Today at work, the parent of one of the kids came (without her kid) and asked to talk to me alone. She started right off with, "I want you to know that if I had any serious suspicions about you, I would go to the police, not you." Well, that took me by surprise, let me tell you. She told me that she didn't like it when she had come to pick up her daughter during nap time a few days back and I had been alone in the room with all the kids asleep except her daughter. She said she didn't like the idea of teachers being completely alone with kids. (Of course, this happens all the time, and what she meant was that she wasn't comfortable with me one-on-one with her kid. If it had been Maddening Angel or one of my co-workers, I'm sure she would have thought nothing of it.) Very insulting. I got a bit mad, but then calmed down and heard her out.
Our conversation went basically like this:
Parent: "Legally, the doors should be open when teachers are alone in a room."
Me: "Well, it gets very noisy in the hallway with the babies right across, so we just crack the door. It's not shut, but it's not exactly wide open either."
P: "Why was she tucked away hidden in the corner?"
M: "I wouldn't call it hidden, but she's there because she never takes naps. Kids that don't sleep I put off to the side; if they're in the middle, their state of wakefulness keeps all the kids around them awake longer. Also, I put her by the bookshelf so she can amuse herself with books while she lies there awake."
P: "Well, she needs to be in the middle of the room."
M: "I guess I can find somewhere else for her."
P: "Why all the blankets? I mean, it's warm, and..."
M: (Beginning to see the extent of her paranoid suspicions) "Well... uh... You gave us blankets for her. All the kids have blankets."
P: (Not listening) "Yeah.. if she wants a blanket she can get it herself."
M: "All the kids get their own blankets off their hooks before nap. She asked me to cover her up and I did."
P: "We just want to avoid even the appearance of anything inappropriate."
M: (Rather nastily) "Well, I can stay six feet away from your child at all times, if that's what you'd like."
She cut her Inquisitional tone a bit after that comment and she made small talk about the class in general and my plans. when she left, I didn't smile or thank her.
I've been working with children for seven years altogether. I've worked with highly disadvantaged and at-risk middle schoolers, severely mentally challenged toddlers, and physically handicapped kids. I've been a tutor and an after-school care worker and worked with preschool kids of every SES for more than five years. I'm a professional; this is what I do and what I want to do and pretty much the only thing I can do. While I understand the need for everyone to be comfortable and I know there really are dangers for children out there (even in the hallowed halls of Congress), it is hugely insulting for a parent to take this unfounded accusatory tack with me (and it was, no question, about me, not about "policy" or "teachers" in general).
I went to The Boss when she came back in, and it turned out that this parent had been in before, coming to Boss with her paranoid worries about me. What the hell! The Boss told me that she would talk to the parent and try to reassure her, and that she's had nothing but the highest praise for me from other parents. I'm thinking of asking this parent if she'd rather take her daughter somewhere else. Not that I have the power to expel her from the program or anything, but I'd like to make it clear that if she can't trust me, she should look elsewhere.
Ugh. I feel literally sick about this whole thing.
After work, I took poor Dog to the vet. the vet's not sure whether the giant red growth right over Dog's lip is a tumor or some infected wound. He gave me some antibiotics and ointment (which Dog immediately licked off). I hope it doesn't require removal.
When I went to the lobby to pay, a large Mexican man was loudly telling everyone in the lobby about his pit bull and how his dog would attack any dog who came over to sniff him and how it was silly for the rest of us to let our dogs amble over toward each other. His pit bull, unmuzzled and seemingly very calm, sat next to him. Dog padded over toward his dog as the man talked, and the man shot his foot out and blocked Dog's way. (His own dog didn't react at all.)
"Get your dog away, boy," he said to me. "What kinda stupid shit move is that?"
I looked at him with contempt, said nothing, and kept paying (a hundred bucks, by the way; pet ownership is rather expensive).
The man kept up his inane boastful jabber. "Maybe I'll get my other pit bull in here and your dog can try to face him, huh?" he asked. I said nothing. "And then you and I can go at it while our dogs are fighting, huh?" He stood up. He was well over six feet tall and looked very strong. He also had a large knife strapped to his belt. (Yes, this is Texas.) Like the civilized coward I am, I ignored him, signed my receipt, and walked out without saying a word to him.
I don't want to make an unfair generalization here, but men like him --- loud, obnoxious, violent, fizzing with rabies --- should be taken out and shot like mad dogs, without the world being any worse off. Maybe I should start carrying my gun.
So, to recap: putting me in prison, where I would surely be tortured to death, was a parent's immediate consideration as an option when she saw me putting a blanket over her child, and a maniac threatened to beat and possibly kill me because my dog walked toward his dog.
What a lovely country this is shaping up to be.