Adventures In Babysitting (Or, Daycare) (Or, Guilt)
May 13, 2005
(Blogging Lesson #429,873: It's really, really hard to think of a follow-up post to ultrasound photos that's not a complete letdown, especially since every time I look at my site for inspiration I'm hypnotized into staring at the photos for the billionth time.)
We've been touring daycare centers this week. Would you like to know how it's going?
Center #1: The Gulag
According to the nice glossy brochure, this place had a fixation with trees, and all the heavy-handed metaphors that go along with that. Children: They need strong roots! Children: They grow strong and branch out! Children: You have to give them water occasionally!
The cover of the nice glossy brochure, then, naturally featured a photo of a few adorable tykes holding watering cans and crouched around a small garden. Children: They make great migrant labor!
This center was also one of the most expensive ones on our list. But they were promising to take my seedling and nurture him into a mighty redwood, and honestly, how many places can make concrete promises like that?
Then we showed up for our tour. The center was one small wing off a neighborhood community center. Actually, the center was one hallway in some sort of administrative building for the neighborhood community center. The play area was completely paved over, save for one three-foot-long patch of grass with some dead tomato plants that I recognized from the brochure cover.
The infants (sorry, "seedlings") shared a room with the toddlers (sorry, "saplings"). When I asked how the babies were supposed to nap in a room full of screaming two-year-olds, I was told that "most of them just get used to the noise." Then they demonstrated how the ceiling lights directly over the cribs were controlled by a separate switch, which had about the same impact as unscrewing a single florescent light bulb in a high school cafeteria.
Bend over and take it: Currently costs $350 a week, but the rates are going up in the fall. Parents provide diapers, wipes and all solid foods. Center provides Cheerios and a dank, gloomy setting.
Chance in hell: We're number three on the waitlist for January 2006 placement.
Guilt factor: Off the charts. Once we got back in the car, I cried, because oh my GOD, that place was so EXPENSIVE, so it's probably a HILTON compared to the other places on our list and oh my god, I am the world's worst mother already.
Center #2: Even the Hippies Are Rich Around Here
Next, we went to a home-based center that was, surprisingly enough, based out of a home. A home the size of Rhode Island, because what better way to teach your child about income disparity and the out-of-control D.C. real estate market than to have him spend half his day at a house seventeen times bigger than your entire condo building?
We met Robin, the owner, who showed us around her lovely and homey little center. Also the small airport she calls her backyard. Also the kitchen where she makes homemade baby food out of organic fruit and vegetables everyday and prepares both breakfast and lunch for the older kids. And some other stuff, but I was a little distracted by her fringed wolf-print t-shirt and the whole socks-with-Birkenstocks thing. Then she put her hands on my belly and formally introduced herself to the baby.
Bend over and take it: Currently a bargain at $260 a week, but rates are totally going up. To, um, $310? Would you freak out at $310? No? Wait, I meant $320. You're still interested? Ha ha, sucker.
Chance in hell: Depends. Who knows. She'll have to check the moon cycles.
Guilt factor: Not nearly so horrific. There's a backyard with grass! And tons of toys! Plenty of cozy friendly staff and a laid-back, non-institutional atmosphere! On the other hand, this place is WAY COOLER than our house and I'm never going to have the time to make homemade organic baby food and oh my god, I am the world's worst mother already.
Center #3: The Hey, This Ain't Half Bad Center
Next up was a place that rhymes with DinderDare, which I was prejudiced against because there was one near my house growing up and man, it looked like fun because there were a lot of toys outside, but my (stay-at-home) mom would always tell me how horrible it would be to have to go there and I eventually came to believe that children who attended TinderTare were children with mommies who didn't love them very much.
But I actually loved this place. Really. The play area was large and grassy except for a small blacktop area where the older kids could play basketball and hopscotch and four-square. Four-square! Damn, that takes me back.
The infants had their own room -- two rooms, actually, so they could keep the crawlers/walkers separate from the itty-bitty layarounders. To satisfy the yuppie within me, even the infant room follows a monthly curriculum so your child will totally be ready for Harvard at age 10. (The theme for May is "Colors." Okay, it's not Quantum Mechanics or anything, but hell, their skulls haven't even fused yet.)
Bend over and take it: $325 a week. Are rates going up in the fall? OF COURSE rates are going up in the fall. Silly person. However, besides diapers, wipes and formula/breast milk for the itty-bitties, the center provides breakfast, lunch and two snacks for the older ones, and free transportation to-and-from local schools for the older older ones. There are also computers at the center, which means Squishy can totally keep up his blog from daycare.
Chance in hell: We're number six on the waitlist for January. They accept six infants. Do the math. I must somehow contact those six families and tell them that HinderHare is only for children whose mommies don't love them very much, so please place your brat elsewhere.
Guilt factor: The lowest yet. Squishy could like, learn shit here and have fun. Also the closest center to my office so I could be there at a moment's notice to nurse or kiss skinned knees or bring toys to smooth over any guilt that surfaces later that will surely come from being the worst mother in the world.
Center #4: McDaycare
The next center was another place that rhymed with WinderWare and was on our list simply because they didn't have a waitlist when I called to ask about the waitlist. (The waitlist quickly became my first question. Not, "how much?" or "do you keep the infants confined to a small pen?", but rather "HOW BEHIND AM I AND HOW MUCH OF A BRIBE WILL IT TAKE TO MOVE MY CHILD UP THE LIST?")
The reason they didn't have a waitlist is because they accept approximately 627 infants at a time. To be fair, the babies are all divided up into the standard six babies, two caretakers to room, but still. Room after room after room of fussy, messy, mucusy babies who cried and flung themselves at me because apparently, I look just like a lot of babies' mothers.
The play area was covered in AstroTurf, which, our tour guide chirpily explained, keeps the kids from getting dirty. "You'll never have to wash grass stains!" Jason and I politely responded that yes, wow, that's incredibly awesome, but inside we both died a little at the idea of choosing our baby's care based on the laundry benefits.
Bend over and take it: Same as the other MinderMare, rates go up in September, blah blah blah.
Chance in hell: They liiiied on the phone, as there is a waitlist, but considering the place holds enough children to populate a small country, our chances of getting a spot here are probably the best of any center so far.
Guilt factor: While virtually identical to the other JinderJare, we didn't like it as much. Was it the AstroTurf? The large enrollment numbers? The plates of mushy brown bananas stacked up in the kitchen?
Center #5: Holy Shit
This place cost $1,475 a month. $436 a week. And no, this price does not include weekly spa treatments or pony rides or Latin lessons. And you have to bring your own Cheerios. Moving on.
Center #6: The Big Fat Tease
Finally, we toured a private school where every woman I know seems to send her children. Lucky damn bitches. A lovely building, lovely grounds, lovely teachers. Spacious infant room. Spanish lessons at age two. Bible stories and weekly chapel to prevent future juvenile delinquency. Fewest number of visibly coughing, hacking or otherwise mucusy children of any place so far.
Bend over and take it: $310 a week until (you guessed it) September, when (guess what) rates go up. Parents send in meals and donate to group snacks, but hey! Spanish lessons!
Chance in hell: Snowball's chance. The Big Fat Tease Center keeps even the infant rooms on a strict school-year-type schedule instead of moving kids up after certain birthdays. The center director tried to explain Squishy's hypothetical placement using a late September birthday but seriously, it was so complicated I couldn't really follow it. Basically, it's very, very unlikely that they'll have a mid-year spot open up, and then because they use a September 1st birthday cut-off every year, the best she can guarantee is a spot in the two-year-old room in like, 2007.
Guilt factor: See, if I hadn't had fertility problems, I totally could have stuck with my original plan to conceive in October, given birth in late June before it got too hot, taken three months' leave and then made the September placement no problem. But it didn't work out that way, so we're screwed.
I couldn't even give my kid the right birthday. I am so the world's worst mother. Already.