The expectation of the arrival of a child has made me think more closely about the future. Things have to be planned more carefully, and I am less keen to rely simply on problem-solving alone to keep things together. Something that Eva and I have started to discuss is childcare. We are quite sure that we are going to be very fond of the (not so) short one when he rocks up, but there is clearly going to come a time when he will benefit from social interaction more than just being at home, and when Eva is going to want to do something other than childcare every day.

In fact, participating in daycare may become as convenient for us as it is healthy for the child. The semi-nomadic experience of a scientist is a bit different to jobs with that rose-tinted, but ultimately alien, concept of a 40 hour week. (The latter is ultimate proof that trades unions and academics are not as one). It is reassuring then, that organisers of some larger scientific conferences make the effort to arrange childcare such that scientist-parents can still attend. However, a single sentence has managed to put me right off it.

“Bring your family to [city] during the [conference] and let KiddieCorp childcare services watch your children while you attend the scientific sessions.”

I could go at this in any number of petulant ways. Most of those will not make nice reading as they will just be American bashing. What is not on that list includes an analysis of the verb they use. ‘Watch’. This suggests partly that they have failed to read the news over the last ten or twenty years, as the days when adults could acceptably watch children are (thankfully) over. I accept that this may be me being a bit obtuse–perhaps Americans attach a different meaning to that word, and not one that has much to do with paedophilia. What is more likely is that it is more a transparent, and quite cheap, attempt to avoid litigation. I find it difficult to trust someone who is running scared of being sued.

There is a political point as well. That centres on the name, KiddieCorp. This makes me think that it might be a corporation run by children. If I am right, I am interested to know what might happen if they have any power or influence. I think a bit more wearing of clothes with cartoon characters on them and playing peekaboo might be just what the world of big business needs.

Sadly, I think it is less ambitious–I think they probably just liked the alliterative sound of it. Either way, I am a bit saddened that ‘kiddie’ is a word they chose to use. It’s a softening or diminutive form of ‘kid’, a word itself that has been used to refer to a child for a while now, but is still clearly borrowed from the name given to young goats. Whilst many children exhibit a good many of the characteristics of a juvenile ruminant–smaller than the adult and eats ‘handsfree’–I must confess to being a bit pinched that mine might be referred to in this way.

I appreciate that I am being soft and silly, and I may well change my opinion when I have cleaned rice pudding off the ceiling for the umpteenth time. I do want my off-spring to have table manners that are at least marginally better than to eat with their face, and I concede that the process that achieves that will require some patience on my part. But I do not want to put him in the same bracket as a farm animal.