ow do you thank someone for seven years of peace of mind?
How do you thank someone for seven years of mental health preservation?
How do you thank someone for seven years of silently shadowing you as a parent, changing diapers alongside, persevering through toilet training, through the Terrible Twos and Even Worse Threes, “watching me!” down the slide a thousand times, admiring hundreds of pages of scribbles, soothing scraped knees and bruised feelings, nurturing and hugging and kissing and finally, letting go?
Today, I’m going to try.
Seven years ago, I arrived on Alison Burns’ doorstep to visit her family child care with my one-year-old son. But she wasn’t there.
I waited. I called. I waited some more. She was a no-show. Fretting, I went home. My new job required more child care hours than our current provider had available. I had visited one other home — let’s call it Home B — but gone away unimpressed. Ali came with good references. Still, if she couldn’t keep an appointment, how reliable was she?
Later, she called, apologizing profusely. She had taken her charges out — to the library or a park, I
forget which — and lost track of time. We rescheduled.
The second try went well. She was warm and kind, meeting my subjective and ambiguous criteria. She obviously got the kids outside, the second criteria. But she didn’t have enough available days to cover our needs. She could do two, and our current provider one. Home B, meanwhile, could offer all three days. Plus, it was much closer to both home and my job.
I usually make decisions with my head, and Home B was a no-brainer. But for once, thank God, I went with my heart and picked Ali. Her home is happy, loving, enriching, child-centered (literally, the main activity room occupying the middle of the house) heaven for children and haven for parents. It has been such a gift to feel supreme confidence about where my children have spent so many days, and with whom. Recalling my initial months of motherhood sans childcare, I also have no doubt that the respite has been a crucial part of my mental health these last seven years. She also provides so much that wasn’t on my list of criteria:
- She thanks each child for coming to play at her house, making them feel individually valued and important. Celebrating each child’s birthday reinforces this, too.
- She takes the kids into the community, from story time at the library to a plot in the Children’s Garden to playgroup excursions on BATA to a local baby pantry. (All this is good for the community, too; to see kids out and about, and the importance of good child care.)
- She organizes extracurricular activities, from Christmas parties to sledding parties to a Beach Bums game, so families can get to know each other.
- Though she doesn’t need it after nearly 20 years OTJ experience, recently she obtained her professional child care certification through NMC.
Today, we wrap up our career at Ali’s. Our son graduated in 2010. Now it’s our daughter who is starting
kindergarten next week. We’ll hope to go back next summer, but today is the last day Audrey will dart up to Ali’s doorstep for quite a while. Which, combined with the hug she always has ready for Ali, confirms daily the wisdom of that decision back in 2006.
“Thank you” is utterly inadequate to this occasion. I can’t bring myself to say goodbye, and I know we’ll see each other around town, anyway. So aloha, the Hawaiian greeting and farewell, it is.
And to the family of the child taking Audrey’s slot, you lucky, lucky ducks.