Daycare Deja Vu
The day starts with free-range busy-ness.
Everyone attends to what they think is important. The supervisers keep half an indulgent eye on the self-styled geniuses who are mostly happy during the start-of-the-day playtime.
Then it happens. The masses are summoned to a meeting by the all-powerful one. The godlike being begins talking, in a loud slow precise voice. Some interruptions are allowed but the meeting remains firmly controlled by the supreme one.
Suddenly, an outburst. Voices are raised in incoherent rage. A girl bursts into tears. A few boys at the back of the room start jiggling. A boy with a slightly-too-large head closes his eyes and starts humming loudly. The leader has lost control.
Before things get too much more chaotic, the big boss pokes his head into the room. The noise dims slightly. The big boss disbands the meeting and people stream off in every direction.
The crying girl staggers to the bathroom to cry some more. A superviser follows her, tissues at the ready.
In the rush of bodies, a boy with bug eyes pretends to trip just so he can grab the nearest pair of boobs to help him regain his balance. He thinks his cute grin will excuse the groping. It doesn’t. Not only because he hangs on a little bit longer than necessary.
An older boy in a green shirt barrels off to a quiet corner to take a nap, thinking no one will notice. Another older boy sneaks off to do a poo, also thinking no one will notice. One of the younger boys leads a girl behind a cupboard so they can compare their boy and girl bits.
The majority of the others try to look like they’re doing their assigned tasks. One boy begins dropping stuff in a pretty girl’s lap, then rummaging around in her crotch area to retrieve the dropped items. The girl is not happy but the boy just won’t stop. Eventually she calls her superviser, who laughs at the boy’s antics. When the pretty girl is finally pushed too far and she lashes out, her actions are written up in the official register.
During the next few hours, people will disappear, reappear and stumble off again in defiance of their supervisers’ instructions. Someone returns from a long absence clutching a wombat. There are more tears, more outbursts of anger, more unproductive busy-work. Little of any value is achieved. Supervisers become frustrated. Some take a nip or two from the bottle in the bottom drawer.
In the afternoon, a second wave arrives. Another meeting is called. There is more noise and fuss and tantrums. There’s even a bit of pushing and shoving.
And then deadline time approaches and suddenly people start delivering. The pressure on the supervisers intensifies, even though the night shift has started.
And as soon as you’re done, you’re out of there like a cork out of a champagne bottle. Often adjourning to a bar to pick over the events of the day with your colleagues.
That’s a typical day in a newsroom.
So you can see why I felt such a strong sense of deja vu during Miss M’s first day at daycare this week.
I felt quite at home, actually, with the random temper tantrums, inappropriate touching, inexplicable alliances, two-second attention spans, nudity, people speaking absolute gibberish, defiance from all quarters, a girl in a yellow beret staring at the ceiling sobbing relentlessly at the lunch table and a blonde-headed kid who lay on his back and propelled himself back and forth across the room.
My first four hours at daycare, which is generalised as “school” in Asia, proved that the correct collective noun for a group of toddlers is “a chaos”. I think it would be the correct term to use for journalists and editors, too.
Miss M, my own little-girl-shaped chaos, loved her first day at school. I think she’d fit right into a newsroom too.
(Apologies to any former colleagues who think they may have guest starred somewhere in this post. Apart from the guy who really did bring a singed wombat into the newsroom.)
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8 years ago