If there’s one thing we’ve proven to the world as Americans in the last two centuries, it’s how difficult it is to construct and maintain democratic governance. Prime example, some of you probably read Churchill’s quote and my opening line and immediately thought, “That’s because we live in a republic you fool!” Right. We don’t even agree on what to call the experiment, let alone what our operating parameters should be.
Those who favor “republic” argue the term encompasses our political structure’s true nature, that of a representative democracy in which the broader “demos” delegates its authority to govern to a select body of people through election. That body of elected officials then do our bidding through a system of election and self-assigned powers. Someone who favors “democracy,” meanwhile, focuses on the origin point of sovereign power, the people, and that their will always should reign supreme when deciding matters of governance. I think this debate is actually one of our country’s most critical because it juxtaposes the logical conclusion of sovereign individualism with the paternalistic form of democracy we’ve largely chosen by default, though abysmally low political engagement and election turnout.
Given the system we’ve selected for ourselves, the “republic” vs. “democracy” debate is also moot. Still, as someone who does believe in everyone’s sovereign right to self-determine, I’m compelled this week to provide you the update I owe to the citizens of the State of Ohio, and in particular those who exercise their right to self-govern through Ohio’s Department for Job and Family Services and its Child Care Center E-Manual.
Isaac is our younger son. He’s 11 months old and started crawling about a month ago, yet is already pulling himself up on furniture and windowsills and knows how to move his legs to ‘walk’ with assistance. Up until this week, we’d taken him to daycare with a slew of food options, a recent addition of full water cup, and all the bibs you can ask for. Then we were reminded Monday that Ohioans require every child who is able to pull themselves up onto their own two feet to wear shoes. Not simply have access to shoes, for safety and protection from uneven or shoddy surfaces, but to wear those shoes since they are starting to walk. As a fellow Ohioan, I didn’t know we had chosen to disregard research (excerpted here by Sanford Health) that discourages the use of shoes on children until they are “really running around,” or reach age 2 (according to other citations of similar data). The reason for restricting shoe use is to enable “natural foot movement” and allow the child maximum feedback through bare feet (or socks if necessary) through which they are more likely to learn how to walk properly and safely. Wearing shoes, in fact, can stunt a child’s progression toward bipedalism–what has been a hallmark of humanity’s construction for…well…a really long time.
But I get it. You don’t know what kind of parent I am and I don’t know what kind of parent you are. But I also know I have no right to know what kind of parent you are, nor do I have the right to tell you how to parent your kids. Even if I vehemently disagree with everything you do. The best I can do as a father is to be the best father I can be for my two children; and I know, even saying that is subjective. So imagine my confusion when told we were required to provide shoes for Isaac so he could crawl around an indoor surface covered by foam play tiles. Not because his teachers and caregivers were concerned for his safety but because the regulator was performing an audit of the daycare the next day. Virtually. To be clear, an auditor responsible to “certify” a daycare’s safety and operability would be conducting his/her vital checks by asking one of the teachers to walk a laptop around the building so the auditor can see into each room through the webcam. I suppose I can appreciate how important children’s safety is to the State and to you each one of you and me, if our auditors won’t even visit in-person to see if the daycare is doing everything it’s been told to do.
In any case, I felt obliged to provide this update to everyone in Ohio who has asked for this mandate and wants to ensure all our children are properly protected and cared for. We have since become much better about putting Isaac’s shoes on before we leave the house for daycare. By the time I’ve parked the car and our older son is out of the car, I reach Isaac’s side to find at least one (if not both) shoe off and somewhere lazing in the backseat. My heart skips a beat or two but I remember, since he’s in a car seat made of styrofoam but rated for 360-degree collision protection, that his seatbelt harness likely will keep his feet safe until I’ve set him down on a hard surface. I drop the shoes into his bag and carry him into the infant play room, at which point one of the teachers takes him and I am quick to point out his shoes are at the ready in his bag, alongside his bottles (because he’s a baby) and other food items (carefully cut because he doesn’t have all of his baby teeth yet). I then thank God I have my own shoes on so I can walk out of the infant play room and off their foam floor with confidence. My older son heads into his room and I’m out the door and heading to the gym and work, still thinking about the scolding I received about something else your Child Care Manual mandates that I never knew about: how much fruit to provide in a toddler’s lunch.
I was excited to provide you this update but am sorry I don’t have more information for you on the fruit situation. Our oldest eats an average of one banana, one apple, 8oz of berries, and half a vineyard’s worth of grapes daily. I’ve yet to reconcile that with the fact that the turkey sandwich, avocado, and smoked gouda blocks we provided for lunch was deemed unhealthy and a violation. We will do better for you, Ohio.