Sunday, December 27, 2009

To daycare and beyond

“I don’t think I want to do this anymore,” my wife Kara said last week, just before she took a deep breath and pulled open the screen door to the daycare center.

We stepped inside to see the sort of semi-organized chaos you’d expect to see in a facility that caters to people who need to be told on a daily basis not to eat paint. Just inside the door, a boy sat on the floor, struggling to pull a Buzz Lightyear costume over his shoes.

“Are you going to infinity and beyond?” Kara asked. The boy looked up at her as if she were completely insane, apparently not as big a Toy Story fan as the bunched-up astronaut suit around his ankles suggested.

We made our way back to the infant room, a place that was amazingly quiet, considering that the adult was outnumbered four-to-one. About a year ago, when we first reserved our spot at daycare and our son was a black-and-white peanut on an ultrasound printout, four-to-one sounded like pretty good odds. After six months of parenting, though, I don’t understand how any single person can care for four babies without first stepping into a phone booth to put on a caped leotard, or to frantically dial 9-1-1.

“Hello Evan! Nice to meet you,” said Valerie, the Woman of Steel. The one-year-olds buzzed around our shins, dragging toys across the room and standing on their tiptoes to peer into Evan’s car seat. While they were adorable, their enthusiasm didn’t appear to be the only thing contagious about them. It looked as if we’d wandered onto a set during the filming of “Revenge of the Miniature Snot Monsters.”

As we talked, Valerie deftly moved from nose to nose, wiping them as quickly as she could, but they seemed to just keep running faster, like the conveyor belt from “I Love Lucy.”

As an adult, it’s easy to forget about runny noses, which are much more likely to figure into your day if you’re under five, kind of like fire trucks and zebras. Not that these things aren’t important once you grow up, but to a kid, boogers, zebras and fire trucks play a role in about 50% of their cognitive transactions, with the other half being reserved for tractors and Dora the Explorer.

We knew that kids were more likely to catch colds once they enter daycare, but the dramatization playing out in front of us was sobering. Since having a baby, Kara keeps a bottle of Purell in a holster, with a backup strapped to her ankle. There are no longer any bacteria in our house, except of course for the Purell-resistant kind. We’ve thinned the herd so much that only the strongest bacteria can survive at our house, the kind of bacteria that get tribal tattoos on their flagella and spend their afternoons bench pressing ants.

Kara took Evan out of his car seat and held him to her shoulder. As I reached out to wipe some drool off of his chin, I dropped the burp cloth onto the floor. Kara looked at the cloth and then back at me with a look that said, “We have to incinerate that now.”

Valerie, as practiced in dealing with overprotective new parents as she was with overproductive mucus membranes, said, “We clean the place from top to bottom every night. Don’t worry. We know what we’re doing. Everything’s going to be fine.”

And of course she was right. A few moments later, we shook her hand and left with Evan, his dress rehearsal successful.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be back to drop him off for his first full day, which should give us just enough time to custom fit a sneeze guard over his car seat.

You can douse Mike Todd with Lysol at


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  2. Wow, but it sure is a cruel world that expects one to grow up very quickly. One minute you're the family's Lil' Dude and the centre of their universe and the next minute they can't wait to ship you off to day care. Does Memphis know of your plan?