Bread and Jam for Frances

When I was a boy, my mother once dropped me off at a daycare called “Kindercare,” where I was mistakenly treated like a villain and learned to mistrust authority. It all started after morning play time when the …what do you call someone who works at a commercial daycare facility? Warden, maybe? Anyway, the wardens told us kids it was time to clean up, which was really simple for me because I had been hanging out alone in the library area in the back of the room, looking at, “Bread and Jam for Frances.” When the wardens called for clean-up time, I simply put the book back into the rack (one of those where books are displayed side-by-side with their front covers facing forward) and started to walk towards the front of the room.

On my way, I stopped to help a group of boys who were playing with blocks and who had created quite a clusterfuck of a mess. Honestly, I don’t remember whether I chose to do this or if I had been recruited by one of the wardens or one of the boys, but I vividly recall going to start putting away blocks as one of the boys who had been playing with them made a crashing noise with his mouth as he smashed the block in his hand into a pile of blocks on the ground, scattering them into further disarray on the floor. But whatever, I’m a kid, who cares–I have yet to be negatively imprinted by this experience, so how could I know to even be annoyed?

We’re cleaning up, but as you might imagine, the boys playing with blocks aren’t the most manageable or acquiescent of the children, and blocks continue to find their way on to the floor as we learn there’s now a time limit for clean-up in play and consequences for failing to adhere to it. The minutes tick by, and eventually one of the wardens signals that clean-up time is over and that the boys who have been playing with blocks and failed to clean up after themselves will now have to go put their noses to the wall while everyone else goes to watch a video. I explained to the wardens that I was innocent–that I had just been reading “Bread and Jam for Frances” and had only stopped to help to clean upon hearing about clean-up time and seeking to assist the messy boys. She marmsplained to me that I was incorrect and that I was to go stand with my nose to the wall in front of the receptionist so she could keep her eyes on us boys.

At the wall, I was conscientious to not move around; some of the boys who had been playing with blocks entertained themselves by dragging their noses across the walls or shimmying and shaking, but after witnessing some pretty quick rebukes, I didn’t dare step out of line–after all, for all I know, mom may have dropped me at this place permanently! We stood with our noses to the wall as the cloudy skies opened up and poured down rain, and we remained standing after the sun had returned and the other children had gone outside to play. Eventually we were permitted to join the other children on the playground, and soon after, my mother returned to pick me up (and never took me back).

I feel like this is my earliest memory of being on the business end of someone else’s petty authority. I would like to say: Fuck petty discipline and being mean to kids. I want to say something really mean but kinda fun about what I think about those warden ladies and people who push around little kids, but honestly, it’s probably a sad thing; she’s probably a stifling asshole because someone treats her that way, you know? I think everyone basically acts out what they know; ergo, warden lady who told me she knew I was lying about reading is probably just someone who lies or is accused of lying or is illiterate or whatever–I’m not a shrink. I’m just saying people in positions of authority probably shouldn’t be, particularly those who seek authority.

If I ever have kids, I’m going to leave them deep, deep in the woods to be raised by wolves so that they might have a shot at turning out decent.

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