We prefer not to call it daycare. It sounds too much like my nightmares — Romanian orphanage lite. So we call it "school," which for me conjures images of babies sitting quietly at their desks, learning calculus. Well, she is not learning calculus at her sweet little "school" (I can't seem to stop putting quotes around it, even in speech), but it is a great place where we are happy for her to spend 22.5 hours a week.
The school (an "infant care center" is what they call themselves, but that sounds like a hospital to me) is affiliated with a Methodist church. It's in a little building that almost looks like a portable, except for the concrete foundation, casement windows and the fact that it's been there for about 30 years. From the outside, it's a pretty dingy place. Hell, even on the inside, it is not as sterile-looking as many of the other daycares I visited. It reminds me of the church nursery I attended when I was little: the earnest smells of cleaning products and diaper cream, the sounds of baby chatter and tinkling toys, cheery reminders about washing hands and bringing supplies.
The best part of "school" is her teachers in the Bunny Room: an older Bangladeshi couple who have worked there for more than 12 years. Rokeya has a master's degree in early childhood from a university in Bangladesh. She is tiny and keen, with a musical voice and a very diplomatic way of telling you how you're doing things wrong. I am uncertain about the actual credentials of Monsur, her husband, but he can always be found in the rocking chair or on the floor virtually covered in babies. Either he doesn't speak all that much English, or he is more comfortable using singsong babytalk. But the babies LOVE him. Lucy has a duck blankie (the all-important transitional object that, when used in combination with the thumb, helps her manage almost any situation), and Monsur always asks her, "Where is Duck? Where is Magic Duck?" She grins and waves Duck at him.
At school, she has learned to wave and clap and mimic the hand motions to "Itsy Bitsy Spider." She goes on buggy rides — you should see Monsur pushing around the open-air bus full of babies. And every day, she gets a report card that tells us how much she slept, ate and pooped, as well as a brief paragraph about her activities and mood, written in Rokeya's elegant hand, which I hear in her musical accent: "Enjoyed listening xylophone music."
When I first started taking her to school, I thought my heart would break from her crying. Now, after a little more than two months, my heart breaks from her nonchalance — she joins the baby mosh pit without so much as a backward glance.