoes.  It wasn't a violent grab, but there was something about it that made me uncomfortable.    Like, taking his hand would have been sufficient.  Why the arm grab and pull?  Maybe I was just being nit-picky.  But it was unsettling.

At this point, I was just at a loss.  I looked at the director and said, "Well, I'm not really sure what to do.  Would you like me to stop bringing them?"  She (very reluctantly) replied that we could try it again but she couldn't promise that they wouldn't call me to come get them.  I stressed that I don't mind being called, and that, in fact, I would prefer to be called if this issue arises again.  She asked if I had any suggestions for how to calm them.  I replied that for me, they usually calm down with milk, snacks, or lovies, but indeed there are times when they simply want to be held.  This of course, did not seem to be the answer they wanted to hear.  

My head was spinning as I left.  What was I doing so wrong as a Mom that my kids were the horrible ones at "school"?  Was I overreacting to the situation?  Should I be doing something differently?  

When I got into the car, Brennan asked for something to drink.  I reached into the bag to discover that none of the milks had been touched.  None of the snacks had been opened.  The lovies were tucked under the food bag, right where I'd left them.  

It left me wondering what exactly they did to try to calm the boys down.  Milk, snacks, and lovies seem like pretty basic answers to soothe a crying baby.  My brain kept spinning as I drove.  I got angry and decided that I was never taking them back there.  Then I wondered if that was just quitting without a fight or if I was simply being too overprotective and sensitive.  

So who do you call when you need to discuss Mommy-matters?  Your own Mom, of course!  Since she works as a preschool assistant, I knew she would have added insight to the situation.  

I babbled on and on to my Mom about the situation - the history, today's events, my feelings.  I just couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't comfortable leaving my children with people who seemed annoyed and frustrated with them.  And although Brennan wasn't a part of the situation, I'm not even sure that I want him around these people.  

Do I think they are bad people?  Of course not.  Do I think they are probably good with kids?  Some, but not all.  And although I was told that they turn people away once they have hit their max number of kids for the day ... I have a feeling that they don't.  If there are too many kids for the number of adults present, the situation will be chaos.  Add to that people who aren't particularly patient with kids?  More chaos.  

I think more than anything, I learned a few lessons.  You get what you pay for.  This place is cheap.  It's a nice church and a beautiful new facility and I had heard wonderful things about the community.  I didn't think that a structured environment was important to me, and this place certainly is not structured.  I think it just might be important to me after all.  I don't want them sitting down doing worksheets at the ripe old age of 18 months or anything, but I don't think this free-for-all type of environment is good for them.  

The twins won't be going back.  It's just a feeling in my gut that I can't shake.  I'll talk to Brian about whether Brennan will go back.  In the mean time, I'm looking into preschools for Brennan and MMO programs for the twins next year and have crossed that church off of my list.  It's just not for us.  (Coincidentally, it's also the church where I had a really awful experience at Mass.)

My Mom has encouraged me to speak to the director, or at least one of the employees, about my feelings.  She maintains that if it were her facility, she would want to know.  I'm really not sure how far I would get with the director, but I'm willing to at least speak to her about it.  

For now, my moody boys will stay home with me.  I'm going to look into finding someone to come to the house once a week for a few hours so that I can get out and go to therapy and get a little peace.  Maybe a nice deaf patient college student who is specializing in early childhood development?  A girl can dream!

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