Monday, April 06, 2009

The perception of power

I have a bizarre ability to scare people. Not in a "boo!" kind of sense, but more in a "do as I ask or there will be hell to pay" kind of way. It's not something I'm particularly proud of, largely because very rarely do I try to throw my weight around to try to get what I want. I don't see the point in being snide or sarcastic or mean to service people on the phone, for example, because A) I think it's rude and obnoxious, and B) it usually doesn't work. If you need someone's help, you're far more likely to get it by being nice or appealing to their sympathies.* When all else fails, I'll write a stern letter to management and casually mention that I'm a lawyer. That works too. But again, it's rare that I do that. "Kill them with kindness" is a much more effective strategy.

Which is why I find recent events curious.

I haven't been thrilled with Zeke's new daycare. Maybe I've been spoiled, because his daycare in Hawaii was so wonderful, from the organization to the warmth of the individual caregivers. I haven't felt the overwhelming love in the new place that I felt from the Cole Academy, and I've been disappointed in what has struck me as a lack of attention to detail in the level of care my baby receives.

For example, every day the parents are provided with a progress report at the end of the day, detailing their child's activity during the day: how much and when he ate, what his diaper changes revealed, how much he slept, what activities he preferred (so far, Zeke has almost exclusively preferred language or reading-based activities). And with the exception of one day, in the month that Zeke has been at his new school, his progress report has never been completely filled out. So I was often wondering whether Zeke napped or not (which definitely affects how the evening routine will go), or whether he ate all of his afternoon snack, or when was the last time he pooped.

And maybe that's because they've been pretty lackadaisical about changing his diaper. At Cole Academy, they changed his diaper every hour (which I thought was a bit of overkill, not to mention expensive). At the new school, they only do 4 changes a day, which is OK, but my expectation is that in any event, if a kid is clearly walking around with a load in his pants, the teachers will deviate from the schedule and change a diaper if change is obviously warranted.

But one day last week, Jason went to pick Zeke up, and Zeke was wandering around with one shoe on -- outside, in March -- with the other shoe buried somewhere in the sandbox. He had a ribbon of snot snaking up his face where someone had clearly done a half-assed job of wiping his nose. And you could smell the shit in his pants from 4 feet away. Yet, the two teachers outside "supervising" the kids were standing off in the corner, talking to each other and maybe glancing occasionally at their young charges.

Earlier this week, I went to pick Zeke up in the afternoon. The kids were outside on the playground. He was standing very listlessly against the fence, playing half-heartedly with an abacus-like bead thingy. The teacher reported that he had slept for over 3 hours during naptime -- an extraordinary nap for him -- and that during playtime, he didn't want to play and fell asleep on her shoulder when she picked him up.

"Ha ha!  Isn't that funny??"

And I'm thinking, "He must be ill.  What the fuck is wrong with her powers of observation?  Why did nobody call me??"

When I got to the car and put him in the carseat, I realized how bad it was.  He kind of collapsed in the seat, and I discovered that he had a fever and was not at all well.  As in, he was sitting with his head back, eyes at half-mast, his breathing labored, his forehead burning.

The straw breaking the proverbial camel's back was later that week.  Jason dropped Zeke off in the morning, and when he got to the toddler classroom, there was not a single adult in the room.  A gaggle of 1-year-olds was wandering around or sitting on the floor, looking confused.  A teacher from another class wandered into the diaper-changing area to change a kid's diaper, and when Jason asked where the toddler teacher was, the woman said, very nonchalantly, "oh, she'll be back soon."

So I made an appointment to talk to the director of the school.  And sat down with her last Thursday afternoon, and explained in a calm, rational voice, the nature and basis for my concerns.  It was a very cordial conversation.  At no point did I yell or lecture or speak in a stern tone.  The director was very sympathetic and responsive to my concerns, and said she would investigate and remedy the situation immediately.  I left feeling somewhat better.

The next day, I got a call from one of Zeke's teachers, informing me that he seemed clammy and lethargic, and that he was crying a lot and having a hard time functioning without being held by an adult.  We had taken Zeke to the doctor's office earlier that week, and she had indicated that he had had an ear infection, but that it appeared to be on the mend.  She called in a prescription for antibiotics, but advised that we not fill it unless his symptoms appear to get worse again.  So I figured that Zeke was relapsing, thanked the teacher for letting me know what was going on, and left work to go pick him up and fill the prescription.

When I got to the school, Zeke was happy to see me, but didn't appear particularly sick or emotionally fragile.  I was all worried about taking him to the drug store and having him melt down while I waited for his prescription to be filled, but he was happy and chirpy and flirted with everyone in the pharmacy.

I mentioned to Jason that I thought that the teachers might have overreacted, and that Zeke had seemed OK when I got him.  

"They're probably scared shitless of you now," he responded.

"Why?  I didn't yell at anyone.  I didn't threaten or try to get anyone in trouble.  I was very calm in talking to the director."

"Baby, you have no idea how you come across.  You can be at your scariest when you're at your calmest."


I really don't try to scare anyone.  It's not my intention to come across as bitchy or mean.  

But I guess in this situation, let them be scared.

* There are limited exceptions to this rule. When our movers finally delivered our stuff, the delivery guys declared that they would not be unpacking or reassembling any of the furniture, even though that's what I had paid for, and that they would not be removing any of the mountain of packing material that was piling up in the living room, even though that's what I paid for. I completely blew a gasket and yelled at them off and on for the entire 3 hours they were moving stuff into my house. It did not, however, persuade them to do what I wanted, which kind of proves my earlier point.


  1. Consider it a skill! I'll bet it really helps you in court. If I ever need an attny in Denver, boy, I'm hiring you.

    Can't wait to meet you in NYC next week!

  2. Anonymous9:22 AM

    I'd run background checks on every person who has cntact with Zeke. I would hate to se your tossed-hair & pregnant mugshot on the national news for blowing up that facility because something has happened to him.