I cried at the gym on Wednesday. I know some people would cry because they had to go to a gym. Not me. I cried because I knew I would not be coming back.
Over the past several months, I have become friends with people who work at the cafe at my gym. Lady Bug and I also have found a friend in a retired gentleman who comes to play handball. He insists on buying Lady Bug a banana on the random occasion that I forget one, simply because he takes so much joy in watching her inhale one and then laugh and and say “Nudda! Nudda Nana!” (I would like another banana, please.) It really is incredible how much gusto she puts into smushing a banana into her face like it’s her last meal. Also, we never leave the gym until at least three quarters of the aqua aerobics class notices Lady Bug and returns her waves through the glass separating the indoor pool from the building’s foyer.
The gym is my sanctuary. It offers dirt cheap childcare and some space for me to work out or write and have a couple of blessed hours off from being a stay at home mom. Also? Sometimes you get what you pay for.
I walked in to retrieve Lady Bug the other day and found a little boy eating a container full of mixed nuts, as well as what appeared to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (although to be fair it could have been almond butter or sunflower butter), as well as another child walking around with a snack that appeared to be cheese bread. I wouldn’t have given any of that a second thought, except my daughter, who is not yet two years old, is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (except almonds), eggs, dairy, and sesame. I don’t mean she’s sensitive or that we avoid those things unless it’s a special occasion. I mean, our doctor told us to NEVER leave the house without the Epi-Pen, even if we’re walking around the block.
[bctt tweet=”There might as well have been daggers and sippy cups of bleach in all of the toy bins.”]
When I go out with Lady Bug, there is a part of my brain that is constantly looking around, watching, wondering.
What is in that ziplock bag? Where is that child going with it? Did he drop some on the slide? Is there food on the ground Lady Bug will find? Is that kid about to touch her with leftover peanut butter on his little fingers?
When I hear the faintest whisper of the unzipping of a lunchbox, my head whips around exorcist-style. so I can survey the contents with one eye, while the other is trained on Lady Bug.
And I know that as her mother, there is no one else in the world who will be as vigilant as I am. But I also expect that there will be some people in the world—specifically the women who staff the childcare at the gym where she has been coming consistently for over six months. who have been changing her diaper, and reading to her, and giving her crayons and snuggles—who would be 80% as vigilant as I am.
But when I walked into the room and saw the nuts, the kid walking around with some random food, and no one acting like anything was wrong, I knew this was not a safe situation. I couldn’t understand how three adults (THREE!) in a room of maybe eight kids, had all failed to notice that nuts were in a supposedly nut-free place, and that another child was walking around with food. Kids are sloppy and kids are unreasonable and kids are curious. We were easily an inch away from someone dropping a nut, Lady Bug finding said nut, putting in her pocket, and munching on it later. I could not help imagining her finding it on the ride from the gym to Sweet Pea’s preschool, while I rode my bike like everything was normal, as she sat quietly in the Burley, a mere one foot behind me, choking.
The childcare manager assured me this was a total fluke, that it was a perfect storm kind of situation, that they would change their protocol for dealing with snacks, effective immediately. I wanted to believe her very badly. I thought about it for a few days. But I knew the whole time that there was really nothing to think about. They had broken my trust and the stakes were too high for me give them another chance to win it back.
I wanted to let them know in person because even though I they failed me and my kid, I liked them. I also wanted to give Lady Bug a chance to say goodbye to these women, who genuinely cared for her. I wanted to say goodbye to my friends at the cafe. I wanted to give a final farewell to our retired, banana-giving friend, but sadly, he wasn’t there.
I didn’t want to cry. It was so embarrassing. I know the situation was not really not that sad, compared to legitimately sad things. But it was sad to say goodbye to the people who’d become part of the fabric of my and Lady Bug’s life. It was sad to give up that special time of my day. But it would have been a lot worse than sad to ever have to leave there in an ambulance instead of on a bike.