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Quality care and stupid jerks

Let's get this out of the way fast. There are those who would ask why, if we love Charlie so much, we'd yield our cherished son into the detached care of strangers.

The answer, of course, is that we do not love him and we never have. The very sight of his satiny pink cheeks plumped into a gummy grin is so odious to us, the sound of his happy falsetto singing so loathesome, that we simply must get him out of the house. (Did I ever tell you his middle name is Anathema? Yeah. Family thing. Long story.)

But I certainly can't send him over to play with his friends because when I've done it before, the other babies have mocked and humiliated him mercilessly, convincing poor Charlie that sun hats are strictly for stupid jerks and anyone who'd be stupid enough to wear one is therefore stupid and an idiot. And also a jerk.

And he doesn't like to play outside by himself; last time I tried, he came in hyperventilating anxiously, something about angry marauding squirrels plundering his tiny pockets for hidden nuts. I forget exactly what.

And the law, being what it is — an ass and a half — has made it well-nigh impossible for him to find a job. Child labor illegal! In this country! Land of the free, indeed. Do you know that during interviews, potential employers actually ask him his age? I am fairly certain that's illegal, too, come to think of it, and I will urge Charlie to lodge a formal complaint as soon as he's finished contemplatively chewing the toes on his left foot.

So what else can we do?

The decision to seek out some sort of day care for Charlie was one we made before I was even pregnant with him, while he was little more than a gleam on the surface of a Petri dish. When people talk about day care, the discussion often grows heated, with otherwise reasonable people accusing each other of "having someone else raise your kids." Well, I'll cop to that: I want many people to help us raise our child. Paul and I have long held the conviction that any child of ours should know that the world is full of adults who wish him well; that his parents are not the only people who are competent to care for him; and that it is permissible and even desirable for him to spend some time away from us.

It's desirable for Paul and me, indubitably; in the last year he's been left only with my mother, and I feel we deserve a break. Since we both work at home, we're in his company all day; it is usually delightful but always demanding, and fairly difficult (emotionally if not operationally) for either of us to break away while the other shoulders the 25-pound carrot-smeared burden alone.

But I also believe it will be good for Charlie. And anyone who'd argue that that belief is merely self-serving has never seen our baby beam and squirm with delight when a new person interacts with him. That's all the justification I need.

Today we're going to visit a day care center that comes highly recommended. We'll look around and ask questions. We'll watch the way the staff interacts with the children. We'll make sure everyone washes hands, speaks kindly, and smiles often. We'll casually leave behind a tiny videocamera cleverly concealed in Charlie's favorite teether ("squeaks merrily when squeezed"). And we'll find out about placing him for a few hours two mornings a week.

All bets are off, though, if anyone's wearing a sun hat. Stupid jerks.