Mom Comes to Son's Daycare Early, Finds Him Locked up behind the Gates — Story of the Day
Widowed Mom, Evelyn, begins to suspect something is wrong when her five-year-old son has difficulty adjusting to daycare. Her suspicions are confirmed when she arrives there early and finds him locked up.
"You're going to have so much fun at daycare!" Evelyn smiled as she placed a bowl of oatmeal before her young son, Jason.
"Will they sing my song?" Jason asked.
"I'm sure they will, honey. I think they take turns to sing everyone's favorite song, and you'll learn lots of new songs too."
Jason frowned, and the nervousness Evelyn was working so hard to hide kicked up a gear. Like every mother, she wanted her child's first day at daycare to go perfectly, but Evelyn had doubts. Jason could be very sensitive and pedantic about things like his favorite song. He also didn't cope well when life surprised him.
"Why don't we sing your favorite song in the car on the way to daycare?" Evelyn asked. "That way, you'll get a chance to sing it every day."
"Okay, Mom." Jason grinned at her.
Evelyn breathed a sigh of relief. She shouldn't worry so much, but this was a big change for Jason. It was a big change for her too, and part of her grieved for the shift her husband's death had forced on her and Jason's lifestyles.
While the other children ran around the daycare playground, Jason traced his fingers over the colorful mosaics decorating the wall, and Evelyn spoke to his teacher, Cara.
"...gets overwhelmed sometimes when too much is happening at once. I find it's best to get him to lie down in a quiet area when that happens," Evelyn said. "Also, he doesn't like the color lime green at all. He won't touch anything that color."
"Don't worry." Cara smiled reassuringly. "We have what we call a 'calm corner' for kids who get overwhelmed. We have some stuffed toys there and a bottle of glitter in non-toxic liquid. We shake up the bottle and ask the kids to watch it. It does the trick every time."
"That's great," Evelyn replied. She had doubts about this method, but surely the teacher knew best.
Evelyn needed to get to work soon, so she said goodbye to Jason. He immediately burst out crying.
"I want to go with you!"
Jason clung to her leg like a burr. "I want to go home."
"I'm not going home now, champ; I'm going to work." Evelyn leaned over to rub Jason's back. "I know this is hard, but please be brave enough to try it. I just know you're going to make lots of friends here, but you have to give it a chance."
Evelyn drove to work with tears in her eyes. No amount of coercion had convinced Jason to release her, and eventually, Cara had to help her to pry the child off her leg. He'd wailed like he'd never see her again. It left Evelyn traumatized, and she was sure Jason felt the same.
Evelyn could barely concentrate on her work. All she thought about was the desperate sorrow on Jason's face when she turned away and left him. The sound of his heaving sobs echoed in her head. When she left her desk to take her lunch break, Evelyn called the school to check on her son.
She followed the sound of her son's screams, which were punctuated by a metallic rattle. Terror filled Evelyn's heart as the sounds grew louder. Where was her baby?
Her heart dropped when the woman she spoke to told her Jason was still crying. The lady tried to reassure her that some children took longer to adjust than others, but the words felt hollow to Evelyn. All she could think of was her heartbroken child.
The situation didn't improve over the following days. Every morning, getting Jason into the car to go to daycare became more challenging. He would tell her that his ankle hurt or his stomach. Once, he locked his arms around the staircase railing and refused to let go. Mornings were rapidly becoming a nightmare of stress and chaos for mother and son.
The weekend arrived just in time to give Evelyn a break from their awful morning routine. The pair spent most of Saturday morning cuddled up on the couch watching cartoons. In the afternoon, Evelyn took Jason out for ice cream. On Sunday, Evelyn prayed that the following week would be better for her son. She could never have thought that the worst was still to come.
"I don't understand why you'd hit that boy, Jason." Evelyn glanced at her son in the rearview mirror. His eyes were puffy from crying. "You know we never hit other people."
"He was green hands, Mom," Jason let out a heartbreaking sob, "and he...he was going to touch me."
Evelyn didn't know what to make of that. Nothing Cara had told her added up with Jason's garbled version of events.
"What was green, Jason?" Evelyn asked. "I don't understand. Did he have something green on his hands? Paint?"
Jason screamed with rage and started bonking his head against the backseat.
"No, Jason, stop that!" Evelyn glanced back and forth between the road ahead and her son in the backseat. "Please, baby, you could hurt yourself."
But Jason was inconsolable. Evelyn tried singing his favorite song, but it didn't make any difference. When they got home, he ran to his room, climbed into the closet with his stuffed giraffe, and stayed there until dinner.
As she watched Jason eat his macaroni and cheese one noodle at a time, Evelyn wondered if something was wrong with her son. Maybe the daycare wasn't as great as it seemed; perhaps something happened there that would explain Jason's reluctance to return.
Evelyn decided to fetch Jason early from daycare the next day. She knew something was wrong the moment she climbed out of the car. Jason was screaming!
Evelyn ran into the building. The lady in the front room tried to stop her, but Evelyn didn't even break her stride. She followed the sound of her son's screams, which were punctuated by a metallic rattle. Terror filled Evelyn's heart as the sounds grew louder. Where was her baby?
More staff had appeared now. One of the teachers grabbed her arm, but Evelyn shook the man off. She dashed down a corridor and was overcome with rage at what she saw there.
"I've worked with kids for a long time, and I have some ideas we can try to help Jason."
Jason had his fingers hooked through the bars of a gate closing off one of the rooms instead of a door. He was red in the face and constantly screamed while he tugged on the door to free himself.
"What the hell have you done to my son?" Evelyn roared as she rounded on the staff gathered by the door. "Let him out of there immediately!"
"This isn't as bad as it looks, Mrs. Madison." The male teacher who'd grabbed her earlier stepped forward with a bunch of keys. "We did this to protect him."
"You're going to need protection from me if you don't free him!" Evelyn balled her hands into fists. There was no limit to what she'd do to protect her son, no line she wouldn't cross.
"He was trying to escape the daycare," the male teacher explained once Jason was free. "He got his head stuck in the bars of the security gate and scraped his ear. One of our helpers took him to the calm corner, but he hit her with the glitter bottle and nearly pulled a bookcase down on both of them. We put him in there because we didn't know what else to do."
Tears spilled from Evelyn's eyes as she looked down at her son. He'd stopped screaming when she lifted him into her arms, but he was sucking his thumb now, something he hadn't done in years, and moaning softly.
Although it had been a shock to see him locked up, she understood now that the staff did the best they could in the circumstances.
"I think we need to sit down." Cara stepped forward and put a hand on Evelyn's elbow. "Please come with me to the office."
Evelyn sat down with Cara in the office and drank a glass of water. She was distraught and didn't know what to do anymore.
"Jason is having a rough time adjusting to daycare," Cara said. "I'd hoped it would improve over time, but I think now that we may need to tackle this in a more structured way. If you don't mind sharing, could you tell me what daily life was like for Jason before he started daycare?"
Evelyn sighed. Jason had passed out now and was growing heavy in her arms. She gently adjusted his position and told Cara how she'd been a stay-at-home mom until her husband died in a work accident. Fresh tears coursed down her cheeks as she confessed she didn't know what to do anymore.
"I know it's hard, Evelyn, but I want to help you." Cara leaned forward in her chair. "I've worked with kids for a long time, and I have some ideas we can try to help Jason."
"I'm willing to try anything," Evelyn replied.
"First of all, I'd like to arrange for the psychologist we work with to meet with Jason. There may be other factors at work here that need attention, and she can provide us with guidance about that. Next, I think it would help Jason if we let him get to know his classmates in a more comfortable setting."
Evelyn frowned. "How do we do that?"
"A playdate." Cara smiled. "I know it sounds flip, but I think it will help Jason if some of the kids in his class visit him at home. It's a safe and familiar place for him, and we'll keep the group small. What do you think?"
"It's worth a shot." Evelyn shrugged. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
"There are nine other children in Jason's class. I think we should arrange for three or four of them to visit Jason on a Saturday afternoon. I can be there to help out, and we can invite parents too. That way, there will be plenty of adult supervision, but the kids will still have space to play with each other."
"Like a small party." Evelyn smiled. "That sounds great."
That Saturday, Evelyn and Jason decorated their home with balloons and streamers. Evelyn helped Jason choose which toys to keep out to share with his guests and which he wanted to pack away. Cara arrived around midday with snacks for the children.
Evelyn sat on her back porch an hour later, watching Jason and the other children race around the yard. They'd devised a complex game where every time someone was tagged, they had to switch toys with the child that tagged them.
A few arguments broke out, but mostly the children were happy. Their laughter echoed around the yard and brought smiles to the adults' faces. It turned into a great day for everyone!
The following Monday, Evelyn was woken by Jason's small hand patting her cheek.
"Mom? You need to wake up, Mom, so you can take me to daycare."
Evelyn squinted at her son through sleepy eyes. "Are you excited to see your friends again, champ?"
"I am, I am!" Jason beamed at her as he jumped up and down. "I got dressed and everything."
Evelyn blinked in surprise. She took in Jason's back-to-front t-shirt, blue shorts, and mismatched socks with a smile.
"Okay, Mr. Snappy Dresser, I'm up. Let's get ready for the day."
Over the following weeks, Cara and Evelyn ensured that Jason spent time with all his classmates. It made a massive difference in his attitude toward daycare and helped him at home too. As he socialized more, Evelyn noticed that Jason seemed to find it easier to cope with the challenges of daily life, like encounters with the color lime green and baths that weren't the perfect temperature.
What can we learn from this story?
- Every parent should do their best to meet their children's needs. This doesn't just apply to basic needs, but higher-order needs related to emotional development.
- Respect your child's feelings. It's easy to forget, but children's brains are still developing, and they often don't have the capacity to process things the way we expect.
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If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a mother who'd do anything to find her son when he doesn't return home one day.
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