Daycare has been a godsend. After the last two years of pulling double duty—working from home while also ensuring my tiny human doesn’t crush his skull with a crockpot—I couldn’t believe how much more productive I became once I had six full hours of silence.
If I’m being honest, I don’t know how people go about finding daycares. I see it on TV all the time as being this stressful ordeal full of waiting lists and tryouts and finding the right fit. All that happened at my house is that one day, Melinda came home with a folder full of paperwork and said, “we’re sending Robert to Miss Laurinda’s daycare.” And I said, “okay.”
Miss Laurinda’s is an in-home private daycare with five or six kids all around Robert’s age. The best part about it in my opinion is that it’s right in our neighborhood. Most mornings, I strap him into his stroller and enjoy the brisk 10 minute walk.
What I didn’t account for, however, was how disturbing it would be to walk the empty stroller home after I dropped him off. Not for me—for everyone else.
I can’t make a single trip to Miss Laurinda’s with an empty stroller without someone pointing out that I don’t have a kid in it. People will literally stop their cars to let me know.
“Hey there, are you missing something?” a stranger will roll down their window and say.
The first half-dozen times this happened, I’d explain Robert was at Miss Laurinda’s around the corner, but it honestly got exhausting. And like, I’m a friendly guy, but I don’t need to have a conversation about daycare with everyone who drives by. Why do you care if I like Miss Laurinda, or if Robert likes it? I have shit to do, people!
In the interest of trimming these interactions down a bit, I began experimenting with new responses.
First, I’d look into the empty basket and feign surprise. “Oh shit!” I’d say, and then I’d start running in the opposite direction. That’s me, the negligent parent who left for a walk without his kid.
It was good for initial shock value, but I got tired of it because to REALLY sell the joke, I had to run all the way home, or at least until I was out of the questioner’s field of vision. If I didn’t, I’d have to turn around and be like “just kidding,” and talk about Miss Laurinda’s anyway.
Halfway through the second week, I took a different approach. I passed a guy cutting his grass, and he turned off his mower. “Hey there, are you missing something?” This fucking guy actually STOPPED his lawnmower to interact with me.
I looked blankly into the stroller. “What do you mean?”
“Where’s your kid?” he asked.
I gestured to the empty seat. “He’s right there.”
There was an awkward pause where the guy looked at the stroller, then at me with my too-wide, moony eyes. “Um…”
I pretended to rub my son’s head. “Robert’s such a good boy, aren’t you buddy? Wave to the nice man. Say hi!”
The guy chuckled and waited for the punchline, but I didn’t break character. “I’m just so lucky, you know?” I said. “He really is the best kid. So quiet and easy.”
“Right, right,” he said, backing toward his mower. “You have a great day.”
I figure that if I stay with this strategy long enough, people will be crossing the street to get away from me, and I won’t have to deal with all of the neighborly conversations interrupting my walk. Sure, I’ll be the strange dude who pushes the invisible kid, but there are worse things. I could still be at home, trying to work and raise a child at the same time.
Thanks for the stellar neighborhood reputation, Miss Laurinda.