Growing a Polite Spine

by admin on September 21, 2010

A nice story about how being polite does not mean you allow people to walk all over you.

Hi Miss Jeanne! I wanted to share a story with you from a couple of years ago. It was about the same time that I began reading the stories on your website, and I must say that it really helped me grow a spine. So here goes:

I run an in-home daycare. One of my clients, we’ll call her Mary, had two children placed in my care. Mary was a single mother who lived about 15 blocks away from my home. Depending on the weather, she would either walk or take the bus to drop her kids off at my home every morning. It wasn’t unusual for her to call for a cab in the evening when she picked them up, though, which was always around 5:30 or 6:00. Anyway, my husband and I had plans one evening, on a Saturday (Mary often worked on Saturdays, and our dayhome is considered 24/7), to have friends in for supper. Mary’s kids had been fed by 5:00 and my guests were due to arrive by 5:30 for supper to be served at 6:00.

My guests had arrived, and we decided to wait until Mary arrived and picked up her children before we began to eat. 6:15 rolled around and there was no sign of Mary yet. I tried calling her cell only to get voicemail. So we waited for a few more minutes. At 6:30, my husband suggested we just go ahead and start eating. I was reluctant at first because Mary’s kids were still here, but then decided that since they’d eaten already, it would be ok. So we went ahead and started the meal while Mary’s kids played and looked at television.

At 6:45, Mary finally showed up. I was expecting, as per her usual method, for her to gather the kids together and call a cab. But no. She sat, in my kitchen, watching us eat for 1 1/2 hours. I have no idea if she was expecting me to invite her to join us or not, but I wasn’t about to. Of course, spineless me at the time didn’t want to “be rude” and ask her to leave. *eyeroll* When she finally left, my friend commented that the incident seemed rather creepy.

Another day, we had plans to meet up with those same friends at a restaurant. When Mary arrived to get the kids, I said to her “Well, we will see you in the morning. We have plans for the evening and have to get ready to leave. Have a great night!” and I went to get ready. My husband was all ready to go already and was sitting in the living room at the time, so I didn’t feel bad about leaving Mary at the door. Anyway, about 60 minutes later, after I’d showered, dried and styled my hair, applied my make-up and gotten dressed, I walked out to find Mary still sitting in my kitchen. My husband, bless him, was just as spineless as I was at the time.

I realized one day that I’d grown a spine (with lots of help from this site!) when Mary’s kids both came down ill and I had to take them to see the doctor. They were diagnosed with a contagious, but completely harmless, disease and I called Mary at work immediately and informed her that they would need to leave my home for at least a week. Because she was using public transit at the time, I offered to drive downtown to pick her up, and then to bring them all home so that the kids could get the rest that they needed to get well. I dropped my husband and the kids off at our home and headed downtown.

When I arrived at Mary’s workplace, there was no parking in the front of the building. It was rush hour, with traffic bumper to bumper. I get rather nervous driving in our city’s downtown core, as the streets are not well-planned, and it’s not unusual to get cyclists and pedestrians popping out from behind parked vehicles, so I didn’t see Mary standing on the corner, in front of her building, until it was too late for me to pull over. So I waved at her to let her know I was going around the block.

Because of a transit terminal on the next street, I had to drive around two blocks, which, even in rush hour traffic, only took about 2 or 3 minutes, tops. When I finally got around the block again, I drove to the building directly across the street from Mary’s building because there still was no parking in front of her building. She was already in the process of crossing the street anyway, so I figured “What the heck?! There’s parking right there.”

Well, when Mary got in the car, she looked at me, redfaced and furious. “Why the %#%^ did you do that? You could have just pulled over right *there*!”

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t. There was no parking there.”

“So? You could have just double parked!” Oh. Yes. That’s a wonderful idea. Let’s just inconvenience all the other drivers out here. *eyeroll*

“Well, I’m sorry. I get rather nervous driving in rush hour traffic. Besides, it only took a couple of minutes.”

“Well, I just don’t understand why the $%$@ you couldn’t have just pulled over! I was standing right there!”

And that’s when I learned that my spine had grown. I turned to her and said very calmly, “Would you rather get out right here and walk home? Because I’d be more than happy to pull over for you.”

That was the end of the argument. Due to many other issues I was having with Mary, she was served a termination notice about 6 weeks later. 0921-10

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

AS September 21, 2010 at 9:35 am

24/7 daycare? Or did you mean Mary thought it was 24/7? ’cause I know daycares where they charge a certain amount rounded to an hour if parents are even 5 minutes later than the latest pick up time.
Anyways, glad that you grew a spine, and also that she was given a termination notice. Just because you run a daycare doesn’t mean that you don’t have a life of your own.

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OP September 21, 2010 at 9:56 am

Nope, I mean that it is a 24/7 dayhome. But, because it is so, the number of children that I have at any one time is limited to two or three. We have one boy, now 11, who has been with us since he was 8 1/2, who has his own bedroom here because his mom works a graveyard shift. It’s really like having our own child. My husband and I love what we do :) We now have only 4 children in total, one of them full-time Monday to Friday, one full-time Wednesday to Saturday overnight, and two who we see one or two days a week at the most.

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Kathryn September 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

Maybe she meant it’s open 7 days a week, but not for all 24hrs. I’m inclined to think that the 24 in 24/7 was a typo.

But how creepy! Hanging around in the kitchen when there’s clearly a thing going on, then when they’re getting ready for a night out. How weird!

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essie September 21, 2010 at 10:08 am

@AS. I have heard of 24/7 daycares, but not one in a home, though.

Most of the ones we’ve used (NOT 24/7) charge at least $1/minute if you’re late (i.e., after their stated closing time).

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Wheelchair Bling September 21, 2010 at 10:31 am

It’s nice to see an etiquette story with a happy ending! I’m glad you didn’t let her trample on you. Seems like you went way beyond your duties, and if she wasn’t grateful, too bad for her. I’m sure you found other customers who appreciated your good service…

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RP September 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

I turned to her and said very calmly, “Would you rather get out right here and walk home? Because I’d be more than happy to pull over for you.”

BOOSH!

No sane person without a car yells at the person giving them a ride. It’s not like the OP showed up two hours after she said she would, she merely circled the block to find a space. That is totally normal for any area with limited parking.

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Jamesy September 21, 2010 at 11:13 am

I’m shocked, because you did a great job of telling her that you had plans and were getting ready to leave for the evening. It was clearly a combination of Mary being clueless and you and your husband not being able to reiterate and reinforce boundaries. It’s a good thing it didn’t take long for you to put your foot down. Way to go!

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SHOEGAL September 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

Very creepy for her to stay for 1 1/2 and watch you eat – YUK!! I would have been mortified In either instance – when she is sitting in the kitchen – I don’t really understand why she wouldn’t want to just get on home???!?!?

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The Big Gripe September 21, 2010 at 11:34 am

When you mentioned Mary staring at your food, the only thing I thought of was, “Is this woman starving?” Maybe she is low-income? Not a reason to tolerate rudeness, of course, but maybe she was praying you’d offer her something to eat because that’s the only nourishment she’d get all day.

Still doesn’t explain all the other rude things she did, though…

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Louise September 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I love stories in which the poster discovers his or her spine! Go, OP!

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Jillybean September 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm

My question is – why was Mary ever even in the kitchen? Presumably if this is a home, one rings the bell when they arrive. If not, the moment I heard her come in I would have risen from the table, helped her gather her children and necessary belongings and walked her to the door. Did the OP simply sit at the table eating dinner with her guests while Mary rounded up her kids?

And I guess I’m a little confused about what a “Dayhome” is. Like others have stated, in most day care scenarios there are specific times that are adhered to, and those who arrive late are charged extra (at the school I taught at for years you got a 10 minute grace period and were charged $1 per minute after that). Even if your hours are completely flexible, I would imagine people have a schedule and it’s not a scenario where people just drop off and pick up their kids whenever they feel like.

Further, if I were a parent paying for my child to be watched, I certainly would be miffed (even if I’m late) to find you seated in the kitchen having a social dinner while my children were unattended (though I suppose this might depend on the ages of the children, which isn’t mentioned) just because you’d already fed them. Of course, I certainly wouldn’t be more than an hour late and completely out of communication, and since no apologies or explanations are mentioned, I suppose I have to assume Mary offered none.

Wouldn’t mind some clarification from the OP.

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OP September 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm

>>When you mentioned Mary staring at your food, the only thing I thought of was, “Is this woman starving?” Maybe she is low-income?<<

She was low-income, yes, but she had been a student, living in rent-control housing (I remember her saying that her rent was based upon income and she was only paying about $200 a month in a city where a 3-bedroom townhouse the size of hers would be about $1800 or more a month), and was also receiving aid through social services. Also, given that she had extra pounds to spare (as do I) I don’t think she was starving. This waiting around that she did was on a somewhat regular basis, on those rare occasions that she didn’t call a cab. I should point out that this incident re: the supper happened in the summer, when it would have been well within reasonable expectation for her to walk home.

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OP September 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm

>>My question is – why was Mary ever even in the kitchen?<>Did the OP simply sit at the table eating dinner with her guests while Mary rounded up her kids?<>And I guess I’m a little confused about what a “Dayhome” is.<>Like others have stated, in most day care scenarios there are specific times that are adhered to, and those who arrive late are charged extra (at the school I taught at for years you got a 10 minute grace period and were charged $1 per minute after that). Even if your hours are completely flexible, I would imagine people have a schedule and it’s not a scenario where people just drop off and pick up their kids whenever they feel like.<>Further, if I were a parent paying for my child to be watched, I certainly would be miffed (even if I’m late) to find you seated in the kitchen having a social dinner while my children were unattended (though I suppose this might depend on the ages of the children, which isn’t mentioned) just because you’d already fed them.<>since no apologies or explanations are mentioned, I suppose I have to assume Mary offered none.<<

You’re right, she didn’t. Mary never did. Because Mary had a huge sense of entitlement and believed she was NEVER wrong. Hence the reason 6 weeks later she was served with a termination notice.

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OP September 21, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Darn it! I had this ready to go once but it didn’t work properly. I’ll try this again:

“My question is – why was Mary ever even in the kitchen?”

Because my front door opens into my kitchen, and my clients know that they are simply to walk in my front door when they arrive to pick up their kids.

“Did the OP simply sit at the table eating dinner with her guests while Mary rounded up her kids?”

Yes, we were sitting at the table eating supper already. But when Mary did arrive, I told her that the kids were fed and ready to go, they just needed their shoes. For the record, my home has an open concept, so when you walk into the front door, you are standing in the kitchen but also fully able to see the entire living room. As I said in the original post, Mary was late. Supper was also supposed to be served at 6:00, by which time the children would usually have already left the house. By 6:30, without Mary even having showed up, supper was starting to look a little less appetizing, given that it was sitting in a warm oven for nearly an hour already.

“And I guess I’m a little confused about what a “Dayhome” is.”

It’s a private daycare ran from one’s home. Perfectly legal and common.

“Like others have stated, in most day care scenarios there are specific times that are adhered to, and those who arrive late are charged extra (at the school I taught at for years you got a 10 minute grace period and were charged $1 per minute after that). Even if your hours are completely flexible, I would imagine people have a schedule and it’s not a scenario where people just drop off and pick up their kids whenever they feel like.”

In my case, parents have a 9 hour window between drop off and pick up times. So, if a child is dropped off at 8am, they are expected to be picked up by 5pm. Mary’s kids had not been here over 9 hours by that point, so I guess technically she wasn’t “late” per se, but she had never been later than 6pm picking up her children before. So based upon that, she was late. I was depending on her consistency here.

“Further, if I were a parent paying for my child to be watched, I certainly would be miffed (even if I’m late) to find you seated in the kitchen having a social dinner while my children were unattended (though I suppose this might depend on the ages of the children, which isn’t mentioned) just because you’d already fed them.”

I could see the children at all times from where I was sitting at the dinner table. They were never, ever, for one second, out of my view. And if you were going to be an hour late picking up your children with no phone call, you (not you necessarily, but any parent picking up their kids from daycare) don’t really have a right to be angry. Many parents seem to have a sense of entitlement that a daycare provider works FOR them instead of WITH them, at least in my experience. We do have a life outside of our work.

“since no apologies or explanations are mentioned, I suppose I have to assume Mary offered none.”

You’re right, she didn’t. Mary never did. Because Mary had a huge sense of entitlement and believed she was NEVER wrong. Hence the reason 6 weeks later she was served with a termination notice.

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jen September 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Good job! I love stories like this. You handled things masterfully. I get how you didn’t put her in her place at first – people like that can be very good at getting away with things. It sounds like you really love your job, and that for the most part it’s extremely rewarding.

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Princesssimmi September 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Yay! Go OP! We need more people like you.

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josie September 21, 2010 at 6:34 pm

I would of given that termination notice after about the 2nd swear word!

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Snewt September 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm

You are my etiquette hero for the day.

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Captain Obvious September 21, 2010 at 11:17 pm

i think she must have thought she had become a friend of yours, which explains the weird behaviour but doesnt excuse it

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lkb September 22, 2010 at 5:10 am

“Also, given that she had extra pounds to spare (as do I) I don’t think she was starving.”

I just wanted to interject that in my area (U.S.), somehow whenever I see people who I know or have justification to assume are low-income, they almost all seem to be overweight. Why? I don’t know but it does seem that less expensive foods (and food provided by food programs) are heavy on the carbs, light on the veggies. She may not have been “starving” in the sense of one of those “save the children”-type ads, but is it possible that it’d been a long time since she had a decent meal? Obviously I don’t know the lady, but I just wanted to point out that body type may not be an indication of income.

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OP September 22, 2010 at 8:34 am

“She may not have been “starving” in the sense of one of those “save the children”-type ads, but is it possible that it’d been a long time since she had a decent meal?”

Possibly. Given her propensity for partying and drinking though, I don’t think it was because she couldn’t afford to buy proper food.

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AS September 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

OP, it is a real nice thing that you and your husband are doing. It makes life so much easier for parents who have to work during weird times. I am sure you can do without people like Mary. Even if you had a 9 hour window, one would expect a parent to be on (atleast not too late) time to pick up their kids. You are right – some people think the daycare provider works for them rather than with them! Sitting in the kitchen… that is indeed creepy!

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MeganAmy September 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Good for you. I think you were more than patient with her. You went out of your way to be considerate and drive her places because she didn’t have a car, and then she was abusive and foul-mouthed to you.

“if you were going to be an hour late picking up your children with no phone call, you (not you necessarily, but any parent picking up their kids from daycare) don’t really have a right to be angry.”

I completely agree. You have a life outside of work and a right to have friends over to your home and to eat meals at some point.

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Michelle P September 22, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Cheers to the OP! My sister runs a daycare at home, and the parents walk all over her. She’s friends with them, so she finds it hard to stand up to them. I mean in every way; late constantly, late paying, and there’s two parents that show up to pick the kids up and hang around for hours. I won’t say anything when I’m there because it’s not my place, but I’ve started dropping hints for her. Anywho, terrific story and way to handle it the right way.

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OP September 23, 2010 at 1:27 am

>>She’s friends with them, so she finds it hard to stand up to them.<<

That tends to happen in non-formal situations like your sister and I have. After Mary was terminated, I happened to find a wonderful replacement who I have since become very good friends with. It can get in the way sometimes, that friendship, but in many ways it helps to maintain open lines of communication. I find it is much easier to discuss issues with the parents when there is a friendship there than when the relationship is kept strictly professional. Having no children of our own, my husband and I think of these kids as “our kids” and treat them as such, something which all of my current clients appreciate.

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Rebecca September 23, 2010 at 3:16 am

“Well, when Mary got in the car, she looked at me, redfaced and furious. “Why the %#%^ did you do that? You could have just pulled over right *there*!””

Good grief, way to show appreciation for the HUGE favour you were doing her!!! I’ve ended a friendship over that kind of thanks. Glad to hear you got rid of her. Too bad for her children.

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Enna October 1, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Hm I think the OP needs to have rule that if parents are late charge them! I’m in the uk and if a parent and if I was running day care it would £1 per minute. (might be harsh but I;m not going to be taken advatnage of). If the parents are really late – why not call soical services? After all unless they ring up with a VERY good reason – it is neglect.

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DocCAC November 15, 2010 at 1:12 am

In many places in the US, non-home daycare places either put a huge fine on people picking up the kids late and/or close up when the closing time has come. If chidren are still there, they are turned over to social services as abandoned. I’m not sure they do the social services thing if they know you are going to be late, but the fine stays. They have to pay OT to their workers after all. Plus, it keeps everyone playing by the same rules.

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Hollanda, UK April 5, 2011 at 6:05 am

Hi there

I am from the UK and we have daycare run from homes. However, this is NOT 24/7 care on the whole, but I do know of some places who accommodate children overnight. I’ve heard of one such place begin a one-strike and you’re out punishment for being late, and contacting Social Services for neglect. I cannot say I blame them – if there is a reasonable reaosn as to why you will be late picking up YOUR child from day care, fine. If it is just poor organisation, not OK. You have your child, show some responsibility.

Well done OP!!! I love stories like this!!!!!!!!!!!

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