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to complain about this nursery worker? I honestly can't tell if IABU, please help!

(90 Posts)
Tortoiseonthehalfshell Wed 06-Feb-13 02:36:06

DD1 is four. Very verbal, very confident, very physically affectionate. Her best friend is likewise, and they tend to play together constantly, lots of role play games.

A is a new carer in the 'kindy room' at nursery (4-5y/olds), and very junior; because of this, A is usually allocated to general supervision of play, whereas the more senior staff are often doing the more structured stuff.

DD1 and her friend seem to have adopted A as their personal adult playmate, and both speak very enthusiastically about A. Which is great, in a lot of ways; it's nice for them that there's an adult there who is willing to join in their interminable pretend games and things. A seems really nice and has lots of energy, plays chase and gets out drums and generally joins in the fun.

But. DD1 has reported that their games involve "being little girls who run away from the monster who catches them and tickles them". Or "pretends to eat them". Or "ties them up". I don't think any actual tying up is going on, but it's all physical hands-on games. And BF's mum has picked her up early before and she's been sitting on A's lap.

And it seems - although obviously four year olds are not always reliable narrators - that A spends a lot of time playing with the two of them, as in, disproportionately to other kids, bearing in mind that there's a 1:10 ratio in that room. I have had chats with A when picking DD1 up - oh, you're with DD1 and her friend again, they both tell me how much they like you playing with them - that seem to support this: as in, A agrees that they've played together lots, had lots of fun. And this might well be initiated by the girls.

All of this might be initiated by the girls; both of them are very physically comfortable around adults, BF sat on my DH's lap the first time she met him (at a class where the adults were sitting cross legged on the floor), it might be that A is young, naive, wanting to please and not wanting to turn the girls down when they ask for adult company, in order to impress the senior staff and show willing.

But is it reasonable of me to have a quiet word with the boss? Just check whether there's a policy around how much hands-on-ness they encourage? Obviously the younger children need more intimate handling anyway, because of nappies and wiping clean after meals so of course part of being a child carer is being hands-on with kids as necessary. And it's a very reputable centre, I have no doubt that A's qualifications and security check (CRB equivalant) are up to scratch, the boss is very good and very involved. So I'm probably just being precious, right? Only, BF's mum brought this up with me yesterday as well, so we've both noticed and wondered.

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Wed 06-Feb-13 07:44:26

My dd was like this with her key worker. Always hurling herself at her, running up for cuddles. She was female bud made no difference to me.

He's playing and interacting with your child that's his job.

There's nothing to complain about smile he sounds fab

crashdoll Wed 06-Feb-13 07:49:35

When I started working in a nursery, I was 18 and the average age of the staff was about 40. The next person nearest to my age was 35. I liked to sit on the floor, play imaginative games and run around like a loon, so I was often assigned as the general play supervisor. I was very hands on with the children and at circle time, 3 children used to fight over who could sit next me. They were 3 very confident children who loved the attention and would jump on my lap at every opportunity. I was frequently to be found with 3 small children piled on my lap!

The situation in your OP reminded me of this experience. I built good relationships with the children and the parents too because their children were happy. Also, the manager started looking at encouraging all staff members to really get involved and have fun. I loved my job and I think (I hope!) it came across. It wasn't me as a person that the children loved, it was the way I interacted and by the time I left, there was a huge shift in the nursery.

Children aren't young forever. Nursery should be fun, full of cuddles and with people they love to be around!

CloudsAndTrees Wed 06-Feb-13 07:54:05

I am SO pleased you have seen that YABU!

Working with this age group and younger, parents usually say that they are pleased that their children's carers are hands on and natural with them and allow lap cuddles when the children want them. To the extent that I am shocked that anyone would see those things as a negative.

I can understand a little reservation because of the fact that he's male, but honestly, children who have male carers are very lucky. I wish there were more of them willing to work with this age group.

seeker Wed 06-Feb-13 08:28:37

"When I started working in a nursery, I was 18 and the average age of the staff was about 40. The next person nearest to my age was 35. I liked to sit on the floor, play imaginative games and run around like a loon, so I was often assigned as the general play supervisor"

Oh, I know! 35 years olds just aren't flexible enough sit on the floor, are they and I suppose their imaginations have completely atrophied by that age...

socharlottet Wed 06-Feb-13 08:38:42

No wonder there are so few men working with children
Your post has made me realyl sad OP

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Wed 06-Feb-13 08:50:28

Don't report her! The last thing we need is for nursery workers not to be able to cuddle/play with children the way school teachers aren't anymore.

My DD kisses her nursery workers. I have never thought it was weird, it just reassured me how much she loves it there.

The workers are constantly cuddling, playing with and carrying the children. They are effectively trying to fill your place whilst you cannot be there, so cuddling is part of the job.

NoTeaForMe Wed 06-Feb-13 08:52:14

This is so sad. You want to speak to the boss because a lovely nursery worker plays with your daughter and her friend. What exactly were you planning on saying? If you verbalise what it is your thinking, as you would to the manager, can you see how ridiculous you're being?

Your daughter is happy, her friend is happy, the nursery worker is doing a good job! Also don't forget that she could only be playing with them for 15 minutes a day, and the children are telling you about that small window. When you speak to her she's hardly going to say 'god, I only played for 15 minutes' she will of course talk about playing with them and what fun they had, especially as the girls are there!


puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Wed 06-Feb-13 08:52:42

Sorry, didn't see the man bit. Don't report HIM blush

TiggyD Wed 06-Feb-13 09:14:15

If I were him I would avoid "tying up" games just in case one of the children talk about it and grown ups jump to conclusions. Nothing wrong with eating children though.

LittleChimneyDroppings Wed 06-Feb-13 09:17:54

Whats age got to do with it crashdoll? hmm Does it mean when you hit 35 you lose the ability to get down and play with children?

ophelia275 Wed 06-Feb-13 09:36:24

Please don't report her. She sounds like she is one of the few kind, involved, enthusiastic nursery workers out there. You don't know how lucky you are. This lady is probably being paid peanuts and she sounds like she is putting her all into her job. If you report her, she will lose all enthusiasm for her job and not be able to give your dd and her friend tickles or cuddles anymore when they obviously like her and sound like they enjoy their games together. Is that what you want? I am so sick of this parent paranoia that everything an adult does is malevolent or harmful, even when there is no bad intent. Sorry but it is because of people like you that we have an overly zealous, paranoid, paedophile-obsessed nanny state.

SweetSeraphim Wed 06-Feb-13 09:41:56

Why don't people read the whole thread?? confused It's not like it's zillions of pages to catch up on, is it?

OP, well done for recognising YABU. Nursery worker sounds lovely smile

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Wed 06-Feb-13 09:47:31

Oh, goodness, I was never going to report him. As you lot say, report him for what? It was more, should I have a quiet word along the lines of, are you aware of/happy with the level of physical contact that this guy is displaying? Is there any guideline about what is inappropriate with this age group? I.e., tickling games fine, tying up games maybe not?

But, please rest assured, I am not only utterly convinced I am BU but really, I always knew that. It was that I had noticed - and then noticed myself noticing, if you see what I mean - as in, have I noticed the level of physical play because he's a bloke and I'm paranoid, or because of some woo maternal instinct I shouldn't ignore? And then the other mum, who is a friend of mine, brought it up separately. And then my mum and I were talking about it and she thought I absolutely should Make Them Aware, that it isn't good to teach little girls that men-who-aren't-family can tickle and cuddle them safely, it would blur boundaries. Which I disagree with. So I came to MN to check that I wasn't underreacting, as she thought I was.

I too am really sad for male care workers. And wish there were more of them. There was another bloke at this centre, in DD's room, when she was 2, and she loved him because he taught them ball kicking skills and things, and that was great. I don't know why he left, but it wouldn't surprise me that it was for similar reasons, he experienced distrust.

I DO think this guy is being a bit naive, to be honest. He is way, way more physical and hands-on than the other carers; probably because he is male, sure, but if I were the only bloke in a centre, in an industry which is notoriously suspicious of men, I would probably not be letting little girls sit on my lap. Sad as that is.

CaseyShraeger Wed 06-Feb-13 09:52:51

The male staff at DD1's nursery were virtually mobbed by the children; I don't think they'd have got away without a full day of cuddles and hands-on-ness unless they'd run away and locked themselves in a cupboard.

FriendlyLadybird Wed 06-Feb-13 09:58:08

I know you now you were B a little bit U, so won't add any more. Just to say that he may be even better than you realise and, in fact, be playing with all the other children just as much. The way my DD used to talk at nursery, you'd think her keyworker only had responsibility for her. It took a while for me to realise that she (the KW) was as close to around five other children!

Flobbadobs Wed 06-Feb-13 10:00:32

I worked with a male NN, poor bloke was like the pied piper! The children adored him and he was fabulous with them. But he did once tell me that he was very careful around the children regarding what games he would play and about having them on his knee as he didn't want anyone getting the wrong idea. I thought that was quite sad. He was very young though, newly qualified. I hope he has gained more confidence since.

OHforDUCKScake Wed 06-Feb-13 10:00:51

I knew A was male when you were writing that.

My brothers play with their and my kids in exactly the same way. They have a way with children that Ive never. Children flock to them. Probably because they are big kids themselves, but they are soft, amazing, wonderful men.

Its a sad world when we have to question males around our children, let alone in a professional environment.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Wed 06-Feb-13 10:15:34

Actually, that's really illuminating, the pied piper thing that a couple of you have referred to. I hadn't thought that his gender might be causative of the type of play in the sense that the kids initiate different sorts of games, but it makes sense.

DD's best friend has also recently lost access to her Dad, so her Mum was wondering if she was seeking out replacement male role models - that's how the conversation came up in the first place. So that's even more important, I think, for this poor kid who doesn't have a proper Dad in her life to have men around she's physically comfortable with.

Thanks, all. I feel properly stupid, but that's really helpful. I promise to vociferously defend him to any naysayers in the future.

OxfordBags Wed 06-Feb-13 10:16:23

Newsflash: men can enjoy playing with kids, cuddling kids and having them sit on their knees for exactly the same reasons women do, without there being any sinister motivations whatsoever! My cousin was a male playworker, and not only did the kids flock to him, they loved to sit on his lap and get hugs. So many of them didn't see their dads very often, some of them not at all, and it was heaven for them to have some simple male affection and attention, as well as playing all the games and doing physical stuff that are particular to how most men play with kids. My cousin eventually got a different career because he couldn't handle virtually everyone thinking he was some sort of weirdo for enjoying the company of children. The sexism of that view is as offensive as saying it's not normal for women to have powerful jobs, or be in the army, or something.

(Btw, I hate generalising about male play like that, because I rough-house with my DS more than Dh does!)

Also: I am over 40 and able to sit down on a floor and play imaginative games. Do I get a medal?

OxfordBags Wed 06-Feb-13 10:18:57

X-post! Sounds like your Dd's friend is definitely seeking out a Daddy substitute, Op. And if her friend is seeking him out all the time, then DD will naturally join in. You are right that it's important for that other little girl to have positive interaction with a nice male adult.

Quilty Wed 06-Feb-13 10:26:49

This is a classic example of how the media has made us so paranoid, it's only natural but it seems such a shame. I think it's great that your nursery has male staff, in general men tend to play in a completely different way with children. My partner was picking up my friends little boy by his ankles the other day and he screaming with glee, I wouldn't be able to do that sort of game with him, he's too heavy! Not that I'm suggesting the nursery staff do games like that, health and safety and all that, but you get my point! I would be happy that my child was having lots of fun and exercise at nursery.

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Wed 06-Feb-13 10:34:53

People seem to forget that that all the things people worry about are not isolated to men. Plenty of women have either been responsible or been an accomplice. Yet every one still watches the male staff sad
Anyone working with children is extensively back ground checked and there a rules in place for all staff to protect them against being open to allegations.
All the children will be safe and have fun and enjoy their pre school experience.

choceyes Wed 06-Feb-13 10:38:27

My DS (4yrs) has a male key worker at nursery (the only male at that nursery). I often see him picking up children for a cuddle, holding them etc. He is great! My DS says he's is favourite carer at nursery - I think all the kids want to play with him too. It's fab having a male key worker.
YABU and you know that OP. I love the fact my DCs are cuddled and sat on laps at nursery.

WorraLiberty Wed 06-Feb-13 10:49:56

See it's Daily Mail type attitudes that put a lot of men off of working with Infant children.

I think it's as great shame because for some children a male nursery worker/Infant teacher will be the only positive male role model in their young life.

steppemum Wed 06-Feb-13 10:50:04

op, my dd LOVES men, if there had been a male carer at her nursery she would have been hanging on his arm all day long, climbing on his lap and begging him to play games. She has been like this since a tiny tot. She is a daddy's girl, dad is at home, she has uncles and grandpa etc, but still she would have loved to have had a male carer to play with.

So, I can imagine that the girls are initiating this because they love having a male carer in the group. At church we have one young guy, aged about 20 who all the little kids love, they rush up to him and he swings them round, gives them piggy backs etc, he is very physical, but all in a totally innocent way, they just know that he is prepared to take the time to mess around with them for a few minutes.

So I think that male might cause the kids to initiate games in a slightly different way, and that is a good thing for all.

So glad you have decided all is well. How nice to have a male carer.

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