Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How will she make this my fault?

I went to Erica's apartment this morning. I didn't feel like enrichment playing with the baby, but I went. When I got there, the door was opened by a sleepy woman I didn't recognize, and the baby was buckled into her car seat on the floor.

"Oh... Erica's out of the country, Derek's on a business trip," she said vaguely. "Gila will be back soon."

"You and Gila are looking after the kids?" I asked. She made some distant assent.

I unbuckled the baby and picked her up. What's that smell?

"I think she needs to be changed," I said. The woman had gone back to the sofa and lain down, eyes closed. She didn't respond. Okay, fine, I'll start anyway. I put the baby by her little desk, sat on the floor, and started the comparisons.

At first the baby played along, although she seemed to be breathing heavily as if congested. But when I showed her the picture of her snack crunchies, she put it in her mouth.

"You want some crunchies?" I said. Erica had shown me where they were kept. I got the box and tried to get the baby to put them in her mouth. It's funny -- she puts everything in her mouth but food. After she gobbled up about 10 of them, I had a brilliant idea.

"Is the baby hungry?" I asked the woman on the couch. No response. I tried again, a little louder. "Has she had anything to eat today?"

"She had... a whole bottle of milk," said the woman. "Nothing else."

It was after 9 a.m. Babies are morning people, so she'd probably been up for a few hours. And a hungry baby is not going to be able to play or learn. But what does she usually eat? I'm good with other people's children, but I generally need some guidance to take care of them. I tried to give her some banana, but she turned her head away. I went to the fridge and saw a small cup of yogurt, which my nieces and nephews used to love as babies.

I also saw a bunch of prescription bottles next to the fridge. Behind me, the baby coughed.

How am I supposed to work with a sick, dirty, hungry baby if there's no one to guide me? Am I being a high-maintenance volunteer when I say that? Also, if the baby's sick, I'd like to have the option of not being exposed to her germs.

I fed the baby as much yogurt as she would take, but when she refused to continue the enriching play, I gave up and went home. And I can't wait to see how Erica makes this my fault.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Why didn't Erica call you or e-mail you to let you know about this? It's her job to make her daughter's experience as positive as possible.

    And if the child is sick, you cancel her play dates, therapists, and appointments! If she were in school, they'd send her home. So why should you be any worse?

    I think you should find another volunteer opportunity.

  2. I think you're probably right.

  3. I totally agree with Carmen. But, poor baby! Good thing you fed her.

  4. Hmm...fooled me once shame on you, fooled me twice shame on me.

    I think you know what you are dealing with now. If Erica isn't contacting you with the information you need to know, you might decide to call her before any visit for an update on who is at the home, general health and welfare of the child. It's probably a good idea to call her in between appointments anyway for information connected to your sessions. Maybe the info you need will come out in those short informal chats?

    It sounds like you have the "nice person's curse". The one where you want to be nice so you don't put things more directly. Another person might have said to the caretaker, "If the child needs to be changed, why are you not doing it? This child is obviously hungry, why are you not feeding it?" (While this is direct and confrontational, you could say it in a nice way.)

  5. I guess I wasn't direct enough. I asked the near-comatose woman on the sofa what the baby ate, but she was asleep again. I don't know what kind of night she had with the children (there are two older ones as well as the baby), so I didn't want to disturb her. On the other hand, I also didn't want to get sick. I know Erica and Derek do a lot for the community and they're very busy, but Carmen is right: when an activity with a volunteer is planned, make sure it will be a positive experience for the child. And cancel if she gets sick!