28 September 2011
behind the fence
I took Audrey to a park today, near the Parnell Rose Gardens. Adjoining the park is a childcare facility. They've since removed the sign but I was always a little alarmed at the fact that they took in babies from three months of age.
So we're at the park and I hear a small fiery cry, and I know from experience times two that this is not the cry of a toddler but of a baby. I nonchalently walk with Audrey nearer to the scene (in my mind I am sprinting). It's midday at the centre, lunchtime I guess, and there is a little girl dressed in a pretty white frilly top and pants, and she is sitting down outside, completely alone. Her eyes are red from the length of time she has been crying. It's heartbreaking. What astonished me, and still does a day later, is that no-one came over to her for about thirty minutes. They left her to cry. I went over to the fence and spoke to her through the bars, and in all honesty it felt like I was speaking to a pet in a cage. I rolled a green ball to her through the bars and she stopped crying. I moved away after a short chat with her, and went back to Audrey. She started crying again, and still no-one came. When the centre staff were aware that I and another father were quietly observing this they called out to her in some casual manner, more for our benefit than hers. She kept crying. A while later Audrey and I went back to her, and so did the father and his daughter. She seemed keen for attention, keen for a swing, a hug, anything. Almost immediately a young woman came out, scooped her up and told her how 'silly' she was being. The child might have been around 8 months old, but she was tiny so looked even more helpless. I said 'it's heartbreaking to see her like this '. She remarked bluntly 'what?'. I repeated myself. The young woman turned to the little baby and said 'oh you've been cross all day' and then she took her back into the centre, out of sight. The father turned to me and said 'that remark could have only come from a woman who has never had a child'. It's the first time I felt I could have taken another child home. I wanted to hug her.
Because I am sure many of you have children in childcare, I'd like to point out that what I saw was most unusual, unusual enough for me to approach the child several times and to speak to the childcare person. It was a sad sight. And I guess she is back there again today, being 'silly' and 'cross'.
I do know just how tough times are. In saying that I wish stay-at-home mothers were encouraged more, instead of being viewed as having no ambition or worth. I have seen a little of this attitude, but amazingly almost all my friends are stay-at-home mothers. Maybe it just works out that way, like attracts like. Or situation attracts situation. I know I would find it very hard to work for someone else and leave my children for the day. I don't think I'm that strong. And I am very thankful we haven't had to make that choice. In New Zealand the government offers financial incentives for mothers to get back to work. Stay-at-home mothers get absolutely nothing, not even after paying tax like I have for seventeen working years. I have changed my spending habits though. When I worked full time I could buy whatever I liked. Now a lot more thought goes into it, and I can't always buy what I fancy. But it's a compromise I am very happy with.
P.S. The incredible picture above is by the talented Lisa Golightly of Kiki and Polly. I won Cup of Jo's Friday giveaway! I am beyond thrilled and plan on ordering a large Girl in a Yellow Suit.