Posted by: Hannah | 02/23/2015

from the other side

I’m in a closed Facebook group for dayhome providers in Halifax.

It’s a nice space. It’s very welcoming and accepting. We trade craft ideas, ask each other for help drafting better contracts, crowd-source challenging issues with the kids, and generally function like any professional association would. Occasionally we have differences – there are some ladies who charge half-nothing, don’t take holiday pay or paid vacation time, and seem insulted that some of us treat this as a business, not a Sacred Trust™ – but by and large it’s a good group.

We also use it as a place to vent, and rant, and say “OH MY GOD CAN YOU EVEN I CANNOT EVEN” when parents do things that upset us. And boy, does that happen a lot! Parents of Halifax, I hereby present you with a list of things to not do. Seriously. We talk about you, and if you develop a reputation as a problem client you might find yourself without childcare when you need it.

Without further ado, my “Don’t Do What Donny Don’t Does” list for parents with kids in dayhomes. These have all happened to people in the group. A few have happened to me.

  1. Don’t read the contract. Even a little bit. Flip to the last page, sign it, then forget it exists until a dispute happens and you are proven to be in the wrong according to the contract’s terms. Get pissy about the contract and try to negotiate your way out of it.
  2. Ask a potential provider what their rates are. As soon as you hear the rates, immediately ask for a discount.
  3. Indicate a drop-off and pick-up time for your child. Never, ever abide by them.
  4. Dress your child in white. Or sundresses in January. Or long pants in July. Bonus points for shoes that are too big, too small, or unsafe for running and playing.
  5. Bring up any issues or problems in the doorway at pick-up time. If the provider tries to suggest discussing the issue at another time when she isn’t at work, ignore her and keep talking.
  6. Walk right into the provider’s house without knocking. Bonus points for leaving your shoes on and tracking mud, snow, slush, and salt all over the floor where children are playing.
  7. Be late with payment.
  8. Complain about paying for holidays and vacation time.
  9. Tell your provider that your child’s vaccine schedule is up to date. Reveal months later that the child has had no vaccines and you have no intention of rectifying that.
  10. Give your feverish child a big dose of Advil or Tylenol and drop them off as usual without mentioning it. Act surprised when your dayhome provider calls mid-afternoon for you to come pick up your child.
  11. When you are called to pick up a sick child, make it take as long as possible. Stop on the way home to run some errands. And act indignant when your provider reminds you that the child must be symptom-free for 24 hours before they can return as per the contract you signed but didn’t read.
  12. Bribe your kid with candy. All the time. ALL THE TIME. Offer them candy for getting dressed in the morning, sitting at the table, getting out of the car without whining, getting into the car without whining, going to the bathroom, getting into pajamas.
  13. Present your dayhome provider with a problem and ask for advice. Argue with them immediately and disregard all of her suggestions without first trying any of them.
  14. Complain that your two year old won’t eat enough solid foods, but refuse to stop giving them 24oz of milk in bottles every single day.
  15. When told that your child hits or bites children or pets, shrug like it’s no big deal and refuse to take it seriously.
  16. Text or call multiple times a day, every day, asking for minute-by-minute updates on your child.
  17. Assume that “support for toilet learning” means “dayhome provider will do all the work & present you with a fully toilet-trained child”.
  18. If you are a dad, intimidate your dayhome provider. Be kind of a bully. Make her nervous about your propensity to “cause a scene” when questioned.
  19. If you are a two-parent family, communicate separately with the dayhome provider. Give conflicting information all the time.
  20. Use “winter driving” as your go-to excuse to be late for pick-up every single day from January to April. Never ever leave work five minutes early to compensate.
  21. If your provider closes at 5:30, peel into the driveway on two wheels at 5:29:58. Every day.
  22. Get off work early, go home, turn off the ringer on your phone, have a nap, and forget to pick up your kid. Do this more than once.
  23. Say you’ll be picking up early, then don’t, but don’t call to advise of the change. Or, pick up early but don’t give a heads-up, arrive during naptime, and make a lot of noise.
  24. Complain about personal matters on a regular basis. Overshare about your family’s finances, the state of your marriage, situations at work or school that are bothering you. Don’t take any gentle hints to stop it.
  25. And finally, treat your dayhome provider with less respect and kindness than you would treat your barista at Starbucks, your waiter in a restaurant, or your co-workers. Call them “babysitters”. Don’t say good morning or ask how their day went. Never stop to consider that they are caring for your child up to fifty hours a week.

We all have bad days. We all have times when circumstances conspire to mean that we run late. Kids can be unpredictable and sometimes they will behave in ways that are out of character. No one is perfect.

But really – be kind. That’s all.

 

 

Posted by: Hannah | 02/06/2015

surly February

Is it Thursday? Friday? Tuesday? What the fuck, man, I don’t even know what day it is anymore.

We have had three snow days this week. It has snowed every day in February so far.

This is how snow looks in Halifax:

  1. snow
  2. ice pellets
  3. freezing rain
  4. rain
  5. back to ice pellets
  6. temperature falls to -20C

I have broken two ice scrapers and a shovel since Monday. The morning after the worst ice event I’ve seen in years, the coating of ice on the cars was two inches thick and took all morning to chisel away. Then Michael got stuck in the road five feet from the driveway and it took another forty-five minutes of pushing, digging, and swearing to get back into the driveway again.

Today Halifax’s municipal government tweeted that “snow storage is at a premium” and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Why did my ancestors stop in a place that requires storage space for unwanted snow?? They must have been idiots.

My neighbour tried to do a good deed by plowing a strip down the little cul-de-sac in front of our house – because lord knows a Department of Transportation plow won’t show up for at least 24 hours, maybe more like 30 – and he did get a strip, but then couldn’t figure out where to put the snow so he just kind of left it there. I moved it out of the way so vehicles wider than an ATV can get through. At least he tried.

Arthur & Daisy got dropped off at 8:30AM, which was fine, because their mom had to work. About twenty minutes after she left, she sent a text telling me she arrived home safely.

Umm…

***

It’s now six hours later. The extra kids will be here for another hour & a half.

There was a brief period where they all played outside – bliss! happiness! – but that’s over now and they’re back inside yelling.

They have for some reason made up a song called “Baa Baa Bad Sheep” that is all about the sheep being a bully and a fool.

Harry twisted his ankle outside and the severity of the injury keeps waxing & waning depending on what he’s doing at any given time (making tea, very mild injury indeed; walking to the bathroom, lurching like a sailor and probably needs a field amputation).

George wants to play with his favourite birthday toys (Avengers Lego) but doesn’t want to share it with anyone, but can’t understand why playing with Coveted Awesome Toys in full view of everyone else is not okay.

Ron has been whining. All day. An almost-seven-year-old, whining! OH NO YOU DON’T. Friday is often movie night but not tonight, no thank you, no way. It’s going to be dinner, bath, bed.

The dog doesn’t like pooping when there is snow on the ground. I’ve cleared him spaces. I’ve shoveled extra paths so he can get around. I’ve taken him out the front door, out the back door, down the road a bit… he is on some sort of poop-strike, which means every so often he lets fly with a toxic rancid fart that makes me eyes water, and then looks at me totally ashamed. It doesn’t help.

I’ve shoveled snow three times today.

Today is a day when I am questioning all of my life choices. All of them. Every single one. I hear them now fighting over who gets to be Spiderman. NONE OF YOU ARE SPIDERMAN, BECAUSE HE’S QUIETLY FILLED WITH ANGST, HE DOESN’T YELL ALL DAY LONG.

This little guy helped. Bless his stubby flippers.

This little guy helped. Bless his stubby flippers.

 

Posted by: Hannah | 02/03/2015

vaccinating against fear

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. I took two years of high school biology and I read a lot. But, since so many of the informed sources credible experts nutbars on the internet are no more qualified than I am – hell, I am aware of the existence of ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel‘, that’s practically a PhD in immunology, right? – I feel like I’m just as valid a source for vaccination information as anyone else. 

Certainly moreso than Jenny McCarthy or that asshole doctor in Arizona who is anti-vax because his chiropractor wife “opened his eyes”, oy.

Anyway, that’s why not everything is properly cited. 

So! Here’s a sampling of strange things I’ve heard or seen recently about vaccines. Refuted by me! AGAIN, I AM NOT A SCIENTIST. But I am capable of critical thinking so there you go.

Measles are just a rash.

measles_rash

A small child with a typical four-day measles rash. Source: Wikipedia.

 

If you would characterize the above picture as “just a rash”, well. Wow. OK. Measles also brings with it days of fever, sore & light-sensitive eyes, and cough/cold symptoms. Assuming you have no additional complications, you can expect this to last for an average of 7 – 10 days.

However, additional complications can and do happen, including permanent damage to the eyes, encephalitis, pneumonia… 96,000 people worldwide died from measles in 2013, down from 545,000 in 1990. This is NOT because of Whole Foods. It’s because the measles vaccine has become more widely-available worldwide.

Advances in medical science means measles, pertussis, and the like are no longer fatal.

So… you tout medical science as the cure-all for the (still potentially lethal) effects of catching these diseases, but the same medical science is flawed with regards to the vaccines that prevent them in the first place?

Gotcha.

There is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

No, there isn’t. That link is attributable to ONE study conducted by ONE doctor… and it has since been conclusively discredited and the doctor stricken from the UK Medical Register and barred from practicing medicine. No link. NONE.

Also, I know an awful lot of wonderful, smart, loving, delightful people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). None of them would rather be dead than have autism. And by saying that risking the death of not only your own child, but who knows how many others, is preferable to ASD… imagine how that feels?

Non-vaxxers are just making ‘loving choices’ for their children.

I’m sure they probably think they are… but they say “loving” and I hear “selfish”. There is a percentage of the population (roughly 10%, in case you’re wondering) who actually cannot be vaccinated. This includes very young children, people with compromised immune systems, people for whom the vaccine is ineffective (more on that later) and people who have severe-enough reactions to vaccines that there are legitimate medical concerns. What these parents are saying is that their own fear is more important to them than the health and well-being of society as a whole.

If your kids are vaccinated, why do you care if mine aren’t? Yours are protected!

There’s that selfish thinking again. I care, because of all the people who can’t get vaccinated for actual real reasons, not Magical Fairy Unicorn reasons (see above). I care, because I have an interest in protecting the whole population, not just the bits of it that I gave birth to.

Also, it is a common misconception that vaccines are 100% effective for ever and ever, amen. THEY ARE NOT AND YOU NEED TO PUT THIS NOTION OUT OF YOUR HEAD RIGHT NOW. If you are exposed to a disease that you have been vaccinated against, you may still catch it – but you will get a far-less severe version of it, and your risk of severe complications is greatly reduced. This is true even for something like the flu shot; you might still catch the flu, but you will not get as sick and you will recover faster if you have had the shot.

Vaccines lose their efficacy over time. Some people don’t respond as well to the vaccine as others and so their immunity is not as strong. This is why we need “herd immunity”. The whole intent behind herd immunity is to make conditions so inhospitable for a virus that it actually can’t survive at all anymore, thus (hopefully) eradicating it altogether. Think smallpox.

Why are we putting chemicals in our children?

Oh, heavens. Want to know an actual dictionary definition of “chemical”? A compound or substance that has been purified or prepared, especially artificially. Boy, that is potentially a whole lot of things, hey?

It is impossible to avoid chemicals. They are literally everywhere. They surround us. You know that smartphone you’re using to read this very post? It’s made of chemicals. I know that all anti-vaxxers use similar devices all the time, because they do their “research” on the internet. So, if you are trying to eschew all chemicals, you’d best put the iThing down and go decontaminate.

“Chemicals” does not mean “bad”.

I read an article that vaccines have [insert bad scary thing here].

I just heard this one today, and it frustrated me so. The (very nice) person who read it sent me the article link, so I checked it out. It was posted on a site called vactruth.com. It looked very professional, at a glance. Five quick minutes with Google and I found many, many sites calling out Vactruth on some of their more ridiculous claims, including separate posts asserting that “vaccines cause homosexuality” and “vaccines cause young boys to wear dresses”.

Here’s the thing. The internet contains the entire repository of human knowledge. It also carries any damn fool thing that any unqualified crackpot decides to pull out of their ass. LOOK AT THIS POST YOU ARE READING RIGHT NOW. Again, I am not a doctor or any kind of a scientist, and yet here I am asserting things. No matter what you read online – whether it’s about vaccines, or celebrities, or the best way to get grass stains out of pants – you MUST consider the source. Not all sources are created equal. Please stop pretending that they are.

I only want to get the “most serious” vaccines for my kids.

I freely admit, I was (very briefly) in this category. Harry’s birth year was the first year that the chicken pox vaccine was available as part of the regular vaccination schedule in Nova Scotia. My first reaction on hearing that there was a vaccine against chicken pox was, I’m sad to say, pretty skeptical. I just figured chicken pox was one of those things that everybody gets. I had it, as did all three of my siblings. It sucked, granted, but we all had it relatively young so it didn’t seem like that big a deal. I did some research. I talked to my doctor, and to the public health nurse. I learned that you can only get shingles – a very painful and horrible disease – if you’ve first had chicken pox. I made the decision to get the vaccine for Harry, as well as for Ron and George. By the time George came along, the vaccine for rotavirus was available, and I got that, too. If boys could get the HPV vaccine, I would choose that one as well.

Research is expensive. The costs associated with developing a vaccine and producing it for a mass market are astronomical. No lab will get funding to develop a vaccine for a “not so serious” disease. If there is a vaccine available, I’ll take it, thanks.

Doctors & the government conspire with Big Pharma to sell us vaccines we don’t need.

I’m going to cite this one, because it’s important. The following is from The Economist, published in October 2010. Quote: “for decades vaccines were a neglected corner of the drugs business, with old technology, little investment and abysmal profit margins. Many firms sold their vaccine divisions to concentrate on more profitable drugs.”

You know what changed? Insurance companies started to realize that it was more cost-effective to pay for vaccines than it was to pay for treating people who got sick from preventable diseases.

Vaccines are not a conspiracy. Ever wonder why there are shortages of the flu vaccine every year? It’s because vaccine production is not as profitable as selling Viagra or Cialis or Paxil. Governments have to put in special requests to get sufficient vaccines produced because “Big Pharma” loses money on them.

*******

I’d like to close with a personal anecdote, because why not.

I didn’t get the flu shot for years. I had myself convinced it wasn’t such a big deal. Remember the H1N1 epidemic in 2009? I do. I remember it well because Ron, at eighteen months, caught it eight days after he received the vaccine (it takes ten days for the vaccine to offer full protection.) Never before or since has one of my children been so sick. In the two weeks he was sick, he had two chest x-rays… was taken to a walk-in flu clinic and put on Tamiflu by a very worried doctor… and finally rushed to the ER at 2AM when it became clear that he could barely breathe.

10391740_342387945421_5442426_n

Look at the hollows under his eyes. This was after he’d recovered slightly, but he pretty much spent two weeks sitting there under a blanket with worried Harry close by.

His illness removed any lingering doubts I had about the flu shot – and by extension vaccines. By my inaction (I didn’t get their shots that year until H1N1 was a full-blown public health emergency) I had caused my child pain, and suffering.

If I refused to vaccinate my kids, what kind of person would I be? I could hurt my own children, or someone else’s. Sorry. I’m not OK with that, and neither should you be.

And that’s why I am an enthusiastic proponent of vaccines, and why yes, I will debate you and tell you I strongly disagree with your stance if you come at me with non-scientific reasons for refusing them.

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