Needs A Strong Stomach For This Coworker

, , , , | Working | September 21, 2019

(I am working a childcare job. The family has twin girls, each with a unique set of special needs. Their parents have assistance almost around the clock, so I have several coworkers. Most of them are great, but there is one girl I positively dread having overlapping shifts with. She constantly gets into juvenile power struggles with the children over the stupidest things, simply because she can’t stand to be contradicted. For instance, she’ll nitpick the little girls’ games of make-believe for being too absurd and demand that they play differently. The children are not compliant, nor should they have to be, and the rest of us have to diplomatically referee between an elementary schooler and a college student. Basically, when I have to work with her, I’m monitoring three stubborn children instead of two, and the worst one can’t be put in timeout. Despite the fact that I break out in stress-hives at the sound of her voice, I am never anything but professional and polite to her. I also work with another family and have arranged playdates between these two sets of children for a number of years with great success. I have brought kids from both families to meet at a small festival hosted by a church nearby. The boy in this story is from the other jobs, so my coworker is not, has never been, nor ever will be in any position of authority over this boy. I am quite petite and the boy is harmlessly amusing himself by clasping his arms around my waist and attempting to lift me off the ground, with moderate success.)

Coworker: *harshly, to [Boy]* “Don’t do that! She just ate lunch; you’re going to make her sick!”

Me: *to [Boy], but reasonably loud enough for my coworker to hear* “That’s okay, sweetie. I’ve got a strong stomach. You’re fine.”

([Boy] continues lifting.)

Coworker: *snapping at [Boy] again* “I told you to cut that out!”

(I respond directly to [Coworker] this time, with a pleasant tone, generously thinking she may not have heard me before and was genuinely concerned for my well-being.)

Me: “I won’t get sick. I told him it was okay.”

Coworker: *to me* “But I told him to stop.”

(She says this so smugly, as though it’s the unquestionable end of the subject. [Boy] is now looking to me for guidance, obviously concerned that he might be in trouble. I am an extremely patient, even-tempered person, but I am not being paid to deal with her attitude today and for once, I am not going to take it. I put a hand reassuringly on the boy’s shoulder and then very slowly turn to face her. I look her dead in the eyes with the sternest, most withering stare I can muster. When you work with children, you can get pretty good at that stare.)

Me: *deliberately and forcefully* “But. I. Said. It. Was. Okay.”

(She backed off immediately and barely spoke to me the rest of the afternoon. She was still an obnoxious human being, terrible at her job, and a pain to work with, but after that confrontation, she never again attempted to exert any authority over me. She was eventually fired after another of her stupid power struggles lead to the child with brittle bones slipping on a wet bathroom floor and breaking her leg. The worst part of all of this, though? She’s now a special education teacher.)

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