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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Co-Op

I'd like to write this out as a story, but it isn't a story. It's a collection of things, items, notes. I can't even form it as a story. But I must have a beginning, or preamble, or introduction.

Erin attends a parent co-op daycare four days each week. I work there from 4-6pm on Wednesday afternoons. One of the teachers, and the only man, has worked at the center for twenty years. He ran the parent orientation, and he works in the mornings. His name is Leviathan.

The Parent Orientation

Leviathan: "This is the century of woman. You dads have to think about that."

Leviathan: "We used to think of dads as Kings, moms as Queens, and kids as Pawns, but now we think of children as Kings, moms as Queens, and dads as Jokers. Your role in the family is to ease tension and provide comic relief."

The Morning Drop Off

Leviathan: (before I had even finished putting Erin's lunch in the fridge, so long before I was even close to leaving her alone) "I just wanted to tell you that we have a policy here of physically handing the child over, from parent to teacher, when parents leave in the morning. It reassures the child."

Leviathan has assistants, who are there in the afternoon when I pick Erin up and while I'm doing my parental co-oping duty.

The Report

Assistant to Leviathan: "I just need to tell you that one of the other children bit Erin today. I cannot tell you who, that is our policy. But I need to tell you that someone bit her."

The Confrontation

Assistant to Leviathan: "I just need to tell you that Erin bit one of the other children today. I cannot tell you who, that is our policy. But I need to tell you that she bit someone."

The (overheard) Report

Assistant to Leviathan: "I just need to tell you that one of the other children bit your daughter today. I cannot tell you who, that is our policy. But I need to tell you that someone bit her."

The Conversation

Me: "So, I don't know if that policy is supposed to extend to parents, but I'm pretty sure that Erin is the one who bit your daughter. I couldn't get any details of the incident from Assistant to Leviathan."

Her: "Oh, well, it's bound to happen at this age. She's fine."

Me: "Well, I'm sorry Erin bit her. She hasn't bitten even me for months, so I don't know what sparked it."

Her: "It's okay. Really."

The Conclusion

Parents don't have institutional memory. Sometimes that means that they are at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with situations. For instance, in preventing biting incidents, in preempting them. But if you have a long institutional memory you are bound to elevate and worship your specialized expertise; you will extend it to make claims about things you have no business talking about.

And the institution can prevent or discourage conversation; the kind of conversation that does help develop the kind of personal memory for which institutional memory is a poor substitute.


Kelley said...

Sorry, I just can't get past it... Leviathan? Like REALLY? His name is Leviathan?


He sounds like a superhero or a viking or something. Wish I hadn't finished having kids cause I would totally call the next one Leviathan. I might get a dog.

Will said...


Dude better live up to his name for that joker crack.

Melizzard said...

Most preschools have the we won't tell you who rule regarding biting because trust me after about the 10th time you hear Erin has been bit and you suspect it's the same kid every time... you'll want to form an angry parent mob and demand to know more details.

Always Home and Uncool said...

I think Erin should bite Leviathan. Sounds like an ass to me.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

Did you make up the name Leviathan? You must have because ... really! And it sounds like there are a few too many rules at that co-op?

BTW, we are having sex talks again at my site. Today it's on Faking Orgasms and the discussion centers around women AND men faking it.

Come by for a visit if you have time. I'd love to hear what you think?

Eternal Sunshine said...

That whole 'not telling' policy only works up until your kid starts talking.

Plus, my kid once got kicked out of a daycare for stabbing another kid with scissors. Yep, my kid shanked somebody...

Maya said...

Wow- I know there will be a lot of biting in my future. I just hope my girls bite one another and not other kids, so I will have no one to blame but myself.

Wendy said...

It seems like your daycare has an awful lot of rules. Rules are good, I know, but I've always been one to go against them. That would drive me absolutely crazy!

Miss Grace said...

Is his name REALLY Leviathan?

And. That sounds like some serious hippy hooha. I should know, I went to a high school that "shared its space with a spiritual yoga center and community."

Backpacking Dad said...

kelley: no, his name is not really Leviathan :}

Will: word.

melizzard: Oh, I understand why they have the rule. But the institutional memory can arrogate itself. It's the kind of thing that has to, strategically, assume the worst of everyone because not everyone can be trusted to be their best when it comes to something like processing information about a biting incident. Consequently everyone gets treated a little bit derogatorily. It's morale-sapping.

always home and uncool: I'm waiting for it. Although today he said, when I asked him about the biting incident (because he was the one who witnessed it): "One act doesn't make a crime spree." Now, I know that he said it because he thought I was some paranoid parent who was worried his daughter was turning into a monster, because some people do that, so he was re-assuring me. But I'm a smart guy. I know one incident doesn't make crime spree. I wasn't asking about the details because I was worried or paranoid; I wanted information so I could plan a course of action if one needed to be planned. He, the institution, has to presume I'm stupid and that doesn't sit well with me.

twenty four at heart: Leviathan is not his real name, but I did not make it up. It's a literary allusion.

eternal sunshine: That. Is. Awesome. :} You know, I told Erin the first day we dropped her off "You just have to act crazy and punch somebody out on the first day. Then no one will try to make you their bitch."

maya: Kids bite. And unfortunately if the only detail you are given is that there was a bite, and not how severe it was, what the context was, or anything like that all you can do is feel guilty and responsible. But hell, Erin may have bitten the kid's cheek in an affectionate nibble (because I do that shit all the time to her and it makes her laugh). But I'll never know. So the teachers now have to be on guard against the threat my daughter poses, and I get to wonder every day if this is the day they send her home with prison brand that says "biter".

wendy: rules schmules. I'm opening a Lord of the Flies daycare.

miss grace: No, his name is not really Leviathan. And although it sounds kind of hippy, I think it's more in line with whatever the hell "The Secret" can be described as. Not quite New Age. Psychological Bullshit? Sociological Grasping? I don't know.

HappyHourSue said...

LMAO - you had me at "Leviathan". I know that dude.

Are you going to sit there and claim you're NOT a joker? Leviathan knows his shit.

Jenni said...

Please, please, please tell me that Leviathan is really his name. Oh, I love it so much.

And thank god they protect the rights of the children by not divulging the identity of biters. Such an important part of preshcool.

Pam said...

Rhett says to bring Erin over here. He will show her how to bite someone and then blame it on someone else.

Sounds like she was just living up to what you told her to do though eh?

I know, biting isn't a good thing, but Leviathan might have a few issues he needs to work out.

Momo Fali said...

What I got from this was "parent" and "institutional". That about covers it, I'd say.

Tracey said...

All of that policy stuff was starting to make me twitch. Just TELL ME who bit my kid so I can keep an eye out, THAT'S all! Also, tell me who my kid bit so I can apologize!!

Maren said...

I've been on every side of the "your-child-bit-another-child" end of that story. Been bit, biter, and teller of the bad news. There's no good side. Only the hope that they grow more everyday and eventually stop munching on each other. My son is 8 and hasn't chomped anyone for almost 4 years.

Rhea said...

That guy's name is awesome. That place sounds a little hokey though. All this PC crap. The more true thing I heard from this post is the children are kings, moms queens and dad jokers. IT's so true. It shouldn't be, but it seems to be.

Loralee Choate said...

I totally agree with always home and totally uncool. SICK ERIN ON THE ASSHAT!

Headless Mom said...

Funny, but I'm not sure I could leave my kid with 'Leviathan' who talks in such a manner as that. Eew. And Weird! And Eew.

anymommy said...

My kids are in a coop preschool too. I am continually amazed by the - this is going to be awkward, not sure how to say it: Failure of some parents/teachers to approach parenting with just a tiny bit of self-awareness and self-deprecating humor? On the other hand, I've met some of my best friends there!