A Guy’s Guide to Picking a Daycare Center

Getting ready to go over the wall when he found out his daycare does not show CNN.

After Mommy and Me Class Esther and I talked about putting Cristian into daycare a few days a week so he could learn socialization skills playing with kids his age.  Working from home meant gathering Intel on the local daycare centers was another item on the Honey-do list.  I was in uncharted territory.

Becoming a dad at 50 and an uncle at 36 didn’t help.  I had no part of raising either or my nieces, a decision they’ll thank me for as they get older.  With no practice kid to make mistakes on, I was starting from scratch.

Since Cristian’s a one and done child we didn’t want to leave him with anyone, we wanted someone good.  Our ideal caretaker possessed compassion and sensitivity but was quick on their feet and able to handle anything he could throw at them, I do mean throw.

Not All Daycare Centers are Created Equal. – Daycare providers vary in size and scope ranging from small setups in someone’s basement to large compounds resembling internment camps.  They run the gamut from 5 children sitting around a TV all day watching the Disney Channel, to elaborate programs preparing toddlers for an Ivy-League education.  At one site I sat next to a pregnant mother reserving a spot for her unborn child, six weeks after her due date.

Logistics and Reconnaissance – Being a parent less than two years required me to draw from my experience as a logistics specialist. I started with a Google search of every daycare provider within a 25- mile radius of home, 50-miles was just too much, checking all possible routes, factoring in inclement weather and traffic patterns.  After numerous phone calls, I developed an understanding of all things a baby needs to perform at maximum efficiency, diapers, wipes, bottles, etc.

Then working with the diligence of a British Intelligence agent preparing Donald Trump’s dossier, I watched and observed Daycare Facilities checking everything from curriculum and reputation to compromising information on parents, neighbors and staff.  I learned a lot, but chose not to post my findings on cleanliness and potty training on BuzzFeed.

Making friends with a mermaid at the Long Island Aquarium.

The Interview – After deciding on a daycare center, we scheduled an interview with the owner.  Staying true to form, my better half looked for safety, cleanliness, and a stimulating curriculum—I asked if the staff had paramilitary training, Cristian’s tantrums get pretty bad.   What sold me was the bouncy house in the backyard play area, perfect for tiring the most energetic toddler.

Ready to go from Day One.

Summertime Blues – For his last days of freedom, Esther and I sent him off with style, taking him to the Beach, Sesame Place and the Aquarium—okay we enjoyed it too.  Cristian ran up and down the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk, saw his favorite Sesame Street characters in a parade, and made friends with a mermaid.  We found out he loves, water, marine life, and photo bombing tourists at the Aquarium.

Worries/Concerns – Esther and I differed on this one.  As a Mom she worried about leaving the baby with someone other than family.  I worried about getting a phone call an hour after dropping him off. “Mr. Priegue, we are refunding your deposit, please pick up your son.”  We were curious how he’d react.  Would he cry or panic?  Not Cristian, as soon as they opened the gate, he went running in and didn’t look back.  Was he asserting a sense of independence or just happy to see new toys to play with?  We’ll leave that to the historians.

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Because You Can’t Flush a Cocker Spaniel

Cristian at the Long Island Aquarium

If you follow this blog you know I’m a cranky dad, a marathon runner and a dog lover.  When my better half and I were dating, her dog Chico’s approval helped seal the deal.  Chico was more than a pet—he was a friend and my practice child.

Chico’s passing left a void.  Esther and I want another dog, but we have too much going on right now. A dog is a major commitment, demanding time and attention we don’t have—plus we have someone who keeps us busy with walks, feedings, and cleaning poop—I’ve been writing about him for almost two years.

This summer Esther, Cristian, and I did the family thing, going to Sesame Place, summer carnivals, and a couple of aquariums.  We quickly learned he likes playing in water, but he loves fish. He loved the big tanks at the Long Island Aquarium, the small tanks at Petco, and the movie Finding Dory.  You should have seen him freak out when he saw me eating sushi that looked like Nemo.

Cristian’s love of fish had Esther and I considering getting him a fish tank instead of a dog—okay more her than me.  One night at the carnival, the decision was made for us.   We were playing a game, throwing ping pong balls into small holes when we won a goldfish.

I wasn’t worried, I won goldfish as a kid, they all died and were flushed a week later—but this was different.  Before handing me a fish-filled plastic bag, he went into sales mode. “You have a fish in a bag, but do you have a fish bowl?  No?  For only $10, I’ll give you a fish bowl, a second fish, and I’ll even throw in some fish food.  Now how does that sound?”

Walking home, trying not to spill water as I balanced the fish bowl on top of Cristian’s stroller, I wondered what just happened.  Did I miss something?  We left home planning on letting the baby run around a little,  playing a few games, and eating a sausage and pepper hero and maybe some funnel cake.  How did we end up with a couple of fish?   Good thing we weren’t looking for a used car.

When we got home, my better half started researching home aquariums, aka fish tanks.  If you’ve met my wife, you know she’s a big-picture type of person—big goals, big dreams, big ideas. I’m the one who brings her back to earth when she goes off the deep end.

My mental image of what our home aquarium would look like.

This is usually when I worry about how big a picture.  Are we ordering tropical fish, converting a room into a full-sized aquarium, getting a school of piranhas?  Okay the piranhas were my idea.

What do I know about fish?  I’m a dog person.  My family had dogs for as long as I remember.  Dad brought home Susy, our first dog, when I was in second or third grade and she lived until a few years after I graduated from college.  All I knew about fish was you flush them when they die.

Around the time we flushed our original goldfish into Jamaica Bay, we set up a ten-gallon tank in Cristian’s room, complete with new fish, gravel, and columns.  Although fish are lower maintenance than dogs, they aren’t maintenance-free, so instead of waking up early to walk a dog, I’m cleaning a tank every two weeks or so.  Saying goodnight to his fish is now part of the baby’s bedtime ritual.  It’s not the same as a dog, but for now it will do.

Cristian’s Fishtank
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