Oh, what a spectacular day it was today! Sky a clear, pale blue, interrupted only occasionally by the wispiest of brilliant white clouds. Temperatures a balmy twenty degrees. All the leaves are out on the trees, the grass is green, dandelions abound, and baby ducks bob in peeping clusters after their mothers on the river.
Where else would we go but to the park on a day such as this? Well, actually, we might go to Tim Horton’s. Somehow Thomas had decided that this might be a potential destination of our outing today, so when asked whether we should go to the park this morning, he answered “No.” I was shocked! Here I was, thinking I was asking an entirely rhetorical question, and I’m completely blind-sided by a two-year-old. This particular two-year-old, you must understand, loves going to the park. He never wants to go anywhere but. Ask him one bitter, minus-30 January day what he wants to do, and he’ll want to go to the park, never mind that it’s buried under a metre of snow…
But today he wants to go to Tim Horton’s, aka “The Doughnut Store”. (For my non-Canadian readers, Tim Horton’s is a country-wide chain of coffee and doughnut stores, named for its hockey player originator. It’s hugely popular in rural Canada, and holds its own well in most urban centres, despite urban competition from more upscale joints with their high-falutin’ cappucinos, lattes and suchlike.) Well, it may have come as a surprise, but we can walk along the river almost the whole way there, get some sun, watch the ducks, romp along the path. It’s not such a silly notion. And besides, I’d like a coffee, now that he suggests it!
It takes us a solid forty-five minutes to walk the kilometre or so to the place. We run in the fields, we pick dandelions, we find glittering bits of quartz that must be pocketed. We dance on the stumps by the river, sneak up on a couple of sun-bathing ducks, pet a dog or two. We find a puddle that must be stomped in, a bridge to peek under, some pigeons to startle into flight.
When we approach the “busy street” upon which the store is located, Zach goes into the stroller, with Thomas and Darcy in their usual outrigger roles. All this in the interests of safety, of course.
The shop has two entry doors, set at right angles to each other. You walk alongside the store to the first door, then immediately turn to your left to enter the shop. This is far more trouble than it might appear from the description. I need one hand to steer the stroller, another to hold the door open for us. With slightly older/heavier children, I could set one to act as door stopper, leaning their bottom against the glass of the door while we pass. But these guys are too light for that, and are merely swept inexorably forward as the door shuts upon them. So, having opened the door with my one hand, I prop it open with my own bottom, and manoeuvre the stroller round the 90 degree corner in front of me.
Remember that the two older boys are still hanging on. Inevitably one ends up compressed between the stroller and the wall, or the stroller and my legs, such that he cannot pass – not if he stills hangs on to the stroller, and obedient little tykes that they are, they rarely let go unless told. So while trying to push the stroller forward, it is being held back on one side by a stuck child, and now it’s not going forward, it’s going into the wall, and now the other child is being run over, and I have to dislodge their hands from the stroller, and I can’t get ahead of it because that would mean moving my bum and having the door shut on us, and…
You see the difficulty. I’m anticipating my coffee, well-earned by now!
However, we do successfully, if awkwardly, achieve the inside of the shop. I order my coffee (large decaf, two cream, no sugar), and a small box of Timbits. (“Timbits”, called by Americans “donut holes”, are round doughnut balls, a couple of cm in diameter.) Now, I’ve always simply asked for half plain and half chocolate, but this morning I can’t remember why I do that, and so let the nice lady give us an assortment of all their flavours.
We sit down. I savour my first sip of coffee. Once they dive in to their treat, I am given three graphic demonstrations of why I never, ever order jam-filled timbits. We will definitely have to make a trip to the bathroom before we leave! Jam-sticky hands and faces collect icing sugar, grit and grass bits appear from nowhere and attach themselves to necks and arms. They’re adorable, and they’re filthy. Ah, well. Let me just finish my coffee, then we’ll clean them up. One more luscious sip. And then Zach, sitting happily on my knee, sneezes. Of course his mouth was full when he did this. Of course. Bit of jam-filled soggy timbit chunks spatter all over my arm. All right, boys, we’re hitting the bathroom now.
More double-door manoeuvring, because of course the doors to the toilets are set up in the same was as the entry doors! Thankfully, some nice man holds the door for us. Altruism, or merely his own need to get to the men’s? I didn’t ask, because truthfully, I didn’t care!
We wash up. We have our pees. We head out. I make sure Darcy and Thomas have their shiny rocks, and Zach his “ah-poon”(airplane) from the counter by the sink. We navigate through the double doors to the store, and then through the other double doors to the sidewalk. Phew. It’s not till I’m settling each of their matching hats on their little heads that I realize the awful truth: I’ve left my coffee in the bathroom!
Some things were just not meant to be.
A certain affluent neighbourhood in my city has a garage sale every May, a percentage of the proceeds from all participating homes going to the local Food Bank. While strolling and idly scanning the good on offer, I happened across a high chair. Nothing unusual in that, of course. I get a lot of good daycare supplies from this particular sale. Lots of “comfortable”, indulgent mommies and daddies with only one precious child mean lots of good quality, lightly used toys and supplies, at very good prices.
This high chair, however, was in a class of its own. The child who sat in it is obviously intended to Achieve Great Things. Sumptuously padded, upholstered in black leather, it was the chair of a mini Chairman of the Board. Senior Partner, at the very least. Originally $300, yours for only $150!!
Could your little one make the grade?
Darcy stumbles during our walk. We pick him up, dust him off, offer a hug and comfort. “Do you have a bo-bo?” I ask.
(For me, growing up in central Ontario, this would’ve been a “boo-boo” at his age. Here, in francophone influenced Eastern Ontario, it’s a “bo-bo”. Long “oh”.)
“Yes. I got a bo-bo”, and he pulls up the leg of his pants to display his scraped-up knee. Scraped up, yes, but two or three days ago, I’d say. I guess I didn’t tell him the bo-bo had to be fresh.
George is driving a small ride-on car down the sidewalk. Suddenly he stops, says to Thomas:
“Oh. I have to go back – I forgot my keys!”
Upon entering the house from the brilliantly sunny outdoors, George exclaims on the dimness of the living room. I explain this is because it is so bright outside; our eyes are used to the sunshine, and so the inside seems very dark. In fact it’s not, and in a minute or two our eyes will get used to the light in the house, and we’ll be able to see just fine.
“Just like the swimming pool,” he observes.
I’m not quite sure what he means, though I know he swims at a local indoor pool each week. “Is it dark at the pool?” I’ve missed the direction of his thought, which becomes apparent when he clarifies.
Do you catch what’s just been expressed? Read it over again, remembering this lad is only three, and be thoroughly impressed. I certainly was!
George is making a parallel comparison: Just as the livingroom seems dim until your eyes adjust, so the pool seems cold until your body adjusts. This is very sophisticated thinking for a three year old. As if that weren’t enough, there’s more! He is taking two quite discrete physical experiences and is distilling an abstract concept from them. Abstract thinking in a three year old. Amazing. An abstract concept which he can then apply to either of those, or perhaps to still another experience at some other time.
Wow. I have a toddler genius on my hands! Way to go, George!
I took a half-day off this morning to see my lawyer. “Officially” it was a doctor visit, not so that I can take it as a sick day, because I am allowed a certain number of discretionary days per year, but simply for my own right to privacy. A small child support matter, dealt with effectively by my wondrously kind and supportive lawyer. She has yet to charge me for a consultation; when I offered to pay her today, she waved the notion aside, saying it’s a pleasure to deal with someone so nice, and reasonable. She’s very kind: she knows my income! I understand through a friend of mine, whose father is a judge, that she’s a killer lawyer in court, if I ever need that. Fervently hoping I never do, but nice to know just the same!
The consultation took half an hour. I had three hours to kill, so I walked home instead of taking the bus, a lovely 45 minute meander along the canal. The trees are fully green, the tulips are resplendent everywhere, and the sky was a perfect, uninterrupted blue from horizon to horizon. Amazing!
The tots will be arriving shortly, and I am refreshed and eager to see them. Solitude and nature: so restorative!
Walking home from the library, a routine and normally uneventful stroll. Thomas is holding onto the left side of Mia’s stroller, Darcy on the right. Suddenly musical Thomas bursts into song. Every line Thomas sings is echoed by Darcy:
“I wuv Georgie!” carols Thomas.
“I love Georgie,” echoes Darcy.
“He’s my best boy.”
“He’s my best boy.”
“Best in the world.”
“Best in the world.”
“I miss Georgie.”
“I miss Georgie.”
“Best boy inna world.”
A paean! And antiphonal, to boot! Talk about Culture.
Holiday Monday. I am a happy woman. My kids are with their dad, my daycare tots are with their parents, and my husband has just departed to return his children to their mother. Phew!
It’s a lovely, lovely day.
Grey skies, light drizzle for the past 48 hours, a mere 9 degrees.
(Which is…multiply by 9 over 5…ah…add 32…52 degrees farenheit? Oh, nuts to that… That small percentage of the world which doesn’t understand celcius can do their own conversions from here on in!)
As I was saying before I interrupted myself: grey skies, endless drizzle, and chilly, makes for a lovely, lovely day, because I AM ON MY OWN!!!!
Off I go now to read a book. And I will lounge on the couch, taking up All The Seats, because I don’t have to share — for at least two hours!
Happy, happy me.
This is my philosophy of childcare, mission statement if you will, and is included as an appendix in my contract.
Philosophy of Childcare
I love caring for children. Small children are full of life, boundless in their energy, in their desire to learn, endearing in their innocence. They challenge me, they make me think, and most of all, they make me laugh. I take great satisfaction in being part of the village that raises a child. I am an unapologetic optimist.
I believe that:
Each interaction with a child is an opportunity. A conflict is an opportunity to teach negotiation and listening. An injury to another child is an opportunity to practice empathy. Mealtimes are an opportunity for conversation and manners. Strengths are to be built upon; weaknesses are to be learned from, and grown beyond.
Children live up – or down – to our expectations of them Therefore I keep my expectations high. Not so high that child is frustrated and retreats into sullenness or despair; but just high enough that the child can take genuine pleasure in his/her achievements.
Every person, regardless of age, deserves to be treated with respect. As I treat the children respectfully, I also expect respect from them. Each of us has unique strength and particular needs. Each child will have something to offer the group in my home. Each of us has something to gain from the company of others.
Young children thrive in a stable, predictable environment. So, while I strive to remain flexible to each one’s varying needs each day, our days will follow a consistent pattern. The particulars may change, but the pattern remains reliable.
I am part of the team that works to see this child develop happily and fully. I view myself as an experienced, expert resource to the parents, however, I am not the child’s primary caregiver. Whenever possible, parent and child need time together to be building that relationship. The parents are their child’s most important relationship.
Raising a child is probably the single most challenging enterprise most adults ever take on. At times it can be joyful and exhilarating; at times it can be positively unnerving! At all times it is incredibly significant, valuable, and worth while. Bon voyage!
I have a space opening up shortly, and have thus been seeking replacements. I’ve had several calls, some more probing and promising than others, but nothing beyond that until last week, when I set up an interview with a woman who is seeking care for her three-year-old son. I liked the sound of her on the phone; we agreed to meet.
Now, when parents come for an interview, they know their agenda. They want to make sure I am capable of providing safe, stimulating, and loving care to their babe. They also want to get a “feel” for me, see if my parenting style is comparable to their own. They think they know my agenda, and so they provide me with lots and lots of information about their baby.
In fact, they’re wrong. At this point, I am only secondarily interested in their baby. A shocking thought for Earnest Parents. I have been caring for kids, as a parent, an elementary school teacher, and now a daycare provider, for the better part of twenty years. The baby doesn’t worry me: There are very few babies I can’t manage. The parents, however, are another matter altogether. Much harder to train!!
A parent can quite successfully make my life a misery. Their child might try bytimes, but without success: we always manage to come to a meeting of minds – or wills, as the case may be!
This mother decided to bring her son with her. This is generally a dreadful idea for the first interview, particularly with a toddler. Mom is distracted, the child is disruptive, and the interview takes half again as long as it should. I am exasperated, because I am quite helpless. As long as a parent is there, they are the authority, and I won’t intrude upon that: it would be unspeakably rude; besides, it would be completely ineffective and thus self-defeating. So I paste my Mary Poppins patient and gentle smile on my face, and wait for them to sort it out.
In this case, though, the child was a delight. A favourable impression is being made.
Here’s what I saw that I liked:
-she arrived on time;
-her son was well-behaved;
-she was in control of the child;
-she was polite;
-she has a sense of humour, even about her child; (meaning, she is not an Earnest Mommy!)
-she didn’t quibble about my fees;
-she acknowledged my professionalism;
-thus, she didn’t quibble about my professional perks (paid holiday, stats, sick days);
-she discussed the issues intelligently;
-she asked sensible questions;
-she smiled and made eye contact;
-she responded to my questions sensibly;
-she was soft-spoken.
So, all went well. When she returned a few days later, it was to introduce her husband to me and sign the contract.
The only downside? Well, Mary Poppins I may be, but Martha Stewart I ain’t. This place sees half a dozen and more children every single day, and I have neither the inclination nor the energy to maintain Better Homes and Garden standards. (Housework with children around, says a quote in a journal I was once given, is like putting beads on a string with no knot at the end.) However, I did give the bathroom a quick scouring, just in case, and Mom did make a quick trip there part way though. After they left, I was mortified to see that the damned cat had been up there after my scrubbing, and had left muddy pawprints all over the sink!
And still they agreed to sign on. Not fastidious: yet another point in their favour!