Thursday, August 14, 2008

Things to climb on

In the sweet little town where we live and work, day care for infants is at a premium. There are very few providers, and thus not many options for finding one that is just so. It's more a matter of just finding one.

So when we found this nice in-home Day Care Provider with an opening, like, two weeks before I was scheduled to return to the office (despite months of prior searching), we were very happy.

And she is very nice. And she has a grade school aged daughter that Average Baby is totally enamored of; every day when we drop her off she looks all around for the little girl and will be sort of whiny and agitated until the girl makes herself available to be played with a little bit. Overall it's a good scene.

BUT, the DCP finishes her D of P-ing C at 4:30 pm. Ooosh, four-thirty is a real challenge when you're two working folks. Fortunately, my husband's boss let him do year-round "summer hours" of 7:30-4, and my schedule is flexible enough that unless I have to teach until 5 (which last semester I did, 2 days a week) I can leave at 4 also. So, we alternate pick-up and drop-off and on the day one is not picking her up, one can go to the gym or stay late at work. Still, there have been times when it's been an issue.

ALSO, on days when the DCP is unavailable (once she was stuck in a snowstorm out of town, once she had to have a little outpatient surgery, etc.) we are completely without care.

AND, there are times when the DCP herself is evidently unavailable for some reason, and when we go to pick up the bebe we'll find the kiddos under the care of somebody else - one of the DCP's high school or college aged daughters, or her husband. Fortunately they are all trustworthy and good people so this is a problem only in principle and not in practice (or, really, it's not a big enough problem in practice that we would care to speak up about it, considering the scarcity of other care options).

Sooo, several months ago when we were notified that Average Baby's name was drawn in the lottery for infant openings at the lab school on campus (pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if we wanted her to go there), we immediately saw the opportunity to eliminate the above-mentioned problems in our day care situation (albeit at twice the cost). Plus, there was the notable advantage of being able to return to our former life of not driving every day, since we live within walking distance of campus and since Average Baby is always up for a nice stroll, weather permitting. It was more of an agonizing decision than I'm making it sound here, because the great advantage in our minds of the in-home DCP is that her place is so very homey. And she kisses Average Baby on the cheek when we drop her off. And that sort of thing.

The lab school, on the other hand, appeals to me from a research standpoint but as I tend not to think of Average Baby as a research project, I sort of prefer the kisses over the lit review provided by the lab school.

But we decided to take the opening, and Baby will start there later this month. Last night we had "parent orientation" and had another look at the room where Average Baby and her cohort will be, and it had all kinds of colorful things and foamy mats to climb on, which we think Average Baby will LOVE because at the moment she is all about climbing on things. She will also probably love that one entire wall is a giant mirror (it's for the one-way observation booth) because she also finds herself pretty interesting these days. So hopefully we'll all get used to it and she will find all kinds of fun there.

When we were in the midst of trying to make the decision to move her, I asked a number of friends who have kids in day care to chime in with their thoughts about their own and/or our situation. One of my friends said, "Don't discount the value of the educational emphasis in those highly structured programs. You know, the amount of stuff a kid is supposed to know and be able to do by the time they get to kindergarten is kind of intense."

Working with college students as I do, and knowing the extent to which many of them are NOT prepared for college in terms of stuff they should know and be able to do, this made me wonder if as a society we might have things a little bit backwards. Shouldn't we have sort of minimal expectations of kids entering kindergarten, and maybe not as minimal expectations of our high school graduates?


Irie said...

I have three kids and quality child care has always been an issue. Our middle child went to several home daycare providers before I finally convinced my husband that we should try a center. The final straw was when I went to pick up Middle Child and the house was empty. She had taken all of the kids to her daughter's house, but didn't tell me where I could pick up my child. Centers do cost more, but at least I know where my kids are each day.

unknown said...

Hi Average Professor

I just wanted to thank you for your blog. It's quite inspiring to a young scientist like myself. I recently graduated from a big university in Canada with a PhD in the biological sciences and have moved to a small university town in the US. I have started my own blog to keep an account of my experiences. I hope you have a chance to read it! The address is