The Young and the Restless: My Nemesis

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That's just me!

That’s just me!

Mark and I waltz into the daycare centre at 9:15. Most children start much earlier, but snowflake have a very nutritional breakfast of European Nutella at home. Feng and I don’t have an office to commute to and an angry boss to meet at 9 a.m. sharp anyway, we are flexible in the morning.

I enter the door code, wait for the green light and take off my shoes. “Come on, Mark!”

The kids are about to go outside for playtime. Half of them are already sitting on the bench in the hallway while the other half is wresting with the art of putting a jacket on (hint: the two holes are for the arms). I freeze. Oh, fuck. Mark’s classmates are all wearing a hat. Yesterday, the first hot day in Ottawa this year, I was chastised for not bringing sunscreen. Today’s failure is apparently not bringing a hat. Damn. When will I learn?

Mark’s teacher walks up to us. I almost attempt to hide behind my son but unfortunately it doesn’t work since I’m four times his body weight.

I’m too far from the door to escape quickly without seeming to run away.

“Where is you hat, Mark?” she asks in a singsong voice, staring at me.

I look down. Mark shrugs. “What hat? I don’t need a hat.” he mutters.

That’s my boy! A+ for questioning authority!

“His hair is very thick”, I pipe in. Of course, a second later I promise to be responsible and run to a store to buy the complete preschooler summer wardrobe. And indoor shoes, yes, yes, I completely forgot, absolutely. Rain boots too? You got it.

Meet my nemesis, Mark’s new teacher, aka “the lady with an attitude”. Our routine is well established by now: I walk in with Mark, my failures as a mother are noticed, I promise to fix the issue and I’m free to go. It’s like a SM relationship without the kinky stuff people do naked.

I know most of the staff at daycare. From the very first day, I made a point to be friendly with everyone. Part of it was to show Mark that I was leaving him in a comfortable environment with cool people, and part of it is because I try to be a decent human being and I have no reason to be cold or distant to “teachers” who spend the day with my son. The only hiccup was when Mark was scratched by other kids several times, and even then, I told his teachers I wasn’t blaming them but the parents for not cutting nails or having a little chat with their snowflakes.

Then, Mark changed group and ended up with a new teacher. Somehow, we started off on the wrong foot. I can’t explain why, so I’ll just chalk it up to a personality clash. Looking back, I think it was just bad timing. We first interacted during the weeks I was sick, I had less patience and energy and I wasn’t keen on chatting for long because I didn’t want to spread my germs around. On her side, she was starting a new job where she was presumably eager to please and going by the book.

I try to do things by the book too, the only problem is that I didn’t receive the “Perfect Canadian Mother” version—I’m stuck with the “Good-Enough French Mother” edition. There are hundreds of things I care about: Mark’s psychological development, good eating habits, social skills, emotional awareness, providing a loving environment and being here to listen. And there are thousands of little details that are relegated to the bottom of my agenda, like organic food (fuck that, I can’t afford it), the latest in kids fashion with multiple items of clothing for every situation (seriously? They outgrow everything!), any concern about all the little things the media say will eventually harm us (tap water is just fine, really). I care about the big picture but I refuse to micromanage every aspect of Mark’s life. I guess I believe in free-range parenting.

Mark’s teacher is, as I quickly realized, one of these people who micromanages everything. I don’t deal well with this type of personality and she probably think I’m careless. Therein lies the issue.

Our first argument was about Mark’s sweater, one of these Gap zippered hoodies he wears indoors all winter long. One evening, I couldn’t find it. I asked around and shrugged it off, figuring I’ll ask his teacher the next day as she had gone home.

“Do you know where he put his sweater?” I asked her the following morning.

“He is wearing it right now,” she pointed out.

I turned around and looked at Mark. “Er… yeah, well, he is wearing a sweater but not the one I’m looking for. It’s the same style, though, in black. I couldn’t find it yesterday evening.”

“Did you look in his bedroom?”

I was growing a bit impatient. “No, he was wearing it AT SCHOOL yesterday and yes, I’m sure it’s not in his bedroom because I’m his mother and I do his laundry.”

We found it at school a few weeks later, I think another kid had grabbed it, which is understandable because they all tend to have similar clothes.

In the meantime, we had the splash pants episode. One morning, she asked me where Mark’s splash pants were.

Still half-asleep, I paused. “I’m… not sure what splash pants are. And he is supposed to have a pair?”

She looked at me as if I was coming from another planet. “All kids need splash pants!”

The same day, I rushed to Old Navy and asked around for “splash pants”. Turned out they are waterproof pants, basically a lighter version of snow pants. The weather was getting warmer, so that evening I washed the mud-caked snow pants and the following day, I brought the grey splash pants instead. I was almost proud of myself.

“Oh…” the teacher said shaking her head. “It’s so cold today… where are his snow pants?”

“… Drying in the basement,” I admitted sheepishly.

“Your poor kid… he’s going to be cold today. Bye bye!”

I stormed out and I actually burst into tears on the sidewalk, feeling sorry for Mark who was going to be cold because I hadn’t checked the weather that morning. Then I got a bit angry because while mornings were still chilly, temperatures did climb a few degrees later on. “Then if it’s so cold outside, why don’t they wait a bit and take the kids out at noon instead of having playtime first thing in the morning?” I complained to Feng.

Every freaking morning, a time of the day when I’m not fully human yet, my weaknesses were pointed out. Mark didn’t have indoors shoes. His pants were too big. He must be cold without a jacket. He must be hot with the hoodie.

And when there was nothing to bring to my attention, my uterus somehow became part of the conversation. “He would be a great big brother!” the teacher said one morning out the blue.

“Not going to happen,” I replied cheerfully. “He is the one and only!”

“Oh… you will regret it later on…”

One morning, she pointed out I had a zit on my chin. Seriously.

Meanwhile, I noticed other teachers were giggling and eyeing me with sympathy. “Sorry!” one of the nice ones whispered one day.

If this was a Hollywood movie, at one point we would have hugged and become best friend. But this is real life, so every morning I stand there stoically while I’m being picked on. I’ve had years of practice with my in-laws who do exactly that, anyway.

Mark has his nemesis… and now I have mine.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

20 Comments

  1. Mais elle est horrible ! Je me permet pas ce genre de remarques à un enfant, alors à un parent… Courage ! Mark a changé de “niveau”, “classe” ? Comment ça marche ?

    • 😆 J’ai explosé de rire devant ton indignation. Bon, Mark a l’air de ne rien dire sur elle, alors c’est le plus important. Je me dis qu’elle est mieux avec les enfants…

      En fait, il y a différents groupes et pas mal d’instits (je dis “teacher” ou “instits” parce que pour moi, leur boulot va bien au-delà de la simple garde d’enfant!). Une le matin, une l’aprem, etc. Mark a chang. de groupe à un moment… parce qu’il se faisait griffer par un gamin assez, euh, turbulant. C’est la méthode canadienne, ne pas régler le problème, mais l’éviter :-/

  2. What a surprise twist! I thought your nemesis was going to be another mother and instead it is… dun dun… the teacher!

    Err I was born and raised in the U.S. and have never heard of splash pants. I guess my mother was using a different handbook as well.

    She pointed out a zit? Ha ha that’s extreme. At least the other teachers recognized that she is over the top. You should have responded, “You have a zit on your personality.”

    • Names for kid and baby clothing are so… complicated. Honestly, when I started shopping for Mark when I was pregnant, I had no idea what people were talking about and I still don’t know the French equivalent.

      I wish I was more… myself in the morning, I can be snarky. But I’m not sure I want to, considering I don’t want to create problem.

      Oh, I had a better one today. She said she liked my rain coat (!), so I thanked her. She asked where I bought it, and I replied “in China”. “Oh, really? You were lucky to find your size, I’ve heard everything is so small over there!” I left laughing.

  3. She sounds horrible! I mean I’m pretty much French relaxed rather than Canadian anal about stuff (like you know, organic food and tap water) for myself. And I can understand her being eager.
    But come on, you’re his mum. Of course you know what he needs, and take good care of him! And pointing out you had a zit! And you should have another kiddo?
    I laughed at the splash pants cause I had a similar conversation with a friend who is also a mum…
    Can’t he go back to a different class lol

    • Meh, it’s a small daycare, I can’t avoid her. See the comment below for what she mentioned today… 😆 It gets better and better!

      On dit toujours “avant j’avais des principes, maintenant j’ai un enfant” and it’s pretty true. Dans l’idéal, j’aurais fait ci ou ça, mais dans la pratique, la vie est déjà assez occupée et compliquée pour se prendre la tête sur tout.

  4. This is so much pressure… about everything! And how on earth a kid would need so many things? It’s like you constantly have to buy stuff! How does poorest families deal with that?
    And how is the teacher even bringing up your “planification familiale”? Oh shut up, I’ve got no patience for people who think the most intimate things in a life of a woman (and I insist in the woman part) is public business. All I want to do is swear

    • You can find very cheap and very expensive kid clothes, plus you can usually get second-hand clothes from friends so I guess money shouldn’t be an excuse. It is, though, of course. But for me it’s also about clothes management… I absolutely hate overflowing drawers, you don’t even know what fits, what doesn’t, gotta wash everything, fold, put away, it makes life more complicated. I like to know what we have, a few outfits are enough. I have the same philosophy for my clothes.

      I wish I could swear at her but it would probably be frown upon in front of the kids 😆

  5. Martin Penwald on

    « La violence est le dernier refuge de l’incompétence »
    Isaac Asimov

    Et donc, cette instit’ te considére incompétente ?
    Je dis ça, je dis rien.

    • Je crois que je n’aurais même pas la force ou l’envie d’être violente le matin 😆 Par contre, un jour je risque de répliquer…

  6. As someone who works in childcare I have totally met this woman – or someone like her. Lots of times. Nightmare. I think I will be a bit of a ‘free range parent’, not sure how I would cope with a woman like that!

  7. mmmh, si je dois reconnaître qq chose à ma garderie, c’est qu’ils ne sont pas pénibles sur ce genre de trucs. On reçoit des courriels généraux nous avertissant qu’il est temps de ramener un surpantalon (le fameux splash pants) et un imper, ou la tenue d’hiver, ou le kit chapeau-creme solaire, mais le jour où on oublie ils ont du stock en surplus et ne font pas de remarques. Il m’est arrivé par contre d’avoir un petit mot dans le carnet du genre «pourriez-vous nous ramener les affaires prêtées? Nous sommes à bout de pantalons de pluie de rechange» parce qu’on avait oublié de ramener les deux prêtés (estampillés en gros GARDERIE pourtant, on a du mal lol). Par contre ils perdent sans cesse nos affaires, notamment celle d’Erin, c’est tjs la boite de qqun d’autre, égaré, embarqué par un autre parent. Une éducatrice m’a dit l’autre jour «c’est pas possible, ça tombe tjs sur vous!», et oui… 🙂

    • Alors nous on a de la chance de ce côté-là, malgré le bazar apparent et le fait que les gamins ont l’air d’avoir tous les mêmes trucs, on ne perd quasi rien. C’est pour ça que je ne stressais pas pour son sweater, je savais qu’on allais le retrouver (…. mais pas dans sa chambre…).

      Je reste quand même ébahie devant la quantité de trucs à amener : drap, duvet, oreiller, lunch box, bouteille, imper, bottes, sandales d’intérieur, affaires de rechange, etc. Quand tu penses qu’en France, en primaire, on nous fournissait même les stylo Bic au nom de la sacro-sainte égalité…!

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