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Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, for My Day Care Tells Me So

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Kavya was 7 months old when we reluctantly put her into day care. We struggled with the idea of letting someone else be in charge of our little baby, of decoding her cries, of making sure her little fingers and toes were warm enough. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly.

There are about four day cares within walking distance of our apartment, all of which we visited, including the one that lost a toddler during a field trip to New York City. “Not a big deal,” I confidently told my wife, as though these things were perfectly normal. It was also quite dirty and the teachers seemed pretty uninterested in what they were doing. Most of the ones we visited were really nice, but way out of our budget. Except for one just down the street: the Christian day care.

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My wife and I breathed a sigh of relief when we met Ms. Adele, who would be Kavya’s teacher. She was in her late 20s and had a bubbly personality, and we’d seen her lay down the law when we observed part of her class. But what made us feel comfortable with her and the school was something that would probably elicit the opposite reaction from most parents: her arms were decorated in colorful tattoos, none of which were biblical. This, to us, was strangely a symbol of normalcy. Perhaps we’ve taken one too many trips across the river in downtown Manhattan.

The first year or two, things at the day care went pretty smoothly. But in the past year, Kavya’s started talking about Jesus a fair bit, and belts out the song, “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so!” at the most random of occasions. Over breakfast. In grandpa’s car. Out on the street. In the middle of shopping. It really makes no difference to her. Sometimes it’s awkward, yet amusing that she belts it out when my father—who wears a turban—has her hoisted on his shoulders. Once, she got furious when I torpedoed my face into my food. She insisted we say grace first.

Since the Jesus sing-alongs started, I’ve gone out of my way to take Kavya to the Sikh gurdwara for religious service.

It surprises people when they find out that, with all the options available, we chose to send our daughter to a Christian day care, considering neither of us is outwardly observant of the religions we were raised in. All this Jesus talk has elicited an odd reaction from me. Since the Jesus sing-alongs started, I’ve gone out of my way to take Kavya to the Sikh gurdwara for religious service on Sundays, into the city for the Vaisakhi Parade, and once she and I even attempted to make the staple of Indian cuisine: the allegedly simple dal and roti. It did not go well. We ended up ordering Korean tacos from down the street instead.

I’d always assumed the grandparents could be relied on to teach Kavya the language, culture, and religion we grew up with. Turns out this is only a tiny bit true. They’ll take her to a religious service occasionally, but most of the time, they speak to Kavya completely in English. I Guess it’s just something we’ll have to work harder on.

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Still, I love that her day care has exposed her to so many different people of all backgrounds and that, living near New York City, we can take her to all sorts of cultural festivals. It’s because we live in Jersey City that she’s just picked up some Spanish here and there, presumably from her classmates and teachers. We’ll even sign her up for the dual language track when she officially starts preschool next year. But for now, the amalgam works just fine.

One of our morning rituals is to walk down the stairs and practice our numbers. Kavya likes to use a mix of Punjabi, English and her version of Spanish, which goes from uno to tuatro (yes, with a t), and includes the number abuela. Don’t try to argue that abuela is not a number. She’ll fight you—and win every time—if you try to debate semantics with her.

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