When my oldest son was born, I went back to work when he was less than 3 months old. This was by far the most stressful time of my life. Like most working parents, I felt that I was half-assing my job and half-assing my kid.
We decided to send him to day care rather than a nanny because we wanted him to be around other kids and liked the idea that we may meet a friend or two in the process. I always felt confident with the three amazing women who watched him during the day, and he was with just five other kids who were all the same age. Each day we were given a progress sheet of the exact times he ate, took a nap, and had his diaper changed. It was the ideal setup.
The whole idea was so overwhelming that I just did nothing. And there I was so quick and ready to blame someone else for a perfectly explainable situation.
Everything was going smoothly until the day I came to pick him up and saw a HUGE scratch across his face. And it wasn't just a little red spot, but literally a huge red line across his face. My jaw hit the ground and I was ready to pounce. I ran over to the caretaker who was busy with a fussy baby. Her English was not great, so I was having a hard time trying to figure out what happened.
I couldn't understand why no one had called me, or even seemed worried that something was wrong. I was about to run over to talk to the head of the day care, when I glanced at my daily progress sheet and saw the following note:
"Dear Ms. Jennifer. Please, please cut Beckett's nails tonight. They are very long. Thank you!"
Oh no. It was my fault. I felt my body shrink down into my coat, grabbed Beckett, and got out of there as fast as I could.
Of course they didn't know that as a first-time mom, I was TERRIFIED to cut his nails. I was so afraid that I would cut his skin, or give him an in-grown nail. I mean, what if he moved his fingers and I accidentally drew blood? The whole idea was so overwhelming that I just did nothing. And there I was so quick and ready to blame someone else for a perfectly explainable situation.
Us parents tend to be pretty protective of our children (as we should) and like to think that any problems that arise were caused by someone else. This was the first of many experiences when I learned that initial instinct to act like a mama bear isn't always the way to go.
As soon as I got home and told my husband, he happily cut Beckett's nails. It was so anticlimatic that it was hard to believe I was even worried in the first place. We laughed and called him "Scarface" for days.
When I dropped him off the next morning, I found out that when he had scratched his own face, he didn't even cry. I apologized, laughed at myself for being so upset, and then went to work with my head held high. I was ashamed, yes, but I was grateful to have learned the first of many important lessons as a parent — don't jump to conclusions, and always ask questions.
Years later when Beckett was in preschool, he came home and told me that one child had hit him. I went to the head of the school, who told me to ask my son why his friend had hit him. I did just that, and he confessed that he had taken a toy away from his friend. So, it turns out my angel wasn't so perfect.
Protecting your child is a parent's number one job, but in order to be that great parent we all want to be, you can't always take their side. Before you start to raise hell in defense of your child, take a minute to ask a question and see if, just maybe, there's a bit more to the story.