Tuesday, September 16, 2014

This way, that way

I mentioned before that Heiko has started daycare. It has been an interesting and difficult process, and it hasn't really settled into being "just right" just yet. Sure, the drop-off's have become easier, he longer needs to be pried from my arms, and when we go to pick him up, sometimes he isn't quite ready to leave yet. All this is good, and I can't say that I don't absolutely love having some thinking/sanity time in the week (PS I have a bit of a job!).
But there are problems. I'm not going to get into the big questions of the state of daycare in America (and I'm not sure that Canada is all that different). Summary: it is basically unregulated, it is very expensive, and it is still highly shitty. It is bad news for kids, and it is also bad news for women. You can read this mega-depressing article for some of that kind of analysis. Colorado is right about the middle of the pack in terms of the overall quality of its daycares (although this slides down a lot if you include home daycares - even less regulation = even more questionable care).
Perhaps because of these factors, the waiting lists for the "good" daycares are l.o.n.g., and we didn't have much choice when we were looking for a spot. Still, I feel somewhat O.K. about our little place for Heiko, and it actually seems pretty well-organized. Some things aren't so good though. For instance, there was some rain one day last week, and it seems that the kids stayed inside and watched the Lion King. Have the staff forgotten that puddles are one of the great joys of childhood? Plus at first it kind of broke my heart a little bit that the kids all nap in the same shoes they wear outside.
At the risk of sounding snobby, here is another example: they eat exclusively canned fruit and vegetables (in August! in Colorado! Have they never tasted a Colorado peach in season?). And hamburger helper. And "class-created-snack" of.... jello. And all the other kinds of processed foods that we more or less try to avoid. Yesterday the teachers were in hysterics because Heiko had told them about eating lentils ("yentils, oh niiice!"). One of the teachers said she didn't know if she'd ever eaten a lentil.
OK, I really don't want to get judgey about whether or not anyone eats lentils. But this is kind of exactly the problem. The question of food cuts so deeply into class issues in this country, that I'm uncomfortable even thinking about it. I'd love to make some suggestions about how the food provided at H's daycare could be better, but I feel like it would be hard to do so without implicitly judging and discriminating basically. Le sigh.
On the other hand.... oh yes, let me tell you about the other hand.
This morning Heiko and I went to visit the local Waldorf early care centre. And that was pretty different. Actually, it was so very different. We're talking about kids baking their own whole-grain bread, lighting a candle before having their snack or meal using real china plates, glasses and cloth napkins ("cultivating an environment of reverence" I was told), and spend most of the day outside in all weather, undoubtably with multiple layers of woollen garments. They change into their cozy indoor shoes when they come inside. Sometimes their snack consists of vegetables that they grew in their own garden. And the school asks parents to sign a "media contract" to severely restrict the media intake of the students outside the classroom (and of course there is no media inside the class). While I don't see embracing the Waldorf way whole heartedly, I'm into all of the things I just mentioned (I'm not so sure about Waldorf education generally, especially for older kids, and I could basically leave out the whole fairy business, but a lot of the other things will mesh well with our parenting style).
But here is the problem, why are these two childcare options so extreme? Where is the middle ground? Perhaps it is in the daycares in town that we are wait listed for. Or, maybe it is in the nationally-regulated, freely-available daycares that... ha ha ha, that's funny. I guess we need to move to Europe for that. In the meantime (do I end every blog post with this phrase?), Heiko will likely split his daycare time between these two polar environments. It should be quite an education I think.

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