When You Were Mean to My Child


IMG_7832I took a Literacy class in undergrad: teaching reading seems pretty straightforward, but there’s an entire science and a host of theories all intertwined with how we learn language.

The course was super dry, and the professor was really strict. I hated most of the class.

At the end of that semester, she read us a story she had written about her brother, Paul. He was not a good student, she said. His teachers knew it, he knew it, and, if I remember correctly, he was pretty openly disliked.

Paul died, though. I don’t know if he was in high school, but I think he was young. After she read her story, she reminded us that, as teachers, we are working with the best that parents have to send. She told us that no matter our opinion of a student or how well they perform, that student is a person, with parents, and those parents are sharing with us the greatest and best thing they have to offer.

I’ve never forgotten that story.

Today, 10 years after that lesson, I dropped my son off at daycare, and he was the sixth person in his classroom. The state ratio is 1:5, and when the ratio changes, this usually involves some shuffling of staff or kids. I asked the teacher in the room if I should take him to another classroom, and she told me no, and knocked on the door of the other 1-year-old room and said,

“Charlie is here. I have six. Do you want him?”

“No.” said the other teacher.

My initial thought was that she seemed overwhelmed. On busy days, I too used to get frustrated when students walked in late. I guessed that she was probably also over her ratio.

“I don’t want Charlie… I’ll take her,” she said pointing to a little girl.

Ooooookay, so it wasn’t a ratio thing.

The little girl started crying, as Charlie hopped out of my arms, waddled over, and entered her classroom.

“Well, I guess I’ll take Charlie. He seems okay today.” She seemed angry.

Okay. What the frog.

“Um… do you not want him?” I asked.

“No, it’s fine,” she shrugged, “I guess I’ll take him. He’s happy right now.”

IMG_8295I watched through the window for a minute before I left. She was clearly frustrated, probably not just with Charlie. Charlie saw me through the window, smiled, and waved. I waved back, blew him a kiss, and walked out.

I had an uneasy feeling, but I kept thinking I must be wrong. Surely she didn’t just tell me, to my face, that she didn’t want my kid in her class. I drove to my next stop, and by the time I got there, I had called my husband, retold the story, and was really, really mad. The thought that killed me, more than anything, was, If she’s saying that in front of me, what is happening when I walk away?

I cancelled my meeting, turned around and picked him up.

In general, I really like commercial daycare because I feel like I can rely on a system of checks and balances. There’s never just one person in the room, the facilities are inspected, there’s a formal hierarchy, and there are clear expectations. In daycare, Charlie has learned his letters, nursery rhymes, how to share, how to pass a ball back and forth, he pretend reads, and he eats a lot more there than he does at home.

But. I cannot leave my baby …the best I have to offer… with someone who was so openly rude to him, in front of me. I know I can’t protect him forever, but he’s not even intelligibly talking yet. I cannot leave him with that.

We finished our day together, and as I rocked my youngest, listening to the same lullabies I played for Charlie even before he was born, I remembered what that professor had said.

When I drop Charlie off at daycare, I know I’m leaving another kid to consider in a ratio. But I am also leaving my best. He is my best try. He is all of the energy I put into reading about what to feed him, how to get to him to sleep, how much I should be reading to him, what that cough might mean, what the best sunscreen is. He is 3 a.m. checks to make sure he’s breathing, and nightly prayers through my own confusion. I am sending to them the best and everything that I have to give, wrapped up in this tiny person.


So, To You, Daycare Teacher,

When you were mean to my child today, I didn’t believe it at first. Even if you were feeling it, how could you possible think it’s okay to say to me, his mother, that you don’t want him in your room? Right now, I am his protector, and I saved him from you because I couldn’t let him be around you, unaware of your meanness though he was. He may have not known, but I knew, and you are not allowed to openly exclude him like that in front of me and think it’s going to be okay. And now, just so you know, at the end of our day, he came home to two parents who really, really love him. He took a bath and his dad read him a story and he fell asleep, safe in our home like he does every night. After he went to sleep, I thought and thought about what you did. And I want you to know that to you, he’s just another number, but to me, he is the excitement of his future. He is the moment we knew he was going to come into our world. He is the first time I heard him laugh, watched him take his first steps, and the first time he called me “Mama.” To me, he is every struggle and accomplishment he’s had in his 22 months on this planet, and every struggle and accomplishment he will have for the rest of his life.

I cried because I don’t expect the world to be kind to him for his entire life, and I don’t want it to be. But I thought I’d have just a little more time to teach him to be confident and brave around people like you. So understand this: when you were mean to my kid today, he had no idea. He continued to laugh and play and explore, and he will always do those things, even if people are mean to him along the way. So know that when you were mean to my kid today, that’s all it was. You being unprofessional and mean. And your small act of unkindness, thought it resonated with me, ended with him. You didn’t ruin his day, you didn’t ruin my day, and your meanness will always be powerless to us in the grand scheme of things.

And for future reference, those kids in your room, as overwhelming as it may be, are more than numbers. They are people, with parents, who are doing their best. They are potential, they are energy, they are life. As a teacher myself, I’ll never forget that. I can only hope that you learn to do the same.





  1. Very sad. We had not one, but two, principals do that to us. I’m sorry my hard of hearing children make life harder for your state funded institutions. We took them out, and both times the teachers cried too because they saw whqt happened, heard what as said. I don’t know why bullies go into childcare and/or education. Unacceptable. Glad you advocated for your sweet boy, and I hope you complained about this heartless lady who can’t handle her job but yet still got paid.

    • Thank you for your comment, Fran! I am so sorry to hear that about your principals- I had previously only known these types of situations from a teacher’s perspective, and now that I know from a parent’s perspective, I realize that parents are sharing with us their most amazing thing!

  2. Dear Charlie’s mom,
    I’m so sorry for the way that so called daycare teacher treated your precious Charlie! It was cruel and just plain ignorant on so many levels! I work at a daycare. I am a toddler teacher. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of years. Retired from GM after 30 years. Love kids, missed my grand babies and that lead me to try daycare. It is always obvious when a teacher has burn out or worse yet when someone is in the role of teacher and does not possess the skills to teach. It doesn’t excuse the behavior, but I’ve seen it. The center that I work out now is privately owned and NOT all about the numbers/ratio. Your article really touched me. I am outraged by the way Charlie was treated… But what you did for him was incredible! I applaud the fact that you went back and immediately removed your child from her clutches/nasty attitude. You just gave value to that incredible little gift. He may be too young to realize it but how you handled this situation says volumes about the kind of parent you are and will continue to be. I just wanted to reach out and let you know that me and most of my coworkers HEARD you!!! God bless you and little Charlie!

    • Thank you for your comment, Cathy! I am so glad you read and shared with your co-workers. I can’t tell you how much it means or how important it is to be able to leave your child with people you trust!

    • I talked to one of the directors- I honestly found myself in an uncomfortable situation. I knew the teacher was frustrated, but I also knew my bottom line was she can’t tell me- to my face- she didn’t want my son on her classroom. I also didn’t want to ruin my relationship with the center because we are dependent on them for childcare- and I generally really appreciate what they have offered us and how much they have taught my son. And I wanted to be courteous – but serious- because I wanted her to take me seriously…and not write me off as over sensitive or crazy.

      They did talk to the teacher, and she hasn’t worked with Charlie since. I think the most poignant statement I made was picking him up directly after dropping him off and explaining why.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this. I cried as I thought of my gifted daughter who was placed in special education for “emotional disturbance ” after the horrible and mean things her teachers said about her. And again as I thought of my son and the look of fear on his teacher’s face when I explained that his breathing medicine makes him a little hyper. It’s hard enough as a mom, but so much harder when those entrusted to care for your children judge them and dehumanize them. This is such a lonely walk. Thank you.

    • Geana-thank you so much for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post, but am also sorry you can relate, as well. I taught a resource room for students with emotional disturbances, and if there’s anything I can say it’s that every kid is a complex human learning how to navigate their world…and so much more than a label. School (and daycare and any institution, really) can be a really scary place when you feel like you’re in the minority or marginalized. I know I always feel like I’m walking a fine line with our daycare of being assertive for my child, while also not wanting to upset anyone because we’re sort of at their whim. I wrote a post a little while ago about some of the questions I got as an SED teacher/behavior specialist (https://indianapolis.citymomsblog.com/kids/school/emotional-and-behavioral-disorders-youre-not-alone-mom/) and I just want you to know I am so sorry for what you experienced.

      If you ever have any questions or just want a place to vent and get in touch with other parents, check out the Facebook page ” IEP 2nd Opinion”. It’s just a resource hub my colleague and I are putting together to hopefully empower parents as they learn to advocate for their children and work with their schools. We don’t post super often, but are hoping to make it more of a robust network as we learn and it hopefully grows.

  4. Love love LOVE this! I am so glad you picked him up. I’ve been in a similar situation and your intuition is always right. That is a precious boy you have there:) I pray everyday that even at their worst my children’s caretakers will love them while they are in their care.

    • Thank you for your comment, Jennifer! Yes! I hope that, too- I know my kids aren’t perfect and do some really annoying things, but I just hope whoever is taking care of them is patient, and understands that they’re still learning!

  5. I was touched by your well written posting. I think it should be part of the discussion at every school, daycare, and teacher trading program. My aunt (who was a teacher) gave me advice before I started my first teaching job. She said to treat each child like your own or like the school board president’s child. It leveled the playing field or each child.

  6. This made me so sad and MAD for you! Not only are our children the best we have to give, but our childcare providers need to understand that to us working moms, we see taking care of our kids as a PRIVILEGE that we would love to be able to have. I view my daughter’s caretakers as so lucky to be able to spend all day with my sweet girl. To hear someone so flippantly disregard your child must have been enraging and heartbreaking, and I am so sorry you ever had to go through that. I still can’t believe they would do that in front of you. I wish you would name the daycare so that I never make the mistake of sending MY best to it. But it just shows what a classy lady you are that you did not. I don’t think I would be able to be as classy if I were put in the same situation. By the way, I’LL TAKE CHARLIE! He is adorable and looks like such a sweet little man!

  7. Hi, My name is Dr. Liza Gonzalez and a few months back I ran across an article on my Facebook feed titled, “When you were Mean to my Child.” I was taken by this article for several reasons but as an educator, I wanted to try to incorporate it into my curriculum. So, I am asking for your help to locate the person who wrote the article so that I can request permission to use it in my classroom. I teach at a community college in the Education Department and would like to make sure my students understand how their words and actions make impressions on parents. This article would be the perfect avenue.

    Thank you in advance for your help in this matter.

    Liza E. Gonzalez, Ed.D
    South Texas College Education Instructor
    Pecan Campus
    (956) 872-2065
    [email protected]

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