Today I had the opportunity to witness a child being left behind. I thought we had a plan in place for that. Some act or something.
There were so many things about this experience that made me sick. Here's the story:
I was walking into the park with 2 of the Punks just as a large group of kids (maybe 15) and several (3 maybe 4) caregivers were on their way out. They were lined up two by two, all neat and purty. One of the teachers asked if everyone had their sweatshirts. About 8 or 9 minutes later a dad at the park asked if one of the little girls on the climbing structure was with us. Yeah, they freakin' forgot a kid. They got all of the sweatshirts, but they forgot a 3 year old.
Isn't it standard practice to count the kids from time to time to make sure you're watching them all? Hell, I only have 3 and I do it. So, the dad literally jumped the fence, left his 2 kids in the park and ran across the street and down a bit after the teachers. They were completely out of sight. He came walking back after a few moments with one of the teachers. As they approached the fence the teacher saw fit to sternly speak to the child about how she should have listened. Not a hug, not a reassurance. A lecture. Lovely.
Now I know that teacher must have been completely freaked out. She had to be afraid for her job. But she immediately shifted the blame to the 3 year old. I looked at my kids swinging cluelessly on the swings. I know that accidents happen and mistakes are made. I also know that when you screw something up you can gain a lot of ground by simply 'fessing up and offering a sincere apology. From a business standpoint you can either save an irate customer by handling a mistake well, or you can lose that customer and 20 others because you dropped the ball and boy are they going to share their experience with the world. From a parent's perspective you can take a big giant step towards establishing peace by 'fessing up and apologizing, or teaching your kid to come clean. I know people screw things up. I really needed to know that these folks were going to take responsibility for their great big mistake. I also needed for someone to suggest to that caregiver that a hug may have gone a bit further with that scared kid than a freakin' lecture.
Back at home I called the center. My goal was to simply say, "Hey, I know this happened and it's a really difficult situation, but there is this other little piece, too. The one where the teacher blamed the kid." And I wanted to hear something like, "Yes, very hard. Thanks for taking the time to call and tell me, I'll be sure to talk with dumbass about that." It did not go well. I never even got there. I asked to speak to the center director. Now, when I start a phone call I typically introduce myself and if the other person does not do the same then I politely ask who the hell I am speaking with (but politely). This lovely person wouldn't tell me her name. She simply asked how she could help me. I calmly explained that I was a member of the community and simply would prefer to know the name of the person to whom I was speaking. She still would not tell me. I fairly calmly told her that I would call the main program (this was a branch of a larger Head Start Program) and that the reason I was calling was to discuss the fact that a kid was left at the playground today. At this point I was admittedly snarky. She breathed in sharply and said she was aware of the incident. I hung up. I had to. I had lost all hope that this woman could effectively blow her own nose let alone handle this situation. I hung up.
Why the hell didn't she give me her name? Do we even need to talk about customer service? I could've been a prospective parent. I could've been a licenser for Pete's sake. Had she simply introduced herself, the conversation would have been entirely different. I almost promise it. The reason I was calling was simply to share my concern about the way that the child was greeted after having been abandoned. Now, what reason could she have for protecting her identity like it was the freakin' Hope diamond? For the love of Pete. Is she on America's Most Wanted? Is she being stalked? Is she in the witness protection plan? What was her point?
I called the parent program and shared all of my concerns. All signs point to the fact that the local branch is being led by a complete ninny. I alluded to this fact. Some blah-blah supervisor is supposed to call me back. We'll see.
I find the timing of this incident very interesting as I am in the middle of writing an article on "Chosing the Right Child Care" for Career Mom Radio. For the record, I am not at this time suggesting that you leave your goldfish in the care of the center mentioned above.