The daycare situation hasn't really gotten considerably worse, but I suppose it's not really much better either. So far a total of six staff are gone, and I know many of the others are looking elsewhere. The boys' rooms are still pretty stable and the new director started this week (much needed fresh start, but jury is still out), so I guess we're okay for the moment. But I still don't like knowing what the owner is capable of, nor do I like giving him my money. I know he's not going to have our back if something else goes wrong, and I worry about what happens if too many other teachers or kids leave. It seems like about half the kids have left so far, though a few new ones have started to offset that. But luckily the boys have been fine. Even still, my concerns with the ownership prompted me to take the afternoon off today so we could go on a full-family tour of a couple other centers. Even if I don't feel the need to switch now, it's good to have the chance to see what's out there.
Visiting daycares is one of my least favorite things in the world. It's overwhelming. I mean, there are plenty of obvious things to think about--their hours, their policies, their location--and so many other intangibles to take into consideration. You need to think about how you think your kids would fit in, if the teachers seem friendly and trustworthy, and even whether the other kids seem like friends you want your kid to have. It's so much to take into consideration, and it's such a short period of time to absorb it all before making a monumental decision that could impact your kid's safety, happiness, education, and general well-being.
This was our third time through this process. We looked at a handful when I was pregnant with Jacob, and a few more (some for the second time) when Jacob's daycare closed when he was 18 months old. The first time around we didn't even have a baby yet, so we had absolutely no clue what we were looking for or what questions to ask. The second time around we knew Jacob and had to consider how his personality would work in each place, but at least we were better equipped to understand how things worked and what we needed to look out for. This time around we have the added challenge of trying to find a good fit for two very different kids. The amazing thing, though? That in the end, each time, it all comes down to a gut instinct. While we need to consider the logistical stuff, ultimately the biggest deciding factor is still how we're left feeling about the place.
Today's first tour was at Doodle Bugs, a chain that seems to get good reviews and is sort of the daycare equivalent of a mega church. You know, it's got all the flashy bells and whistles, and is all shiny and new. It might lack some of the warm fuzzy closeness of the smaller version, but you can't argue with its success in drawing people in. I had myself all ready to hate the big, commercial feeling of it all, but....well...in the end I couldn't. The place was pretty amazing. We were first in Doodleville, a central space with a two story city-themed play area with Little Tikes cars, a slide, and room to run. It was immaculate, and Carter loved it! We went on a tour to the rooms, and Carter seemed intrigued but nervous in the room that would be his. We went outside and both boys fell in love with the one outside space. There was a basketball hoop and a mini soccer field that Jacob loved, and a tricycle track that Carter desperately wanted to explore. We also checked out the toddler playground, which Carter loved as well, and then headed into the school age area, where Jacob saw two kids from our current daycare who had just started there. There has been a constant stream of kids moving over there, so both kids would probably have a few friends right away. It seemed to put Jacob at ease a bit more to see his friends (though the basketball hoop did a great job, too!), after being very reserved when we got there. Everything about the place was first class, though. The staff was very welcoming and the feel was good. The play spaces were awesome and the assistant director is even gluten-free! The one thing that wasn't awesome? The price. It would be $30 more per week per kid. On top of already feeling like we pay too much. UGH. It's more than our mortgage (with taxes) for just Carter. Yuck.
We moved along to the other option, a smaller center just around the corner from our house. We'd heard good things from a friend of ours, and some of the daycare families seemed to like it there, too, when they toured. In addition to a couple families from our current daycare who picked there, one of the teachers that left is actually starting there Monday in the three-year-old room. So it was nice to know that there were a few people around that the kids would know. I'd also heard that it cost less and diapers and wipes were included. However, I knew they possibly didn't have a spot for Jacob, and that was indeed the case. Still, we walked through. Worst case scenario we could have them at separate places for the summer or find Jacob a camp each week, so I figured we needed to give it a shot. But in the end, it just didn't do it for any of us, kids included. I suppose almost anywhere wouldn't look great compared to stop #1, but we just didn't get the warm fuzzies from it. It just didn't seem as well organized, and while the staff was nice, they just didn't have that extra level of "polish" or something. Their playground wasn't great, and there were a couple other little things that bugged me. Picky as it sounds, I really like having direct withdrawal of tuition, and they didn't have that.
I came home feeling defeated (and very tired!). I guess for now we just need to stay where we are. There are a couple other possibilities out there that I may look into, but for now perhaps fate is telling us to stay where we are. There are a lot of reasons that bugs me, but it's not like we have a lot of options unless Craig gets a big bump in pay (because, clearly, I think I'm maxed out for a bit--and yes, I am making more than I was before, but no, I'm not willing to give up that big of a chunk of that extra security blanket just yet.). So we will soldier on and see how it goes. We can always reevaluate in the fall when Jacob goes back to school. This probably isn't over, but I guess we're taking a time out for a bit. Sigh.