What the childminder said

“And it’s just that I don’t want her to feel self-conscious about how she looks with or without her glasses, and I know that this isn’t creche and that as a school teacher you have a whole class to look after and you can’t see everything and it’s not your job to monitor all of these things and I probably shouldn’t have come to you but I was just worried about her….”

I trailed off, as my five-year-old’s teacher looked blankly at me. It was September, my daughter had just started in junior infants, and this was my first one-to-one interaction with her teacher.
She continued to look confused, then her expression changed and she answered “Oh I remember that, but it was a different girl, that didn’t happen to your daughter at all”

I was hugely relieved and completely mortified at the same time.

My new childminder had confided in me the previous evening that the girls in the class had been telling my daughter that she looked strange without her glasses and that my daughter was sad about it.
My daughter has a turn in her eye and is not really aware of it herself, so this was an entirely plausible event and one which of course caused my heart to break immediately. Hence my approaching the teacher the following afternoon. As it turned out, it was indeed another girl in the class and the kids had been saying she looked different (but not strange) – I established this when I casually asked my five year-old about it later.

So just something that was lost in translation as English is not my childminder’s first language. But something which caused me huge upset for twenty-four hours, and an element of humiliation after speaking to the teacher. Ms. W was very nice about it but I was sure she was thinking that each year there’s one over-reactive mum who comes in about every tiny incident real or imagined, and this year it was to be me.
Of course I completely avoided doing anything but smiling inanely at Ms. W for the next three months, to prove that I wasn’t “that mum” (do we ever stop trying to impress teachers?)

After this and some other teething problems, my childminder and I have found a rhythm and it’s going really well. She is kind and gentle with my children, especially the baby. She reads with them, paints, bakes, cooks dinner for them (and for us! that’s nearly the best bit) and puts up with all the stroppiness that comes from my two wannabe-princesses on cold, dark, Winter afternoons when there’s nowhere to go and all the markers have run out again.

But it took time to get to this place, and it wasn’t an easy journey. Finding someone in the first instance was a stomach-churningly worrying experience. The pressure!

Having had my children in creche for four years and then switching to a childminder who comes to my  house, I can vouch for the fact that choosing a childminder is a far, far tougher job. With a creche you have the inbuilt trust that comes with any established business or brand – you know they probably wouldn’t still be in business and charging the equivalent of a second mortgage if they weren’t looking after children properly. You know that even if there’s one carer who is not up to the required standards; it’s not a problem – the creche manager will take care of it. The staff have qualifications and are mostly looking to progress their careers in childcare. They are on-show to parents every day. Safety in numbers I guess.

But choosing a childminder to come to your own home and look after your children…no manager to help, no monitoring, no clue really.
Unless you have a personal recommendation or go with someone you know yourself already, it’s a leap of faith.

I remember going for coffee with a very wise friend just after my childminder started, and wringing my hands, worrying about everything that could go wrong. My friend pointed out quite rightly that you could drive yourself mad imagining every awful scenario, every accident, every injury, so best to just put them out of your head and go with it. So I do. Most of the time.

My wise friend also talked about the compulsion to tidy your house before your nanny arrives, and an e-card she had read saying “yes, your babysitter is judging you!”. It’s so true – I am off work this week, and my 15 month old has a rainbow of bruises across his forehead from stumbles and trips over the last few days. All I can think is that I need them to fade before Monday, or my childminder will wonder just what the hell I’ve been doing in her absence.

Just as long as she doesn’t leave anytime soon – we’ve come this far and quite apart from the kids missing her, I’m getting very used to having dinner cooked…

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