So we had decided on this daycare for the kids. You know the one – big, fancy, expensive, dead convenient, being in the same campus as both our offices… We bought ourselves a three-day trial period. Well, I still have only a verbal offer and the entry load at this daycare was coming to something over 80 k for the twins, so a trial period definitely makes sense, right?
The kids clearly liked the place. It’s large, well set up, clean, has nice child-sized toilets (clean) and places to climb and things to jump off of. Oh and there were these toy car things they could drive that they fell in love with. They didn’t talk to anybody much there, but as long as I was giving them lunch and they could play with the toy cars or climb and jump off things, they were ok.
Amit and I weren’t so easily impressed. Though the place appeared very professional and everything, I felt it was run like a factory. There was nothing really bad about it (apart from the food; I’ll come to that later) but there were small, niggling things that weren’t quite right. One or two of the attendants didn’t seem to be the kind cut out to be working with little children. One attendant had her own child there and this skewed things. She could not give her daughter sufficient attention, but neither could she treat her like just another child there.
There was a general one-size-fits-all kind of approach there that I felt was not exactly suited for kids of this age. One day, they twins were all happy and excited and showed no signs of wanting to sleep after lunch. The attendant’s response? “Oh no, they have to sleep, or they will disturb all the other kids here.”
I mean, yeah, she has a point, but shouldn’t there be some other solution? Like giving them something to do, or taking them to another area where they can play?
I heard a couple of the other attendants threatening the kids with “if you don’t fall asleep right now, spider will come.” If there’s one thing I want to protect my kids from, it’s from this kind of pointless threatening and fear-phobia approach.
The kids were all put to sleep on mattresses spread out on the ground. For a place as large (and expensive) as this one, you’d think they’d have sufficient mattresses. They didn’t – the kids were crammed together about five on a mattress. They could hardly move.
And then there’s the food. These folks actually discouraged us from sending food for the kids because (one size fits all) they provide food. We saw the menu, and I wasn’t impressed. Kids need proper meals – fruit, veggies, dahi (curd/yoghurt), in addition to the staple dal-rice. They need fibre in their cereal – unpolished rice or whole wheat, not just white rice. Still, I thought, maybe they do actually give all that on the side, they just mention the main dish on the menu. After all, they can’t be giving only rice and sambhar, or only paratha and curd. Our girls are used to five-course lunches. We even give them non-veg – or at least egg – once or twice a week. But no, they said, you can’t send any non-veg. Ok, I thought, let’s see what their food looks like. Maybe it looks really healthy, with lots of veggies hidden in the sambhar or in the raita.
No such luck. The food on the plate looked a lot worse than it looked on the menu. Pulao and raita (rice with mixed veggies and curd with raw veggies like onion) looked to me like white rice, plain (thin) curd, and a few green peas tossed in for colour. Sambhar-rice looked like rice with thin, colourless dal.
What’s worse, on our first day there, they gave the same food for lunch and for the tea-time snack! On our second day there, lunch was the same as on the first day. There was a five-year-old at our table who commented on it… so at least we know that they don’t actually usually give the same food every blessed day. But hullo! How about adding some nutrition to this food? These guys are supposed to be in the child care business.
Afternoon snack was also horrifying. One day it was biscuits, another day it was rice kheer (rice pudding). Refined sugar, polished cereal. How about a little fruit? Or at least good old bread-n-jam, which is at least better than biscuit, especially if you make a real effort and get wheat bread.
I had thought that since they provide food, I could just send the fruit and veggies to supplement, but after seeing what their food looked like, I realized I just couldn’t.
So anyway, I packed them lunch every day. Only, the food is cooked the evening before, refrigerated overnight, and packed when I go to pick them up from school around 11.15 a.m. So it’s still quite cold when they are ready to eat around 1 p.m. So, heat it, right? We have this useful little box called a microwave, which is killing the environment but we all use it just the same, right?
On the second day at lunch time, their attendant told me very firmly that, sorry to say, we need the microwave to heat the food for the infants. So could you please send their food at a ready-to-eat temperature? Thank you very much.
When you’re giving a place 80 grand, you’d think the least they could do is to buy a second microwave, right? Yeah, right.
When I told Amit this, he was disgusted. It was Friday afternoon by this time, so we spent the weekend and Monday morning phoning around, and on Monday afternoon I dropped the kids at this daycare, then drove off to inspect another one nearby. It was a much smaller affair, homely – not actually a home, though it was based out of what was originally intended as a house – far from perfect in terms of the infrastructure, but somehow cosy and warm. Because it was a house in design, there was a small outdoors area with a small sandpit; the big, plush daycare had no outdoor area at all, so this was better than nothing. The toilets were adult sized, fitted with child seats. The dining table was in the kitchen. There was a fridge and a microwave, and the woman in charge had no reservations about using either. There were about ten kids, and three caregivers. They didn’t provide food, for which, after our first experience, I was thankful, and they had no problem with us sending non-veg for the kids. The woman also assured me that I needn’t send any fruit as she always had fruit available for the kids. This, of course, put this place way up there at the top of the list as far as I was concerned.
So today I dropped the kids off at this new place and sweated it out in the car outside all afternoon. The woman was very keen that I not hang around for long, as she said it made it more difficult for kids to get settled in. Tara was somewhat upset when I left, but by all accounts she quickly settled down, ate lunch, and proceeded to play the entire afternoon. This was not a problem – the sleeping kids slept in another room with the door closed and were not disturbed. When I went back in some time around 4.30, she was completely happy and at-home there, and didn’t bother too much about me.
So, all in all, this place seems more convincing than the other. Amit and I both really liked the person in charge (while we found it difficult to like any of the women at the first place). It is a ten minute drive away from our office complex, unfortunately, but perhaps that is a small price to pay?
And there is a smaller price to pay in a very literal sense as well – this place costs less than half of the other on a monthly basis, and has none of the entry barriers that amount to 80 k in the other place. So it makes sense to go with it for a while and see if it works, don’t you think? After all, the place with only one microwave and plenty of attitude isn’t going anywhere and we can always go back there later on if we wish.
The kids have put up a sterling performance in all this. They’ve been almost unmitigatedly cheerful and easy-going. Despite being left alone this afternoon at this new place (and Tara being a little upset by it) they were all ready to go back to the first place at the end of the afternoon, just so they could play with some of the toys over there!
I still feel a little selfish for wanting to go back to work… but I think that eventually the girls will begin to love day care (as they already love school) and that it will do them no harm in the long run. Or at least that’s what I want to believe right now. I just hope we’re doing the right thing and choosing the right daycare. It is so hard to trust our little girls to somebody else’s care.