I Feel Like I Failed My Baby

Filed Under: Life

“I have something to confess: my clip hasn’t moved up to the top every day.”

That was Friday pickup.

The way class discipline goes is Cara has a clothes pin that starts out on “Ready To Learn.” Her clip can move up two spaces and down two spaces. There’s nothing wrong–in our eyes–with her clip staying at Ready to Learn. Down one means she loses five minutes of recess and down two means her teacher contacts me to talk.

Ready To Learn is fantabulous. I’ve stressed that. I feel like I need to stress that I’ve stressed it’s AWESOME to stay at Ready To Learn because of what happened tonight.

Saturday greeted me with Ollie waking me up with, “Cara’s crying. She’s really crying.”

I’m finally getting what everyone else has had for the past two weeks and I croaked out, “Tell her to come in here.”

Cara came streaming into the room with a Hello Kitty and a ton of tears.

She had dreamt Tucker and I got a divorce and then he died and she had one picture of him. The one picture I demanded she throw away because I didn’t like Daddy very much.

“He was dead and you kept telling me to throw his picture away and I kept telling you no but you were so angry I still had the picture. Why were you so mad, Mommy?”

Tucker dying is one my “things.” Maybe I’m too dependent on his constant presence and maybe I don’t care. I thought he was dead once. Not something I want to think about again.

I calmed Cara down, got breakfast for both kids, coughed my lungs out and felt like crap and dealt with the day.

We ended up heading to Hobby Lobby for Halloween wreath making supplies–I have so much black spray paint on my hands right now.–and did “crafts” until Tucker got home from school.

The kids went to bed with their Innotabs since it isn’t a school night and eventually, I had to go in and tell them to get their butts to bed.

Ollie wandered his goofiness to our room and I started sorting Cara’s messed up sheets and such.

“I’m scared to go to sleep. I don’t want to have another dream like last night.”

Tucker and I stopped laying down with the kids at night a while back since it had become apparent the only way they were able to fall asleep was with us in bed with them and we felt they needed to learn to fall asleep without us.

I was determined to not lay down with Cara. I covered her up to her chin, kissed her forehead and told her to sleep tight.

“I’m so sorry I lied to you about moving my clip up. I wanted you to be proud of me.”

That stopped me in my tracks.

“Baby, you make me proud every day.”

Cara started crying.

“It scares me so much when I get threatened about my clip moving down. I don’t want you to be disappointed. I try my hardest. I want my clip to move up. I want you to be proud of me.”

Tears started in my eyes. What in the holy hell had I done to my kid?!

Look, I have a smart kid. I/we expect a lot of her. She expects a lot of herself. But girl has never been in daycare. She’s never been to preschool. This is her first time of having to deal with anyone–other than her family–disciplining her.

Everyday when I pick her up I ask, “What did your clip do today?” That’s the way I gauge her day; if it went up then she had a good day, if it went down then there’s an issue.

Apparently her biggest issue right now is nap time.

Cara’s mentioned a couple of times she’s been “threatened” with her clip moving down if she doesn’t quit playing during nap time. Cara swears she isn’t playing and that her teacher thinks she is but she isn’t. She brought that up tonight.

“It scares me so much that my clip will move down. I’m not playing! I promise. It’s not me! I want to cry when I’m threatened with my clip moving down. There are other kids who have their clips moved down and I’m not it!”

The tears–mine–really started then.

She sounded so damn helpless. My baby is dealing with all of this on her own and I have NO DOUBT she’s being a good girl and she’s so scared…I didn’t realize how scared she is.

I didn’t realize she felt threatened by the clip moving down. I didn’t realize she worries about this a lot.

I feel like I’ve failed my baby.

Apparently she doesn’t want to go to school because she’s scared about the possibility of her clip moving down.

I’ve been dreading Parent-Teacher conferences because of my own insecurities but now I’m relieved we have them on Monday.

Cara–my learner–doesn’t want to learn because she’s scared she’s going to screw up.

I have to fix this.


  1. Charles Colp says:

    I know it won’t help today, but all 3 of mine put themselves under this pressure no matter how we handled it. It went away after the first part of the year. I think you will find a way to turn this into a win for her. Remember kids are like bumbles, they bounce and recover very well. 

  2. It doesn’t sound like you’re failing so much as this clips method is failing. That would stress anyone out having all of their behaviour constantly monitored for points. There’s not breathing room with that, and I bet that the constant threat of punishment – which is what the clip moving down feels like and actually is, because it signals disapproval, which is heartbreaking – actually makes it harder to be whatever “good” is considered in this scenario. 

    • Charles Colp says:

      Well said. in my kids school it was losing bugs. If they lost a bug they got a note home, and if they went a week without losing bugs they got a prize from the prize chest. I felt like the prize chest was a reminder that they weren’t the “good” student that week and somehow inferior. I couldn’t imagine this in real life as an adult. “Well Charles we would like to give you a raise but your clip moved down on February 2nd.”  

  3. Ok, that just pretty much sucks.  I can’t comment much because I am a home schooler and I don’t want to go all preachy.  I can say that I think you’ll find a way to not break your kid, Amy.  You aren’t the one who is failing her.  I’m sorry that you’re both going through that 🙁

  4. I don’t think there’s anything that you can “fix”. I think you need to make your peace with that right now. I think the most effective and practical thing you can do is assure Cara that regardless of whether her pin moves up or down, you still love her and that you can work through any issues she’s having at school. It sounds like her biggest issue is with disappointing you and if you assure her that disappoint is not an issue, it might help.

    May be the teacher would collude with you to clandestinely tell you how Cara’s making out? May be send you an e-mail at the end of the day to tell you where her pin ended up? That takes the pressure off of her to “report in” and you still get your status report.

  5. Having a conversation with her teacher will help immensely. A similar thing happened to my daughter in elementary school. I had a chat with her teacher, pointed out a few things about my daughter’s personality (need to please, fears getting in trouble, doesn’t want to disappoint) and it made a big difference in the way her teacher interacted with her. You have not failed your daughter. I know it feels like it, I’ve felt that way too. Many times. 🙂 What would be failing her would be not caring, not talking to the teacher, not paying attention to her fears, and so on. You are a GOOD mom! xoxo 

  6. You most definitely haven’t failed. I have one of these children, too – the ones that want to please us “at any cost.” It’s a self-esteem issue, and most definitely something the teacher needs to know. Instead of the teacher sitting there and assuming about whether she’s playing or not, perhaps during Monday’s conference you might suggest she get off her lazy ass and check? And let her know what her constant threats are doing to your child? And involve the principal and the school counselor, too. I don’t take too kindly to teachers being too hard on kids, let alone little ones, LET ALONE ONES THAT HAVE STARTED SCHOOL FOR THE FIRST TIME. A little kindness and compassion goes a LONG way. This could scar your daughter for life. I have been there. Trust me.

    Hugs to you. 

  7. You didn’t fail! Her teacher has to realize that her students are all different. What may help one succeed may stress another one out. I like the idea of your speaking to her teacher so that the info on the clip is given to you. I’d add that if the only issue is nap time, the teacher needs to drop it. Your daughter apparently doesn’t need to nap.
    It’s comforting that your dd came to you and told you what was wrong. She came to you for help. You’re doing great mama!

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