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Wake up at 6 am, putter around my room until 7 am. Sit at my desk with a faded notebook in front of me, a chewed up pen in my left hand, and a dribbling toddler sitting on my right knee - until 8 o' clock of course.
8 o' clock is when chaos is most likely here. This is when we have got to get a slew of kids ready for an outing. Meaning, their shoes and jackets have to be on and yes, the peanut butter from breakfast must be wiped off their faces. They cannot have a sudden temper tantrum that comes on as fast as an epileptic fit would, they cannot scream because most of our neighbors are still asleep; heck, I think it would be better if they just didn't talk at all, but we know that isn't going to happen.
Our 15 passenger van zig-zags across four different neighborhoods for an hour, making stops at four different schools. My mother handles the monstrosity of a vehicle like someone who has been doing this for a lifetime, my lifetime. I am stationed in the passenger seat, second in command. The sidekick, the lackey, the unwilling slave. I never asked for this position, I was merely born into it.
I gaze longingly out the window. Most of my so-called peers are already in school, public institutions that I've got nothing against, except for the fact that they look like prisons and do nothing for fresh minds but ruin them. The only kids (adults really) walking on the sidewalks are either those going to the bus stop so they can get to the community college, or peewee elementary schoolchildren whom I could use as armrests.
9 am and we're home again. This is my least favorite time of the day. You never know what is going to happen, even when things seem so simple. We did felt-stamps yesterday. One child decided she was going to rip the stamp pad apart. Another stained his hands blue for the rest of the day. We played Play-Doh a couple weeks back. Somebody, of course, ate a mouthful of the stuff, thinking it was food. This morning I took a toy car to the head, pitched by an excitable 18 month old, who also happens to walk like a drunken sailor.
On rare occasion, I can sneak off to my bedroom down the hall, as long as I leave the door open in case of the apocalypse, and I can read or write or listen to music in peace.
11 am and it's lunch time. Currently the 10 month old we are caring for tells us it is lunch time by screaming at the top of her lungs - A human alarm clock. Lunch has to consist of whatever the state requirements say is alright to feed chilren, meaning basically it has to have more nutritional value than the Twinkie one kid walked in eating this morning for breakfast.
While they eat, I dump four cots, pillows and blankets on the playroom floor in early preparation for my favorite part of the day: nap time.
After they finish their lunch (or throw it on the floor), we pile back into the van for our middle of the day school pickup. A handful of high school seniors roam the suburban streets on foot or leave the parking lots in either clunker cars they bought themselves or shiny cars their parents bought them. I keep my face pressed up against the window, on the look out for boys who seem as eccentric as I am, hoping maybe if I make eye contact he'll remember my pasty face and track me down to take me away. It doesn't matter where. Just far, far away from here. The one with orange hair longer than mine who always has a saxophone might be good. Or maybe the one who has a nose ring and a book placed strategically on his steering wheel so he can read while he waits for the light to change. Although, if I'm looking for something truly remarkable, maybe I'm looking in the wrong place altogether.
The van stops in front of a school younger than the kids attending it. The houses are also new, clone homes of a new development that look like something out of a horror movie.
Just one child this time, a spacey kindergartener with beautiful blond curls, pink glasses, and petite facial features. She'd be even more beautiful if she wasn't such a snot to people sometimes. While making the trek from her classroom where I retrieve her to the van across the street, her feet prove to be too little to handle her tall, gangly limbs as she trips over curbs. She grips my hand too tight, her jacket is dragging on the ground, and her hairband is falling out.
Upon entering home, there is a traffic jam at the cubby holes where the kids keep their stuff. There's a shuffle to shove shoes in their place without knocking anything out, and there's always at least one kid who is practically sleepwalking.
I take off my own shoes at my desk, and once the traffic jam has dispersed and half of the munchkins are settled, I am free for approximately an hour and a half. What do I do? I crash land on my bed. Ignoring the spring that is digging into my thigh I pull a pillow over my head and try as hard as I can to fall asleep before there isn't enough time for a decent nap.
20 minutes before 2 pm, I manage to wake myself up out of habit. Kids are up, cots are put away, blankets are folded and pillows stacked. Out the door, yet again. We rush through the morning drop-off schedule, only backwards. This is the pick-up schedule.
The kids and their backpacks smell foul, but I try to ignore it, punk rock stomping from my earbuds into my head as I'm watching the life I could have had exit the high school gates. I recognize more people now that it isn't just seniors. A best friend who I was going to start a band with. The boy who sold me pot, smoked half of it, and then tutored me in science, getting me an A. The pot ended up at the bottom of a park trash can in case you were wondering, and even though I was $30 poorer, I had never been so relieved. A girl I had become best friends with over our adoration for Green Day; our friendship cut short when I was kicked out of middle school for failing grades. Kids I had known since 1st grade, kids I had seen at a funeral that took place almost two years ago for a basketball star who met an untimely death.
All that separates us is the car door. I could flip out of it right now because we're at a stop sign. Sometimes I do want to be one of them, even if it would guarantee I'd end up being what I hate in the next 20 years. At least it would be easier. But I don't move. For $60 a week, less than $11 a day (California's minimum wage is over $8 an hour) this is what I do.
I don't enjoy it. If anything I loathe it. From 7am to 4:30pm I am incapacitated by my "job". The best part is that when I am free (2 years and 99 days from the time I am writing this), freedom will never have been so sweet. I plan on backpacking the country solo, so I've got that to look forward to.
The only thing that bothers me, is that I might as well be invisible to the world. It's not a complaint, just a fact. Our house is out of the way, our van blends in, even my title implies that my existence is supposed to be obscure. Daycare Assistant.
That is what I do, but it is not who I am. In all honesty, I'm probably one of the worst people to be working around kids. I laugh at them, all the time. I laugh when they fall over their shoelaces. I laugh when they run into the walls and when they tip themselves over in chairs. Hey, the world is a messed up place, in the end all you can really do is laugh or cry about it.
Is there a message in here? Maybe just one. Wave back to the kids who are chained to their mothers and their houses. No one in their right mind asks for it. The sidelines aren't that great to be on unless you've got a broken leg.