If there’s one thing about my professional personality I think I need to bulk up, it’s my confidence in  my ideas, or plans, or my ability to stand up for myself.  I see egregious happenings all around me, but in the grocery store I don’t speak up because it’s ot my business.  At a day care center, where a child is in my “services”, it becomes my business.  So if I’m working with Joseph on taking turns, and he goes running to a teacher and crying and complaining that he didn’ t get the ball for every single turn, I meekly tell the teacher I’d like her not to scoop him up and coddle him.  It’s also happened when I’m just too cowed by the sheer bitchiness of a teacher to defend myself or the kid she’s yelling at.  As the kids lined up in the narrow corridor, one child’s coat fell off his hook.  As part of building his self-help skills, I asked him to hang it up himself.  He was in the midst of looking for a loop or the hood when the teacher barked at him, “Why do you have your coat?  You don’t need your coat!  It’s too hot outside.  Give it to me!”  In my mind, I replied, “It fell off.  Give the kid a freakin’ break.”  In reality, I said nothing. 

Too often I find myself saying nothing.  Two weeks ago, one church basement had finally found/unearthed enough basketballs for five three-year-olds not to fight over.  They also had rigged a basketball hoop appropriate for 10-year-olds.  Children kept trying to throw baskets.  They’d get really really close – directly under the hoop – and throw the ball vertically, resulting in its landing directly on, or frighteningly close to their noggins.  After 2 bonks on the head and 1 tricycle crash into a child paying attention to his basketball’s impending collision with his nose, I finally said something.  I asked the teacher (seated over on the sidelines, not seeing any of the bonks) whom I would talk to about ordering developmentally appropriate balls.  These kids could barely get their hands around the balls.  “Lisa”, in the office.

On my way out, I spoke to Lisa as well as to the pastor, who actually thinks the teachers downstairs are implementing his curricular ideals.  They’re giving out worksheets labeled “kindergarten math” to four-year-olds and singing a song about how when your mother calls you, you should come running right away because Jesus is watching.  Huh?  Well, Lisa insisted each class had plenty of balls.  “What?  I just bought them balls.  Really nice foam balls from the dollar store, five for each class!  What happened to those?”  Can you spot the oxymoron?  Well, I countered, those had disappeared or been destroyed, as foam balls so often are, and they need –I couldn’t stress this enough – a full class set, not five.  What good are five when you have 10 children?  The pastor insisted he was planning to order red dodge balls soon anyway, for the school age kids.  I explained the magic of low-density balls designed for preschoolers to lob at each other’s heads.  I was convincing enough; he asked me to bring in a catalog. 

Yesterday, when I’d finished seeing kids, I went up to the office, bypassing Dollar Store Foam Ball Lady and spoke straight to the pastor.  I showed him the page I’d highlighted, wary he’d be unwilling to purchase specialty balls that cost $54.95 for six.  Especially when he mentioned that he was at the end of the budget year, and there was so little money left, blah, blah, blah.  Well, maybe next year, I hoped.  Then he surprised me.  “I can afford $100 for balls,” he said.  I fairly whooped with joy.  I’ve been successful in my quest to provide safe and appropriate materials for these kids, and I’m on my way to growing my own set of balls.

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