In the five months since my 16 month old twins began daycare, my thinking about its value and role in our lives has transformed in a wonderful and very surprising way.
In the beginning, I saw daycare as a necessary “evil,” a costly and inadequate substitute for parenting that we were forced to endure due to financial realities. I imagined my children feeling afraid and abandoned there. I feared no one was paying proper attention to their runny noses and diaper rash the way we had lovingly done for the first year of their lives. I worried that they felt betrayed when we left them in the morning and that our attachment would be damaged by this out-of-home child care that we had no option to avoid when I went back to full-time day work.
After spectacular experiences at 2 different daycare centers (we moved to be closer to our jobs and had to change daycare), I find myself both humbled and profoundly grateful for what daycare has given my children and our family. The caring attention, kindness, genuine love, creativity and nurturing provided to the twins’ by their teachers in both settings has far surpassed what I anticipated and has given them things that we haven’t or can’t. I have been mulling over writing this post for a long time because I want to share this experience with other parents and to say “thank you” out loud in a public forum to our wonderful providers. Every time I have drafted this post in my head, it came out as a letter, some combination of thank you letter and love letter. So here it is:
Dear A., H., and K. of New Beginnings Too in Danville VT and T. and the team at Turtle Island Child Center in Montpelier VT,
Thank you so very much for caring for C. and B. in a patient, loving and authentic way. I see it in your interactions with them every single day. Thank you for hugging them so frequently, and for letting them build a sense of safety and security in your arms. Thank you for every minute you have spent holding and rocking them when they are unsettled or sick. I know how tired your arms can get on those days when they just need to be held, and I am grateful for the generous, loving heart that moves you to rock them for so long when we are not there to do so.
Thank you for helping our children find a voice and come out into the world with their language. Thank you for every page of every book you have read and re-read. Thank you for naming off colors and animals and body parts with the same enthusiasm and diligence we muster at home. Thank you for teaching them the sign for “all done,” it was the first thing B. ever directly said to me with her sweet, spastic little jazz hands. Thank you for clapping and saying “yes, that’s right!” with a huge smile to let them know you are proud when they say something. Thank you for taking and keeping the binky out of C.’s mouth so he can express himself more and catch up a bit to his very verbal sister.
Thank you for being so creative and opening doors into the world of art and music. Thank you for the dance parties and jam sessions and for singing repetitive and silly songs that make them smile and do their clunky, jerky, joyful toddler dancing. Thank you for making art with them, even though it’s messy and sometimes anti-climactic. Thank you for painting their hands and feet and making wreaths and reindeer and snowmen over the holidays. Thank you for giving them stickers and feathers and googly eyes and construction paper bird beaks and letting them stick them on in all the wrong places. Thank you for making sure they come home with clean faces but pink and purple fingers and toes.
Thank you for schlepping my children outside in the snow and cold of this incessant winter to play, even before they could walk. Thank you for letting them get dirty and wet and crusty and gooey and for all the countless squirmy, whiney wardrobe changes. Thank you for making sure they are getting to be kids even if it means stained shirts or wet socks. Thank you for giving us the relief of knowing they played hard and had fun when we pick them up at the end of the day.
Lastly, thank you for opening your hearts to our kids. I see your genuine love for them in all the countless small things you do that we do too: fret over fevers, bring in special toys, delight in each new milestone. We and all the other parents with little ones in your care are extraordinarily fortunate to have you in our lives. You are making a world of difference with what you do.