We’ve been on a child care hunt.
Marta started us on it before Nico was even born. She’d heard how hard it was to find a good daycare (or childcare or, the most recent and impressive term, a child development center) in Iowa City. And also how expensive.
So, while we were still in Iowa City and when Marta was still pregnant, we began calling places in Lubbock. We called the university’s child development center and they told us they had at least a year’s wait. So we put ourselves on their waiting list. Then we began searching web sites and asking the Lubbock locals for advice.
I claimed it was overkill. That we didn’t need to start looking that early, but Marta was adamant. And she has been–mostly–right.
Finding good childcare is not an easy task.
For one, nearly every child care facility here has either Jesus or God in its name. Locals have explained that this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll preach to you (or your child) day and night, but it was still hard to imagine putting Nico in a placed called Christ The Holy Redeemer Child Development Center.*
Another problem was that, at first, we still weren’t living here. So we based many of our early decisions on tone of voice and perceived telephone friendliness. One of us would call a potential Nico Development Center and ask about their child care program and if they accepted cloth diapers and how much they cost and the person on the other end of the line would answer and then, after a pause, ask about us and about our husbands. And we’d say we had a wife. Or that our baby has two moms. And sometimes it would get kind of quiet on the other end of the line. And we’d scratch their name off the list.
Other times, though, they’d be cool and laugh and say things like, “Well, that works too.”
That’s what happened when I called a childcare place just down the road from us. I was optimistic. The woman in charge was irreverent but sounded competent. The prices weren’t bad. They claimed to base their childcare program on the Montessori approach. All of which made it possible for me to overlook the fact that they had the word “elite” in their name.
But then I went down for a visit. The woman in charge said she would remember me when I said I was “Sarah from Iowa.” She didn’t. She did, though, when I mentioned that I had a female partner.
“Oh! I remember you!” she said, genuinely pleased with herself.
She showed me around and everything seemed more or less OK until we entered the nursery. It was dark. And cramped. And there were two young girls with ten babies, nearly all of whom were crying. One of the girls came out of the room to put a note on the door and she was sniffling. She then wiped her nose with the back of her hand and walked back into the room of screams.
I suddenly imagined Nico going there everyday. Screaming her head off and getting only a grumpy, drippy nosed undergrad with over-bleached hair to soothe her.
And then I understood why some parents go childcare crazy.
Because, really, you are turning your child over to a bunch of strangers. Strangers who don’t know you or your child. Who won’t do things the way you do them. Because they aren’t you.
Yes, we are talking about control. And letting go of it.
Which I finally have.
Yesterday we settled on place for Nico. It’s the public child care facility in town. It’s run by United Way. It doesn’t have “elite” in its title. And they won’t teach Nico sign language. But many of the women who work in the nursery speak Spanish, so Nico will continue to hear Spanish. And more importantly, those women who speak Spanish seem content every time we stop by to see the place (which has only been two times, by the way). And their charges also seemed happy. Not a one was crying. Which, as the mother of an infant, I can say is pretty impressive.
Also, the people who work at this public childcare facilty don’t stare at Marta and me when we say we are Nico’s two moms. They don’t ask odd questions, like, “But which is the actual mom?” They just sort of take it in stride. The same goes for our granola ways. When we asked about cloth diapers they said, “Well….no one’s ever asked us that before. But I don’t see why not.”
In big cities or small liberal towns elsewhere in America I am sure there are child development centers where the staff is all trained in cloth diapers and lesbian moms and baby sign language. I am sure those places are great and, if you live near them, you don’t ever even have to think about things not being like that. But, as we are increasingly coming to accept, we don’t live in those places anymore. We live in Lubbock. Where there is no Sunday Times. And you seriously consider sending your child to a place with Christ or Lord or Jesus in its name.
Which is to say, my standards have changed. Not lowered. Just changed.
What I want in child care center in Lubbock is this: workers who are happy, babies who are happy, and staff that don’t give a rats ass that we’re granola gay.
*As an aside, I am writing this blog in a local coffee shop and next to me are two scruffy faced twenty-somethings I would normally take for pot smoking web designers, but they have a well worn green-covered tome between them and they’re talking nonstop about Jesus.”