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.