Monday morning…8:40 am…and we were parked in the daycare parking lot.
As I reached to undo Emily’s buckles on her car seat she screamed, “No, don’t take me out!” I paused, her seat half unbuckled, and reached again for the last hook. “NO! I don’t want to go to school!” She looked as if she were on the edge of tears.
“Don’t you want to go to school today?” I asked. This vivacious, outgoing daughter of mine practically stampeded down the sidewalk each weekday, barreled through the entry and straight into a hug from a playmate. That she would not want to go to school was rather shocking to me.
Her face showed a flash of sly wonder, as if she were considering how likely her chances were of actually not going into the building at that moment. “I want to go to work with you, Mama.”
I had recently taken on some part-time work for a friend of mine, working in her home office. When I was first turning over the idea of putting Emily in daycare two months before, my friend, desperate for office help, had even said, “If you need to bring Emily to work with you, you can.”
Knowing my three-year-old as well as I do, I knew that wouldn’t work. I have a strong work ethic, when I’m at work, I’m there 100%. Having a 3-year-old bopping around asking questions and needing attention would not work, not at all. I had insisted that I would retain child care and had found a large, colorful, fun and well organized daycare just a few blocks from our house. Emily had fit in well there, eagerly heading off to class each weekday morning.
Looking at her now, I figured this was a test. But a test of what? Was there something more at play here? Was she having difficulties with her classmates or her new teacher? In that moment I made the decision.
“Do you want to come to work with me today?” I asked her. She grinned and nodded. “Okay, but I think you are going to find it rather boring.” I fastened her back in, closed the door and drove out of the parking lot. As I did I thought of Jean telling me, “You can bring Emily to work with you if you need to.” Somehow, after nearly three months, I doubted the offer was still on the table. This would require some delicate footwork.
When I arrived I explained to Jean that I was pretty sure this was just a test and that, if Emily got rowdy, I would pack her up and take her home or to the daycare. I said it quietly, and asked Jean for her help, “I have told her there aren’t any toys here and I don’t want to switch on the television.”
My friend’s face was a mixture of incredulity and thinly veiled impatience. I could tell this wasn’t going to wash for very long. She came into the office, sat down at her desk and I called Emily over to me. “Sweetie, please remember not to touch anything, because this isn’t our house. There are no toys to play with either. Just let me know when you want to go to school, okay?” She nodded, and I leaned down and kissed her.
It took all of 30 minutes. “Mama, I want to go to school now.”
“Okay, Emily. I’ll take you to school.” I gathered up the deposit for the bank, and the mail for the post office. “I’ll run and do these errands while I’m out, Jean.” She smiled and nodded as we left.
When I returned Jean was laughing. “Wow, when you first came in and told me you had Emily with you and why, I thought, ‘This kid rules the roost!’ But I was really impressed with how you handled that.”
I explained to her that I had been concerned that there might be more than she was telling me. It was quite obvious after the first few minutes that Emily was simply testing the waters, and checking to see if I would actually be willing to take her with me if she wanted it badly enough.No abuse or problems were occurring, but I had needed to make sure of that.
If there is a next time and she again refuses to go to school, I will probably be kind but firm, and explain that, although I miss her when I am at work, we both have our places to go and things to do.
I am lucky that I have a work scenario where I could do this. It was the perfect answer for the situation at hand and it worked out very well. Not everyone is as lucky.
I imagined doing something like that in my last ‘real’ job working for an insurance company. I closed my eyes and imagined my daughter running up and down the aisles of that corporate office. Somehow I don’t think it would worked out as nicely!
Even if you don’t have the same situation. Even if your situation is more like mine was fifteen years ago with my firstborn, please tread carefully. Yes, we need our jobs so we can pay for our homes and clothes and food. But if we are slaves to our positions, to the extent that we send our children to school when all they need is just a few minutes of our time…what are we teaching them?
Perhaps I am suggesting a change in how we work and how we live. And maybe that’s too much to think of or make happen overnight. But I encourage you to give it some thought.
I was properly appreciative when I returned to work. I made sure that my friend knew that this was one of the reasons I had agreed to work for her…because I needed that flexibility and understanding as much as she had needed me to help out in her office.
I don’t regret spending an extra half hour of my day with one amazing and sweet little girl. The way I measure it…we’re both worth it!