Posted by: Hannah | 11/15/2012

the straw & the camel’s back

Yesterday Luna’s dad dropped her off, which is always troublesome.

A lot of her social anxieties and lack of coping skills can be dropped right at his feet, which I’ve mentioned before. He would rather be home all day, not facing the Big Bad World with all its “people” and “things that need remembering“. Despite my many reminders, he still cannot get it through his head that offering Luna too much sad-faced sympathy over coming here every day is making the problem worse.

I keep discussing it with them, and things get better for a few days. Then something happens to throw her off – a long weekend, a minor illness, a change in the weather, even – and we’re right back at square one, only every time it’s a little harder because I know that sooner or later all the hard work will go out the window and we’ll need to begin again.

Lately she’s been better, although especially in comparison to New Baby Girl she’s a bit of a nightmare. No one – not the babies, not the other toddlers – cry as frequently and as inconsolably as she does. So ‘better’ than her worst times, but still 100% more effort and stress than all the other kids.

Anyway! Back to yesterday. As soon as they walked in the door I knew we were in trouble – her face was the very picture of an overtired toddler. White as a sheet, heavy-lidded eyes with dark circles under them. Thousand-yard stare. “How are you today, Luna?” I asked. “She’s great,” dad assured me, “she’s having a good morning”.

Sure enough, not two minutes after he left she started her usual avoidance behaviour; namely, standing in the middle of the room sobbing “PEE PEE PEEEEEE!!!!!” (She is completely capable of going to the bathroom on her own, and when she’s having a good day, she does. When she’s having a bad day, she just stands there sobbing until I tell her to go pee. Then she hides in there until I come get her out).

After her completely unnecessary trip to the potty, Pixie approached her with a plastic corn cob and said “Hi, Luna! Heah’s some food fo’ you! Is YUMMY!” Luna burst into hysterical tears and swatted the corn cob away.

Ten minutes after that, another sudden burst of tears. Luna standing in the kitchen, pointing to the playroom and screaming “Pwaywoom! I go pwaywoom!” There was nothing blocking her path to the playroom, and no one standing between her and it.

Five minutes after entering the playroom, we had the same tantrum in reverse because now she wanted to leave the playroom again.

So I scooped her up, gave her a hug, and said in my very best Cheerful Unflappable Daycare Lady Voice that Luna was a) tired b) sad and c) going for a nap now. Took her in the nap room and tucked her in with a teddy bear.

Saddest part? She admitted she was tired. She agreed that she needed a nap. She tried to get me to crawl into the pack & play with her so she could sleep. (That sound you heard was my heart breaking a little bit. I finally managed to get her to close her eyes by patting her back and speaking in a soothing voice.)

For those of you keeping score at home, this is a 2 year old having a nap at 10AM.

She woke up a half-hour later and was in a slightly better mood – but only slightly. She asked for a puzzle, then cried when she couldn’t make the pieces fit. She patted New Baby Girl on the head, then burst into hysterical screaming when NBG tried to give her a hug in return. Her sock got slightly twisted on her foot and she sobbed so long and so loud I actually thought she had hurt her foot somehow.

It was a very long morning.

At pick-up time, I told him frankly what had happened. “That’s weird,” he said, “she was fine this morning. I guess she just wanted to be home. That’s understandable. Isn’t it, Luna? You just want to be home, right, lovey?”


And that was it, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Not the complete and utter disregard for timeliness. Not the disrespect for the job that I do – I am not a ‘babysitter’, thank you so very much. Not even the fact that at drop off time yesterday Luna’s dad assumed she could stay past her usual pick up time just because he announced it at the door rather than, I don’t know, calling and asking first, triggering my initial desire to let them go. I spent the morning agonizing over it. But in that moment at the door, I had the sudden realization that it is never going to get better.

It just isn’t. Helping an anxious child takes a lot of work, and intentional behaviours, and changing habits. There is only so much I can do in three hours a day. Without buy-in from the parents, everything I am doing amounts to me bashing my head against a brick wall hoping it will eventually fall down.

I got some great support from folks on Twitter (you know who you are, and thank you). Other friends read over my notice letter and made some suggestions. I sat quietly for a while, making sure this was the right decision, clarifying in my own mind that I wasn’t just reacting out of frustration to yet another bad day. Finally I reminded myself that I am only doing this dayhome gig because I want to be here for my own kids while they’re young. Once Baby G is off to school, I have other plans that don’t involve doing this full time (maybe before and after school, if the current crop want to stay). Childcare is not my field or specialty. My experience is all from parenting. I have no plans to become certified as a caregiver, or look for a job in a daycare once this is done.

Luna is miserable, and she’s making everyone else here miserable, too. It’s not fair to my kids, or me, or most importantly her. She needs to be somewhere else.

So I sent the email.

Then I fretted for hours because I just want people to like me, and whhhhyyyyy don’t you liiiiike meeeeeee, and my stomach was all in knots and I mused on Twitter that I envy those folks who seem completely emotionally detached. How freeing.

Late last night I got the following response, and I’m still giggling:

Not to make light of a serious situation, but this is funny, because [husband] and I have been having conversations along the same lines, and I was going to sit down and write you a similar email, giving our 30 days notice tonight.

We have always felt comfortable leaving her with you, knowing she is in good hands. [Husband’s] workload lightens up significantly mid-December, so we are just going to keep her home for a while so she can have a little break, and we’ll try something new in the Spring.
We do appreciate the efforts you have made to try to help her through some tough times. My accident was extremely hard on our whole family (especially Luna, who I couldn’t hold or hug) and we were very thankful to have you.

So in the end – some sincere compliments and an acknowledgement of the challenges and my efforts to mitigate them. A thank you that I feel is genuine. We end on good terms. I don’t have to go through the spiral of self-doubt that always accompanies a decision by a client to leave. I daresay I could even count on them for a reference if I really needed to (I wouldn’t ask them, as they are unreliable, but it’s nice to know I have the option if all of my other clients catch fire or move to Tibet).



Her last day is December 14th.


Ask me some other time if I’m counting the days or not.




  1. Phew!! In eight years I have let ONE family go – and for the same reasons you are letting yours go. I know the day I gave notice I felt as if the weight of the world was off my shoulders. Good for you!

    • It was so hard to make the decision. I’ve kept other problem clients for too long, out of fear mostly. It was a big step for me to say ‘enough’.

  2. I’m going to miss your posts and tweets about Luna and her mother. Can’t you keep her around just for my amusement? Please.

    • Take heart! The kids do go to the same school as my kids. It’s a tiny community. I’m sure our paths will cross again.

  3. I am so pleased that you had a lovely reply. Poor Luna. She needs some one to one attention from her parents. You have too much on to help her out x I’m so glad all is well. Not long til Dec 14th. You might even find it easier knowing the end is nigh!!

    • Today *was* easier, frankly. Knowing that soon enough this will no longer be my problem helped a lot.

  4. I can so empathize with how difficult it was to make this decision, and I’m so glad it didn’t all turn ugly.

  5. I could just kick that father in the head. I am glad it turned out so well for all involved, except poor Luna whose Dad will keep making life hard for her. Sigh.

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