I have always been strangely reassured by the way that human beings form themselves into groups, that those groups have rules and that the rules are, generally, observed. That is why, for example, we get annoyed when someone pushes in front of you when you queue, and why we bother to have laws. We all need to know how we fit in to the system.
What I find surprising is the way that applies to really small situations, and to babies and toddlers. I first became aware of this when I started to drop my daughter off at nursery. Now, the nursery drop is very tense. By and large our children are at nursery because we have to be at work, and so it’s essential to get the drop-off procedure right. It’s a fine art which involves knowing the rules about who arrives when, as this helps us to get to the next place on time. We dash down the road, rushing past Mr Stressed-with-2-kids at 7.56 who falls in behind us. Mr “Shit I’m going to miss my train” nearly collides with us at 7.58. The Other Hannah and her mother are already on the top step waiting for the door to open. Mrs. “Casual Approach” saunters down the road and gets in everyone’s way as she mucks about with her pram (clearly doesn’t have to catch a train). Muttering and swearing ensures. Mr “Shit I’m going to miss my train” is starting to go purple. It’s now 7.59 and the tension in the air is palpable. Door opens. Bundle as the children go in through the narrow corridor. I’m holding Hannah, Craig unbuttons coat as I fumble for her shoes with my remaining hand. Mr. “Shit I’m going to miss my train” hands over his child, who was derobed before we got in the door. Bag in box, coat on peg, kisses goodbye, GO GO GO. Until Bruno’s mother arrives and squishing of bodies in the corridor as we push past each other ensues. Same every day – except yesterday when Mr “Shit I’m going to miss my train” actually passed his son to me to deal with and hand over because he had parked in the middle of the road out of sheer terror of actually missing his train. It’s mild panic every day but also a comfort knowing who is going to turn up when; what order we walk in to the room; whether we should talk to the other parents (only before the door is open, not when we are in the corridor itself as this just wastes train time) etc.
On the return everyone is much more chilled. I usually do the pick up and it’s a case of wander in, chat to the nursery assistants, say hello to the other children, faff about with the coat etc…. and the other parents are the same. It’s cool, the day is coming to an end, we are going to look after our child for an hour or two before bed time and it’s going to be lovely. Work is over for the day, who cares? Let’s just chat and relax.
The babies, however, have their own protocols to observe as follows:
1. Do not interact with anyone but Mummy and/or Daddy until you have been dispatched to the assistant.
2. Run away to find breakfast, no longer caring whether your parent is there.
3. Do not, at any point, touch the gate. The gate belongs to Freddy and Billy. They guard it, you do not. Only the assistants are allowed to touch the gate instead of you. Do not touch the gate, do not approach the gate, do not even look at the gate.
4. Do not interact with a nursery assistant who has already been claimed by another child.
5. Do not drop your food or cease to pay attention to it, even for a second. If you do it will be forfeited to Hannah or Bruno who will consume it as punishment.
6. Get out of the way of all other children when Mummy or Daddy arrives, otherwise you WILL get hurt.
7. Make sure you cry if any adult who isn’t an assistant speaks to you. They need to know that they are not your parent and that you are not interested in them being nice to you.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall and see what other rules they have in place for organising their days. Never forget, they rule the roost. You might like to think you are in charge, but if you ever really start to believe that just remember who is preparing to wake who up in the middle of the night, and who is laughing and giggling at you as you madly do the drop off in the morning…. they are laughing AT you, not WITH you.
These are just some of the nursery rules