(Originally posted Nov. 1, 2011 on ownadaycare.com)
There’s an evil genius in my day care. And this week I found myself caught up in his maniacal schemes.
It’s not that I don’t love him. I’ve worked with this family for seven years, and I had both of Dr. Evil’s two older siblings in my care. But just this week I realized that he was one step ahead of me, and I was shocked, annoyed, entertained, slightly worried, and impressed. In the blink of an eye, I found I had a nemesis.
He is the youngest of three kids, so out of necessity he has learned how to get attention. He’s also going through a hair-pulling phase, for which, of course, he gets a LOT of attention. He knows that if he pulls hair, he’s going to get a timeout and quick.
Here’s when I knew I was up against something big. It was almost circle time (he’s not a fan) and we were cleaning up the blocks that were all over the floor. Yank. “No, that is NOT acceptable!” I said, and whisked him off to timeout. I went back to comfort the pull-ee and continued cleaning up the blocks.
I glanced up to make sure Dr. Evil was still in timeout and he was looking at me calmly. Too calmly. Wait a minute! It dawned on me (slowly) – now he’s not cleaning up!!
Just as fast as I whisked him off to timeout, I whisked him back and asked him to help us clean again. He sat and fussed, tried to dump the basket over again, and yep, made a move toward someone to knock them down.
Now I was at my day care provider best – anticipating every trick and using every tool I have to keep him on track without losing it myself. I countered his every move and did not let him leave the area. I was cool, collected, precise. (A nemesis brings out the best in me.)
And then, miraculously, he started putting blocks in the basket. When he saw that I wasn’t backing down and he wasn’t getting out of helping, he got it. I praised him heartily and high-fived everybody. One of the twins (perhaps his original hair-pulling victim) even said, “Good teamwork!”
This little boy, who’s barely over 2, figured out how to work the system. I’ve always known kids are far, far smarter than we give them credit for, but this was a twist I hadn’t seen yet. That’s pretty good, if he can stump the Expert.
So next week, I keep a keen watch. I have one eye on him at all times. I protect the other kids from injury and keep him engaged in what I say we’re doing, rather than letting him dictate the situation. I stay one step ahead and don’t fall into any traps.
But if he shows up on Monday with a Mini-Me, I’m gonna totally lose it.