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The art of letting day care raise your kids for you

Everything amazing my toddler learned, he learned at day care. I’m not sorry for it in the least. If positive peer pressure could teach my son to use a fork and say please in a group setting, that is money well spent.

I’m well aware that there are parents who live in the anti day care camp. In this camp, these parents have designated one parent to stay at home with the children in their pre-academic years, either by preference or necessity. In a group, you might hear some parents loudly proclaim, “I would never let day care raise my kids for me.”

As for me, I live far, far on the other side of the campground. I am in the pro day care camp, and I’m not ashamed to talk about it. My husband and I have our two kids in half-day day care Monday through Friday so that we can maintain gainful employment from home during the workweek. Because we live in a smaller town, we were lucky to find affordable day care from a very caring in-home provider.

Besides the basic concern of safety, what really matters is that we’re getting our money’s worth.

As a new parent of two toddlers, every looming milestone has been intimidating. I quickly noticed that all of the other 1-year-olds were using sippy cups, while my oldest son still preferred a bottle. Day care to the rescue — as soon as he noticed other kids drinking out of cups, he got his act together.

And since my poor, poor older son was the first child, my husband and I focused a lot of attention on him in the first 16 months before his brother arrived. We spent evenings doing old-time, vaudeville pantomimes where we wrung our hands and wailed as we wondered if he would ever learn to use utensils like the other kids.

Turns out that our vaudeville act was poorly executed and a touch unnecessary. Every time each milestone approached, my son magically picked it up at day care. He began to eat with a fork and sit more quietly at the dinner table. He started to say please and thank you. Now that both of my kids attend the same in-home day care, they come home with new words in their vocabulary almost every day of the week.

I’ve taught my kids a few things, but as far as basic life skills go, I can’t take much credit. Thank you, day care, for turning my kids into fine, upstanding citizens and making me look like a better parent.

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