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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.