For eighteen years, until my younger child graduated from high school, I ran a home daycare. During that time, I helped raise over thirty children, many of them from the age of two months, or sometimes even as young as two weeks, to the time when they were in school full time. Even those who were in school full time often continued to attend my daycare before and after school.
As the years passed and my daycare kids grew up, most of them continued to maintain our friendship. It was always a source of pride and delight to me that my daycare kids loved me and wanted to continue our relationship. Besides, I always enjoyed seeing how well they turned out and cheering their triumphs.
But one of the main reasons why I quit doing daycare (there were several) was that the last batch of kids I took care of were significantly different from all of the other groups I had raised.
The main difference was that they were almost completely unsocialized. They had no manners and no sense of appropriate limits to their behavior. Of course I blame their parents (and the parents were another of the major reasons why I quit doing daycare), but the fact that the parents had failed in their obligation to socialize their children did not make it any easier to put up with the incredible obnoxiousness of some of those kids.
The fact is that I, who had always delighted in the company of children, was finding it nearly impossible to put up with some of my charges, much less actually look forward to spending time with them.
Of course, I never let them see this. I always treated them as lovingly as I had treated children whose company I had enjoyed more. I consider it absolutely essential that children be treated lovingly by the person who cares for them during most of their waking hours. Personally, I think that person should be a member of their own family, but since that is usually not the case these days, the daycare provider has a moral duty not to withdraw emotionally from the children in her care.
Their lack of socialization, though, has produced a consequence that I didn't expect when I quit doing daycare. As was the case in the past, I fully intended to continue seeing these children even after I was no longer their daycare provider. I believe it is harmful to children for the person who has provided much of their care and whom they have learned to love to suddenly disappear from their lives.
It was always my intention to visit them or to allow them to visit me on holidays or at other times, as my work schedule permitted it. But soon after quitting my daycare, I also quit visiting the children I had cared for, because every single time I would visit one, he or she would ask, in tones evincing an extraordinary sense of entitlement, what gift I had brought. I was always appalled that the parents never once corrected their children for such rude, demanding behavior.
Now, everyone knows that I am quite poor. Daycare providers do not get rich, especially since parents habitually stiff them or deliberately leave their children late or bring them early to make sure the provider will be forced to feed them extra unscheduled meals. Furthermore, in addition to the many children I have cared for, their siblings also have often formed attachments to me. I simply cannot buy gifts for dozens of children several times a year--even if I wanted to, which I don't, because I am in general disgusted by the greediness of today's children, and I have no intention of reinforcing such behavior.
When I had my daycare, I did give the children gifts for Christmas, of course, and little token gifts for Easter, as well as something carefully chosen for each birthday. But there is a genuine limit to how much money I can spend buying gifts for so many children--though no apparent limit to how much largesse they feel entitled to.
Besides, when I give a gift, it's because I want to, not because someone has demanded one of me. Nothing makes me feel less generous than such demands, regardless of whom they come from.
But what is even worse is that when these children would come by to visit me in my own home, they would also demand that I give them something! One little four-year-old girl would say at the start of every visit, "What do you have for me?" or "Didn't you buy me anything?" or "Aren't you going to give me a present?"
Obviously I would correct such behavior, even though the parents never did. In fact, I once said to this same child, "If you don't want me to visit you unless I have a present for you, then I can just stop coming over, since obviously my visits don't please you all that much."
She was upset that I would suggest not visiting her anymore, but the very next time she was in my home, she demanded to know what gift I had bought for her. The behavior is so ingrained that it has simply become part of her character by now.
So now I don't visit my former daycare kids anymore, and I am no longer "at home" to receive visitors. Certainly I make no effort to send a card or call on birthdays or holidays, because the kids are resentful (and will openly complain!) if you simply send a card without slipping at least ten dollars into it.
But what in heaven's name is wrong with these stupid, stupid parents that they allow their children to alienate adult friends by such obnoxious, demanding, greedy behavior?