Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Aug. 29 - Even before Katrina bared her fangs and lunged for the pale, exposed throat of New Orleans, I knew I'd be anxious this week. Molli begins vuggestue (daycare) on Thursday. Five mornings a week we'll drop her off with strangers; five afternoons a week we'll pick her up and wonder what the hell she did all day.

I toured the Vuggestue one morning last week. The teachers (or caretakers, or whatever you want to call them) seemed nice enough, the premises were spotless and full of toddler fun, and the programs shown and described to me seemed to offer everything I could want for Molli. I could tell she would like it there because she obviously already did: she stumbled gleefully around the playroom inside, and shrieked with delight when we went outside and she saw the other toddlers bumping around out in the yard.

It was startling to see her name there waiting for her. "Molli Malou," written in thick black marker on white masking tape above her cubbyhole and on the handle of the stroller in which she'll soon be taking her afternoon naps.

I was shown where Molli would eat, and told what kinds of things she'd be fed. I was shown where she'd play, and told what kinds of things she'd be playing. I was shown where her rain gear was kept, and her "backup" clothes, and reminded to bring them a set of rain gear and backup clothes. I was shown where she'd be changed and where she'd nap.

I shuffled after the teacher in a daze. I was calculating. If Molli were here, in this place, among these people, seven-and-a-half hours a day, and averaging eleven hours of sleep a night, then even if I spent every waking moment at home with her—which I surely won't be able to do—wouldn't that mean she'd be spending less time awake with me than with the Vuggestue people?

I remembered all of Trine's questions and concerns about the Vuggestue from back when we'd first starting looking around to get her enrolled. I'd been kind of aloof. I hadn't always paid attention. It was a strange foreign system of daycare and I didn't really understand. I didn't feel like I needed to. Trine had chosen the Vuggestue she thought would be best, and I'd given her my support. Surely she knew best.

But these people are going to be as instrumental to Molli's development as we are over the months ahead. What's their philosophy? What are their politics? How do I know they're not going to turn her into some kind of weird socialist hippie child?

I don't dare ask Trine such questions out loud (I can already see the arched eyebrows that would come as my only answer), but I can ask her in the safety of my imagination.

Trine, how do we know they're not going to turn Molli into some kind of weird hippie child?

[Withering arch of eyebrows.]

No, we're in my imagination, give me an actual answer.

She's not even fourteen months old. They're going to try to teach her how to eat off a plate, how to zip her own jacket, and put toys in the toy chest.

But they could be feeding her subliminal messages. They could be Scientologists, for all we know, or fascists, or communists, or vegetarians. . .

I grew up with one of the teachers there. And you know damn well that my good friend's daughter has been going there for months and she loves it.

Does she? Does she really? Or has she just been brain-washed into thinking she has?

[Withering arch of eyebrows]

* * *

I don't even know how daycare works back in the states. It's not the kind of thing guys talk about unless they're parents, and I was never a parent when I lived in America. I'm not even sure all children are expected to be in vuggestue at this age in the states. There's probably even some crazy movement against it.

Here in Denmark, though optional, it's a matter of course. Children should go to vuggestue as soon as they can. It's where they learn important social skills and begin feeling a sense of independence. I support all that. God knows Molli needs the social skills—though entranced by all boys in the 2-5 age range, she's utterly ambivalent about children her own age and has so far exhibited nothing but aversion to the very notion of sharing.

But still. . . she's going to be spending what amounts to a full work day among strangers five days a week, and we're never going to get her back. Vuggestue will feed her into børnehaven, which will feed her into the school system, which will eventually cough her up and bankrupt us by kicking her off to university. She's going to meet people we don't know, learn things we could never teach her, taste things we don't know how to cook, form opinions we would never encourage. And it's wonderful, and exciting, and I'm thrilled on her behalf, but I'm anxious as hell.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Political Philosophy

Historically, the end of August has been a watershed for political philsophy.

John Locke was born on August 29, 1632. Mr. Locke was a political philosopher, and many of his ideas found their way into the American Constitution. He is best known for his essay concerning human understanding, "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding," which remains famous to this day as the shortest essay ever written.

On August 27, 1770, George William Hegel was born. Hegel was also a kind of political philosopher. He believed that sooner or later everyone ended up in Synthetics. Unfortunately there was no way to test his theory, as this was well before the invention of polyester.

Another important political philosopher was born this week: Jean Baptiste Colbert was born on August 29, 1619. Colbert was the finance minister to King Louis XIV of France. His own Political Philosophy consisted of a big pile of money. This was a very effective politics, and therefore deemed insufficiently philosophical, which is why you tend to hear more about Locke and Hegel.

Gaius Caesar Caligula was born on August 31 in the year 12. Caligula succeeded Tiberius in 37, and his reign was most notable for its policy of Sex with the Emperor. This turned out to have been a weak Political Philosophy, because the Romans all had classical educations and saw right through him. So they killed him.

On August 30, 30 BC, Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra clutched a snake to her breast and died. History has judged this a suicide, but there is room for doubt: she had previously clutched Julius Caesar and Marc Antony to her breast without dying, and may have therefore considered herself immunized.

The Council of Nicaea ended on August 25, 325, resulting in the Nicene Creed. This established the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which proved that the Father and Son were not two, but three, and therefore also one. This was a controversial creed, and alienated many math teachers from the church. Its repercussions eventually caused a Schism, which resulted in Infidels, thereby necessitating considerable bloodshed and more Political Philosophy.

Having captured the Incan Emperor, Atahualpa, and demanded his weight in gold for ransom, Francisco Pizarro had to wait some time for the gold to arrive. Eventually it did, and on August 29, 1533, Atahualpa was therefore executed. The unusually effective Political Philosophy employed by Pizarro is known today as Gunpowder.

* * *

Today is Slovak National Uprising Day in Slovakia and Flag Day in Spain. It's the birthday of Michael Jackson (1958), Elliott Gould (1938), Charlie "Bird" Parker (1920), Ingrid Bergman (1915), Preston Sturges (1898), Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619), and John Locke (1632).

Happy Monday!

© 2005, The Moron's Almanac™

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