My Worst Nightmare: The Daycare Lost My Child
By Wendy Rhein
I didn’t blog last week. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say, that rarely is the case. I always have something to say. It was something else. Trust me, I had a very good reason.
Last Monday I went to pick up my 2-year-old from daycare and he wasn’t there.
Every parent’s worst nightmare. Somehow, my baby and three of his two-year-old classmates had gotten out of a (supposedly) locked playground, up a hill, halfway down the block, across a street, down another block, across ANOTHER street, and most of the way back. All without the two teachers noticing. A Good Samaritan found them and walked them back to the school, saying he probably would not have noticed them had they not been walking “so orderly” down the street. Four little kittens, all in a row.
I arrived at the daycare and had exited my car when I heard the man yelling at the teacher far on the playground, saying that they had lost kids. It didn’t register to me, lost kids? What does that mean? Is he some crazy person? I steeled myself, thinking that I would confront him and keep him from the children who were on the playground. Protect them from this dog-walking fiend! Except the dog-walking fiend was the one who was protecting the children, MY child in particular.
He brought them back. If he hadn’t? If he hadn’t been outside at that moment? The sick, horrifying, vomit-inducing possibilities rise up in my mind frequently and unabated. The possibility that my youngest could have met unspeakable harm enrages me. Poor Sam knew something was wrong. When he saw me he bolted across the street and leapt at me saying “trouble, trouble, trouble, Mama.” Still clutching a dirty blue shovel from the playground, my baby said “lost mama, cross street.”
How anyone, let alone two trained professionals, can lose four children at one time is unfathomable to me, even a week later. I have spent hours obsessing over how it is even possible. Even using one’s most basic senses, one would notice T-4 children. Sight? Yes, you’d see them, or not. Hearing? Four fewer kids make a lot less noise. One of my primary rules of parenting – if there is too much noise, I need to intervene, too little noise, the same. Touch? When was the last time someone counted these toddlers, laid a hand on a head and counted off to ensure they were all there?
It has been an unsettling week for all of us. Not getting the answers I needed, I pulled Sam from that daycare center. I did not feel he could be safe there. Sam has lost his community of friends and his routine, not to mention the increased anxiety that affects his sleep. He knows he was lost. He knows something happened. Trouble, trouble, trouble Mama. None of us are unaffected. Nathan was with me when we “found” Sam and he’s been asking many, many questions about what could have happened to his baby brother. He insisted on going with me to look at a new daycare option late last week, through tears telling me that he had to be sure that th the fences were high enough and the doors had locks. He had to make sure that Sam would be safe. We all have lost sleep, we all have felt anger and resentment.
I’m the mom, the only parent my sons know. It is up to me to keep them safe. First and foremost, we keep our children safe. As a working parent, like most parents of kids in care, I researched, I talked to people, I sought out recommendations and I checked state licenses and complaints. I thought I had found a place that would cherish my child and care for him when I couldn’t. And in the end, I had to walk my child and three other little ones across a street and back INTO the daycare center that was supposed to be watching over them.
Being a working parent is hard enough, guilt-provoking enough, that we should not have to worry about whether or not our babies are going to be there at the end of the day. Ever.