My First Memory or Daycare Peeing Trauma
By Andrea Chmelik on January 29, 2013
I skyped with my good friend Milina a few days ago. We grew up together in Slovakia. She now lives in Belgium with her German husband and a 2 months old baby boy. They started looking for a daycare recently. The waiting lists are long, especially for the good ones. Both her and I prefer a daycare that could be classified as "institution", rather than a certified lady that runs one in her own house. I am not sure why. I want to say it is because that's how daycare was for us. Maybe we just want the same experience for our own kids. Which is precisely where the argument falls short.
Milina and I started reminiscing. People sometimes ask what is the first thing from your life you can remember. What is your first memory? I usually can't answer. But after the conversation it dawned on me that what I remember the most from the time when I could not be older than 3 is the dread of needing to pee in an inopportune time. There was such thing as an inopportune time for peeing. (I wrote about this once before here.) You were not allowed to get up during the nap time. The fact that you were a 3-year-old was not enough to excuse you for a bathroom visit. If you asked, you got yelled at and told that you were not allowed to go. If you couldn't hold it and peed your pants, you were publicly humiliated. You had to stand up (suddenly it was allowed to do so) in front of the room full of kids (mind you, there was no 12 kids per class limit) and show your wet pants to everybody. Milina said she remembers how the teachers would circle her and sing her a song about a smelly egg.
This didn't stop in daycare. Same rules applied in school. You were not allowed to leave the classroom during lecture. One of my friends was telling me how she peed her pants, but luckily the liquid ran down the crooked floor linoleum and collected itself in a puddle under the chair in front of her, so it looked like it was the girl sitting there who had an accident. My friend didn't say a word and spent the rest of the day in wet pants.
I don't know how damaging these episodes were to our lives. We laugh at them now. They are so bizarre and so absurd I can't really take them seriously. And everybody has their own story to add. But then I talked to my high school classmate about a year ago. He's had 2-year-old twins at the time. He said he was in his daughters' daycare during nap time and overheard the teacher saying: "And keep your hand and your feet under the blanket. If they stick out, a bad man will come and cut them off."
I have to laugh about the things that Milina and I look for in daycare for our own kids. Do you have an open door policy? Are you flexible enough? Do you have a variety of age appropriate toys that are up to the latest safety standards? Are you educational enough? Is your staff friendly and enthusiastic? Do you have an appropriate outdoors area, preferably with lots of greenery? Do you offer organic foods? My son's daycare asks that you pack the kid's own lunch. But where we grew up, daycare facilities as well as schools had canteens that cooked the same meal for everybody and you were required to eat that meal no matter what your preferences, dislikes, or food allergies were. It didn't matter that you puked after cooked tomatoes. The next week, you'd still be forced to eat them. (I have also written about this in the post I mentioned earlier.)
I am not sure what Kai's first memory will be. Knowing his daycare and seeing how many peeing accidents he happily goes through without any trauma, I have a feeling it will be very different from mine.