When I walked into the gym daycare to pick up Ellie, my 19-month-old, and found a sippy cup on the floor, my stomach did a flip. Food and drink were not supposed to be allowed in here.
When your child has food allergies, a random sippy cup instills the kind of dread you normally save for a rattlesnake sighting. Why was it there? What was in it? Had my daughter taken a swig?
When I talked to the childcare manager, she was kind. She said she had given her two weeks notice. Also, she wanted to let me know management planned to start allowing food in the childcare area.
I was crestfallen. The gym had been my sanity for the past three months. What would I do without this glorious place?
I would lose my mind, that's what. I love my kids. They make me so happy just to be alive half the time. The other half, they make me want to go for a run and never return.
The baby is 19 months old and my older one is three.
Sometimes they cry at the same time and I just can’t take it.
Sometimes I want to put on my pants and the baby goes bananas. And because I don't know how to put on pants while holding a screaming baby, I set her down. She responds to this insult by flinging herself onto my shin, so that I physically cannot don my pants. And she's crying and clinging to me, and I have no pants on and I'm cold and annoyed.
Sometimes they both want to be on my lap at the same time, and once I hoist them up, they push each other and I want to shove them both off, soft, beautiful blond heads and all. Sometimes they want a snack so I stop what I'm doing and fix a snack and then they don't want it and I want to shout, “I'm not a servant!” except I know I kind of am.
Or the baby wants to prance around with her almond milk, but I don’t want to find it molding under the couch a week from now so I strap into her into her high chair and you’d think I was putting her in a straightjacket, the way she wails.
Or my three-year-old is begging to do a project that involves glue and I can't supervise that right now and she won't stop asking because she's like all the guys I went out with before I met my husband who thought “no” meant “maybe in ten seconds.”
So I need the gym.
And I need the childcare to be snack-free because of my allergic child. So I reach out to a different manager who ignores my email and my voicemail. Still damp from spin class, I drop into her office and she is cold to me because I am a problem and her smile is fake and I hate her.
She promises there will be a policy to ensure the safety of all children, but cannot divulge any details on this “policy” and says she will let me know as soon as she can, but she neither asks for my number nor hands me her card.
She looks at me with the condescending air of someone who is sure that when she has kids, she won't be high-maintenance or paleo or vegan or organic or gluten-free or lactose intolerant or crazy or whatever else she's labeled me and I am shaking. My voice trembles and I hope she doesn't notice.
How will they ensure that children wouldn't bring food into the play area?
They said it would be nut-free. How would they verify that every snack brought from home was actually nut-free?
Were they prepared to check all food labels?
Where would the eating table be?
Would they have high chairs for young children?
What would the staff to child ratio be around the eating table?
Where would the food be stored?
I walk away from her office feeling doomed. I don't want to stop coming to the gym. The bistro table in the lobby is the perfect writing space. I know which showers have the best water pressure. It’s a seven minute drive or a twenty minute bike ride away. But I can't keep coming if I'm not sure Ellie will be safe in childcare.
So I tell a different manager I might cancel my membership and I need to know how much advance notice they need and he wants to know why, so I explain the whole thing to him and I can tell he gets it. Maybe someone calls him Dad and he worries about the things he can't protect his kid from, too. Maybe his best friend has a nut allergy. I don't know why, but he listens, and he cares, or maybe he doesn't but he knows this could be a huge liability for his gym. A week later, he emails me and says they are not moving forward with plans to allow food at gym daycare for now.
For now, I can keep coming back to my windowless sanctuary and I am happy.