Today I collected Ruby from nursery as usual. As the door was opened for me, one of the staff said "err, we need to have a word with you before you go". "OK" I said as I breezed in and went over to the table to collect her coat and bag. As I'm wrestling her into hat, scarf, gloves etc, I noticed an accident form on the table, with her name on it. Nothing unusual there - this nursery practically fills a form in every time a child sneezes.
I assumed they needed my signature on the triple carbon copied paperwork, so hung around waiting. Then the nursery worker came up and said "can we talk in private?" Still I thought nothing of it, and it was only when she led me and Ruby into a different room that I thought it was all a bit ominous.
"When you dropped Ruby off this morning her face was bleeding" she informed me. "Really?" I replied - I certainly hadn't noticed my child's bleeding face as I unwrapped her scarf, removed her coat and kissed her goodbye.
"Yes," she went on "She had blood down her T-Shirt and on her hand, and her face was bleeding quite badly". I looked at Ruby, who seemed absolutely fine, but had the little, tiniest mark on her face -seriously, the size of a pin-prick. Yesterday, I noticed she had a tiny scratch or spot or something on her cheek, and I explained about this. I didn't notice how or when she'd done it, but explained that she'd probably just picked the scab and made it bleed.
"The thing is," she carried on, "Ruby got very upset and was crying a lot. We tried to clean her up..." (honestly, they were making this sound like a blood-bath!) "...and we put a cold compress on her face, but she didn't want us to. When we asked why she was so upset, she said 'she didn't want the Ladies to come'. Do you know what she means by that?"
I had absolutely no idea what this woman was talking about! So I bent down to Ruby and asked her why she'd been upset when she'd hurt herself earlier. At this point, of course, she decided to go all coy, and hid behind my scarf, refusing to talk. So, again, carefully I asked her "who are these Ladies you were talking about?"
"Her" she replied pointing at the nursery worker before me! At this point I decided that this 'chat' was more an exercise in serious arse-covering on their part, rather than genuine concern for her wellbeing.
The nursery lady went on, "you see this is where we got confused, because at first she said it was us she didn't want to come, but then she said she didn't mean us, she meant 'The Ladies' " She said this with a very sinister emphasis! I told her not to worry, that Ruby had recently started getting quite sensitive about anyone looking if she'd hurt herself, or fell over and grazed her knee etc.
Clearly, I'd said this with too much flippancy for Miss Marple the nursery worker. She was like a dog with a bone. "We wondered, if perhaps you had any scheduled visits coming up...to your home?"
Suddenly the penny dropped and I realised what she was implying. No! I don't have anything like that I replied, feeling super-defensive. How dare she?! What was she suggesting? That I'm on some kind of Social Services list? I was quietly seething, and frankly quite upset and embarrassed by this.
I wracked my brains to think who these people where, that she could possibly be referring to. Then I remembered, on our walk in this morning, Ruby had asked me where I'd been yesterday (I'd been to a meeting and Granny had looked after her for the day). I explained that as Ruby didn't know the people I was meeting yesterday, I'd told her that I'd got the train and met some ladies.
"Ahh" the nursery worker replied, "that might explain it. Maybe she associated her being in pain and needing her mummy, with you not being around because you were busy with some 'ladies'. Where you out for very long?" she asked. Honestly, what was I now being accused of? I'd hardly abandoned my child! I told her (quite firmly) that I'd been out for the day. She was perfectly happy being cared for by her granny, and it was the first time I'd spent any time on my own for months. Why do I have to explain this??!
Ever one to help my cause, Ruby then pipes up, apropos nothing "I don't want Henry to touch my leg!" Oh good grief! The look that the nursery worker gave me. Carefully, I explained that Henry is her cousin. He is 4 years old (he's not some sinister old uncle who touches my daughter). Could this conversation get any worse?
I signed the accident form and said goodbye as cheerily as I could.
I know I should be grateful that the staff picked up on this, and that they were only concerned for her welfare, but I tell you, when it's you who's on the receiving end of the squinty-eyed suspicion, it's not pleasant at all!