(By D. Hanousek)
As I dropped off my baby girl at day care the other day and waved good morning to the neighbor who had been tinkering with the same dilapidated car he was working on when I picked her up the day before, I realized that I have a confession to make. My baby goes to day care in what you vulgar types call "the ghetto."
Every day, I take my daughter to a dead-end street in District 10 (AKA Bayview-Hunter's Point) where she is cared for with love by a young, mixed-race couple (I bring up their race for a reason) who have young children of their own. Both San Francisco natives, the couple decided to open an in-home day care because they wanted to be at-home parents. Before meeting said couple and visiting this day care center, we had planned on doing a nanny share with a couple form our neighborhood, who, sadly, turned out to be more questionable than the neighborhood our daughter spends five days in every week.
The nanny share seemed expensive, and we didn't quite jive with the other couple, but we were desperate since I needed to return to work posthaste. Ready to cave and say yes to the iffy baby care setup, we were instead directed to this brand new in-home day care by a preschool teacher we knew. Sure, we raised our eyebrows when we drove our 6-week-old through a neighborhood that, admittedly, had always felt taboo to us guilty-liberal, middle-class white folks. With a clowder of cats roaming the street and bass-heavy sounds blasting from brightly painted cars, we walked up the front door and rang the buzzer.
What was on the other side of that door was an instant warmth and a joy that drew us in and made us want to stay until nightfall. This couple was phenomenal. And we were so lucky to be the first family to enter their home. It wasn't long before their neighbors got used to seeing us each day. Our fear turned into familiarity.
Unfortunately, many of our so-called peers couldn't get past the appearance and reputation of the neighborhood. The aforementioned couple we had planned to nanny share with decided to check out the place for their own kid. Stupidly, they weren't thrilled about the idea of leaving their child with an African-American male. They asked me if I had run a background check on him. Just him. We no longer talk to this couple.
Also, when I used to engage in conversations with other parents at the playground, chit-chat would often turn to day care. (It seems that parents at playgrounds are perpetually looking for day care.) I would talk about how awesome my day care couple was and how much my daughter loved it there. But when I responded to the question of where said day care was located, the parent's face would immediately drop. I would often get a look of horror, one that to me said, "How could you send your child to that neighborhood? What kind of parent are you?"
The irony is that we used to send our son to a horrid day care in a nice neighborhood, Diamond Heights, where the food was vile, there was no security system, and the center was written up (what seemed like every week) for some kind of infraction. They gave kids time-outs in locked closets and cut hair that they deemed too long without consulting the parents. One time I even found a couple of staples floating in my baby's diaper. We could rightfully call place "Ghetto Day Care." Yet when I asked other parents how they felt about this particular center, they would shockingly remark on the affordability and convenience of the Diamond Heights day care without mentioning any of the security or safety breaches. (We got our son out of that place as soon as we could.)
Point being? Our D10 day care is affordable, enriching, safe, and sometimes our daughter comes home with six or so ponytails that create a star shape on her head, which is hella awesome.this