Friday, June 20, 2014

It's Been a While

This blog has been all but abandoned for almost five years! Well, a lot has changed since then.

I went to school for a year to enhance my bookkeeping skills, I worked in a bookkeeping job that wasn't quite the right fit for my life and expectations at that time for the next year, then I worked in the school system for a year before I returned to my 'home'. I reopened my daycare in September, 2012. I haven't looked back.This is where I am meant to be right now.

I devote most of my after-daycare-hours writing to a private blog for my daycare families. I work with some amazing parents who look forward to looking at their child's day through my camera and the little stories and descriptions about our day, so I am pretty faithful with a daily post there. And that is where the majority of my current daycare musings (and energy) go at the end of my day.

But I have forgotten neglected this spot here and I have evolved and grown with each day in my Daycare 2.0. I have gained a renewed insight and I will (try to) remember to come back to this spot to reinforce what I keep learning as I go along.

This one is quick, but I will be back

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Savoring the Moments

In this last month of running my full-time daycare, the lessons that I should have learned long ago are rising to the surface.

Simply put, I have been living my days in the moment.

I will decide what we are having for lunch and snack on the spot. At one time, that was a 'Friday job'. I would sit down and write out the lunch, snack and supper menus for the following week so that I would have the groceries on hand and wouldn't have to waste the energy deciding that in the midst of a chaotic day. Choosing menus based on what I do have in the house and the appetites of the kids on hand feels ... easy.

The house is a lot more chaotic than it used to be. I used to have the kids clean up the excessive toys at regular intervals throughout the day or if it simply felt too chaotic. Now ... we still clean up before rest time and home time. But more often than not, I'll keep that job as something to divert their attention. If there is too much arguing, nit picking or boredom ... I'll suggest that they clean up. The action of doing something productive usually negates the behaviour that's driving me crazy at the moment.

'First days/weeks/months' were always an exhausting time for me. I would set the bar high and not alter it. I wouldn't waiver from the 'expected behaviour' from the beginning. Which, is probably a good thing. I don't agree with wishy washy expectations. What is okay one day, should be okay the next. What is wrong one day, is wrong the next. I still believe in that. But ... I had an 8 month old baby here for his first and last day yesterday. In my old world of looking at the 'foreverness' of that relationship, I would obsess about new routines, how it would affect where everyone would eat and who still needed assistance during lunch. One more person to find a 'spot' for, at nap time. How will it affect our ability to get outside? Will we ever be able to leave the yard again? I would look at that baby and not see the child. I would see how this extra little person would affect life-as-we-knew-it ... and I stressed.

Yesterday, I tended this baby and it was a wonderful day. I thought 'It's just for one day' ... and I relaxed. A person should always take life a day at a time. But when running a daycare was my life, I didn't. I looked at the big picture and forgot to savor the moments.

Will all parents ever remember to tell a daycare provider when their schedule changes? I'll never know. But it happened again. Instead of being irritated at the consistency of this inconsistent behaviour (and a little bit rude), I just thought ... I should have expected this. And I'm glad that I won't be facing this on an ongoing basis in my new daycare world (less families, less chances of it occurring ... but chances are, it will happen again). It was nice to think that this is something that will be happening on a less frequent basis.

Kids are still kids. And recurring behaviours and the need for my assistance will forever be my life as long as I have kids. I still have to be vigilant about keeping expectations consistent. But when one of those behaviours is that of the under 4 year old set, I am pleasantly relieved to know that my school aged crowd will most likely not be sucking on toys, know how to wipe their own noses and not need assistance in the bathroom. As I count down the days to the lessened load of my new before and after school crowd, I am smiling inside ... just knowing that I won't be changing diapers and wiping noses forever.

I am calmer. I'm living in the moment. And when you are surrounded in a life full of children, that is exactly where you should be.

Easier said than done.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The End of an Era

As I am 'wrapping up' my full time daycare career and looking towards a new future (going back to school with only my before and after school kids continuing to come here), I have had many conflicting thoughts.

My first thought (as I gave my parents a month notice to let them know I would be returning to school) was as a parent. I know what it is like to be a parent who is faced with the unenjoyable task of finding and feeling comfortable with a new daycare provider.

My oldest son had 7 different daycare providers. 4 or 5 of them quit on me, I 'quit' on 2 of them. I remember well, that sinking feeling in the bottom of my stomach whenever a daycare provider pulled the rug out from under me. We were very fortunate that only one of the above 7 situations, was less than ideal. I trusted my instincts when I met the moms that were willing to take on the responsibility of looking after my son. And my instincts served me well.

My second son only had 2 different daycare providers. One of them quit suddenly (giving me a few weeks notice) and the other one took care of him until he no longer required daycare. I remember the interview with the last daycare provider I ever needed. "Are you planning on quitting any time in the near future?" and "If you do, how much notice will you give me?"

When you work outside the home, it is imperative to know that your children are safe and happy. If you know this, you can concentrate on work when you are at work ... and home when you are at home. It gives your worries some boundaries. How can you put in your best day at work, if you are not at peace with who is tending your children?

I remember the feelings well.

I felt like a schmuck, as I gave my notice to my parents. I gave them as much notice as I had (for certain ... even though I've been tossing around many different thoughts and ideas in my mind for the year and a half that preceded this decision). I was letting them down.

Secondly ... is the kids.

I have had so many overwhelmed, frustrated, annoying and un-Mary-Poppins-like moments this past while ... that I thought that I would actually be happy to be putting this part of my daycare career behind me. That has not been the case.

As I returned to work after an 18 day absence from the kids (on my first morning back), I sat back and marvelled at the way they all walked in and carried on as if they hadn't missed a beat. They went through their early morning paces in the way that our cat makes his familiar 'rounds' around the house after he's been out on the prowl. They checked things out, found their friends/toys/routines all in place and some almost forgot to say good-bye to their parents. They are comfortable here.

As I've watched them at play, I marvel at the family-connection that they have among themselves. Sure, there is arguing (what siblings don't argue?) ... life is not all a bed of roses ... but for the most part, they are friends. Despite their age differences and varied personalities, they know each other. They know their differences and similarities and accept them. They are 'family'.

The kids all settle into a comfortable routine after they have been here for a while. We do a variation of the same thing day after day. Lunch is served at the same time ... soon followed by rest/quiet time ... snack time ... and soon after that, the parents start to arrive. We toss in our outings, free play, outside time into the mix. But all in all, the kids know the flow of the day. There are some parts they enjoy more than others ... but we have routines and they know what to expect.

I have been looking at myself a lot lately. I have been short tempered, frustrated, distracted and simply not a warm and fuzzy kind of person to be around. But for the most part, I am 'okay'. I think the kids are all treated equally. The rules and expectations are the same for all. As much as they may hate me for being so strict, they know what applies to one ... applies to all. I think that somewhere deep inside, they respect that.

I look at their smiling faces and the rapport they have with each other and it does my heart good. Even though the older kids may not appreciate the younger crowd at times ... as I sit and watch the kids play, no one is left out. Some may choose to come and go ... disappear for a while and watch a movie or play on their own. But no one is brutally excluded or picked on. They are kind to each other (most of the time, anyway).

I feel like I'm breaking up a family. As with any 'divorce', there are many reasons behind the tough decision that we are better off apart. I know the kids deserve some one who loves their role as care giver. I don't feel like I am the best person for that job. I'm tiring of the many demands of many young children that divide my time, attention and patience in so many directions that I lose my temper too easily. I've been changing diapers and wiping noses for 11 1/2 years. I'm ready to diversify my life.

I thought it would be easier than this. I thought that I would be celebrating my decision to head my life into a calmer, more adult-oriented world. I know that I have made the right decision ... but in my final days of my kid-world ... I also know that this has been the right world for me for the (almost) 11 years that I have lived it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A New Direction

I have truly been struggling with my 'career' as a daycare provider for the last long while. I would get through a rough patch with a new perspective on things ... but the knowledge that I was burning out was buried deep within myself. I knew that I was losing the battle.

I have always maintained an inner motto of believing that I must act in the best interests of the children. I've had some rough spots along the way and for the most part, I could learn from the bad days and carry on with a smile. There is always a lesson to be taken away from every encounter - good or bad. And I have learned a lot.

Focusing on the positive has always been my way of getting through the rough patches in life. I started this blog to write about positive things. When I felt myself wavering with the negativity, I started a private blog for my daycare family. Between listening for morsels of conversations among the kids, to write about; making movies and snapping pictures ... it worked. I was excited, my parents enjoyed it. It worked well.

It was during my recovery period after my surgery last fall that I knew the direction that I wanted to take with my daycare. I hoped to decrease my daycare load and start doing book keeping out of my home. The first phone call I received after I made that inner decision, was to keep another child before and after school. I was thrilled that this fit right into my plan. 'The world' was accommodating me.

It was quite an adjustment to take back my '3 year olds and under' after my 6 week recovery period. I had grown to like the daycare provider that I was, when I was tending the older children. Younger ones have a way of dividing your attention in far too many directions. Between diapers, naps, runny noses, toilet training and the ever changing needs of this age ... it takes a fair amount of organizational skills to incorporate all ages into a day. It was not a fun period.

Christmas was soon upon us and I wrote up my annual yearbook for the kids. Looking back on the movies I had made of the kids was the turning point. There is nothing like a 2 minute recap of a 10 1/2 hour day, with smiling faces and cute antics to turn a frown into a smile. I wrote up our Christmas yearbook and felt revived. Yes! I could do this. I was lucky to have such a job.

Then ... an endless winter turned into an endless spring ... and summer brought a less than ideal set of personalities together to spend an endless summer holiday. Things were going from bad to worse. The refrain "I want my mom to get a new babysitter" still rings through my mind when I think of this summer.

We started going for 'weekly adventures' and made the most of the days. I made movies and wrote about the days. But the blog entries were losing their lustre. The kids weren't as happy and I definitely wasn't as happy.

I started phoning around and checking into educational opportunities the middle of June. I checked enough to talk myself out of it. Until ... my holidays were on the horizon and I got encouragement from a friend and a school that I had happened to be in contact with in June, contacted me days before my holiday was to begin.

I knew at the onset of my 2 week vacation, that I must make a firm decision one way or the other within that time frame. Either go back to my pre-daycare employment or go back to school or give it my all and be 'the best daycare provider I could be'.

Long story short, I found a school that will allow me the flexibility to continue to take care of my before and after school crowd. So I will be able to keep my foot in the daycare world as I venture out and go back to school.

I have talked myself through so many of the low points of daycare that I thought this just may be another one of those phases. But I believe the time is right for me to explore new options. I do still want to be available to be here for my own son and for my after-school crowd. But I know that I am not the best I can be, to take care of the more dependent crowd.

It is in the best interests of the children, that I make this decision to take a step out of daycare. I'm not ready to abandon ship ... I like the diversity. I believe that it does a person good, to be surrounded by the optimism and joy of youth. I don't want to lose that.

So in this next 'chapter' of my life, I hope to focus on my education but I still hope to learn from the children that come through my doors. I may be walking away from a full time daycare role, but I hope to regain a better part of myself as I focus on the older crowd.

Let the adventures continue!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Girls Verses Boys

As a mother of 3 boys, I am simply more used to boys. I have a bias - I admit it. But as my daycare days are running at a 5 or 6 girls to 1 or 2 boy ratio, I'm feeling the stress of my inexperience with girls.

I have been on the receiving end of comments putting down 'boys' in general (due to their tendency to be more boisterous and loud). My boys were not your stereotypical 'boys' (at least not to me), so I really resented when someone lumped boys into one category and labelled them.

So it is not my intent to label boys and girls. I've had girls that are loud and boisterous. I've had boys that have high pitched voices and scream.

But on the whole, there is a difference.

There is a pitch of the voices that is quite different. As a person who is sensitive to noise, this higher tone feels like how a dog whistle must feel to a dog. It's hard to ignore. I've had a yard full of boys that have had voices so loud, that I think they could be heard from a block away. I'm almost certain that I could hear one of these boy's voices from my house (one block away from the school) at recess time. That was also an affront to my senses (and my neighbors, I'm sure).

The other noticeable difference is how they deal with their anger and frustration. Mind you, this changes with each sex as they get older too. The younger they are, the more they immediately retaliate or visibly make their anger known. They blow off steam, get it out of their system and carry on as if nothing happened. As they get older, they are more aware of the ramifications of their actions and they may do something sneaky to get back at someone. Or else they will hold onto the anger and not let it go.

Girls have a reputation of playing mind games ... boys have a reputation of duking it out and then not hold any grudges. I've seen examples of both of those qualities - especially as they get older.

In this recent mix of personalities which is very girl-dominant, I am struggling. There have been times when it has been exactly the opposite - the boys outnumber the girls by far. I don't recall having the same trouble coping. The challenges were different ... but there were still challenges.

As I go through the days and have become rather climatized to the girl dominated scene that run our days, I'm getting accustomed to it. But when it boils right down to the one difference that wears me down the most ... it would be the pitch. Boys may be louder but the girls voices are in the dog whistle range to me.

Everyone's tolerance for differing personalities and behaviours is different. I'm very sensitive to noise, so for me it is all in the noise levels.

No scientific findings. But yes ... there is a difference between the 2 sexes. I'm just more accustomed to boys.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Long Summer Days

I can't believe we are only 2 1/2 weeks into the summer holidays. It's been a very long summer so far.

The challenges of keeping 1 1/2 year olds to 7 1/2 year olds entertained are many. When I first started my daycare, my middle son was 12 years old and he had as much fun playing with the kids (and helping to entertain them), as the kids did.

As the years went on, he grew out of that phase but the kids in my care grew up and as each entered the older ages they seemed to take on the playful attitude of creating fun and games for the younger ones. It was a win-win situation. It kept the older kids entertained and the younger ones happy.

Then my youngest son grew up through the years and he took on the 'fun and games' coordinator role. Again ... everyone was happy. This year, he likes to have more and more time to himself or to play with his own friends. I don't begrudge him any of that - he has spent all 11 years of his life sharing his home, his toys and his mom with a house full of kids. If he wants to take a step away from that, it's okay with me.

The problem that I have this year, is that the older crowd wants to be entertained. They don't want to take on the role of creating games which keeps not only the younger ones entertained, but themselves.

'I'm bored' (I want to be entertained) seems to be the theme of the summer. It starts at the top and works its way down. Granted, the age span is expansive and there is a very high girl to boy ratio. So a lot of them are wishing for a 'buddy' their own age, with their own interests. But I believe it is better to be with a group of children of any age or sex, verses being alone. I believe in utilizing your imagination and finding creative ways of making the best of the situation at hand.

I am not the type of parent who coddled and played with my children excessively. My kids learned to entertain themselves right from the start. I didn't neglect them. I didn't fill every moment of the day with adult stimulation either. I don't treat my daycare family any differently than I did, my own children. I provide a safe home, full of a variety of toys and activities. I can see and hear what is going on; we go outside when we can; and to the neighborhood parks as a treat.

The problem with summer, is that even the special outings become ordinary and mundane if you do the same thing every day. The weather, ages & stages of kids and varying schedules prevent us from doing a lot of gallavanting. But in a way, it helps to keep the outings fresh and exciting when we can go. We haven't had a lot (if any) overly hot summer days. So the water games haven't been happening. Mix kids and water and you've got a winning combination. But so far, that has been rather elusive.

As I write this, I have an (almost) 2 year old; a 2 1/2 year old; a 4 year old and a 5 1/2 year old at play. The voices are happy. Contentment is in the air. But it could change in a moment (and it did ... from a whiny, discontent child ... to the change of activities (coloring in the kitchen) ... and the last arrival of the day (a 3 yr old) ... and someone needing help in the bathroom).

The winds of change, needing to adapt and stop on a dime are always in the air. When the kids are happy, I'm happy. When I'm happy, they're happy.

I think people of all ages (from infanthood to adulthood) should have the ability to make the most of a situation they are in. When your imagination and creativity are allowed to flourish, there is very little to be bored about.

Summer shouldn't be a time of kids wondering what they are going to do with their time. It should be spent living every moment, knowing that these months are fleeting and we must make the most of every moment. Even if it means ... creating your own fun.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Attitudes are contagious. Negativity spreads like wild fire when left unchecked. And it's been running rampant in my daycare lately.

In writing out my thoughts yesterday morning, I was dwelling on the negative. It was my fingers that did the talking. When I looked at the words I had just typed, I saw: "As this attitude starts from the top, it has a trickle down effect. So it is with attitudes. Starting with mine. I don't really want to be here either. Maybe I'm the one initiating it??"

I have been listening to a litany of words seeping out of the mouths of the kids. It starts with a whisper, but as the thoughts of the oldest trickle down the line I hear the truth from the younger, more vocal ones: "I'm bored. I want my mom to find a new babysitter."


My immediate response is defensive. I was thinking that it's all (the oldest) his/her fault for starting this attitude. 'Everyone else' knows how to use their imagination, the toys at hand and the kids that are here to make the best of the day. 'No one else' complains. Or ... do they??

I looked at myself and my own attitude. I am frustrated with my 'career', overwhelmed in my life, at a loss as to handle the ages and personalities of the kids I have coming here over the summer and I have been sleep walking through the days. Taking the required steps to do what has to be done. But "I'm bored. I want a new day job." is running through my mind most of the day. And I wonder where the kids get the attitude?? Time to examine the source.

Yesterday was one of those perfect days. All the stars were in alignment so that we could take advantage of a beautiful day outside, the right amount of kids (not too many, not too few) to go on an outing, the right personalities to make an 'adventure' possible, the right schedules that allowed us 3 hours of uninterrupted time where we could leave the house (there can be so much coming and going and variance to my parent's schedules). Plus ... I had the ambition and energy to make the most out of the day.

My attitude was carried down the line. I could hear the difference in my voice and the way the kids reacted to it. The words that were volleyed around the day were fun and uplifting. I was still my usual strict rule enforcer ... but I found new words to state the rules. We set out on an 'adventure' and the only rule was: that they had to be on their best behaviour. Because we could turn around and go home at any time.

There was no bickering about what sidewalk space the other child was taking. There were a few minor bumps and crashes but no crying. Our walk was fairly long, but no one complained. As we set out on our adventure, we all carried the knowledge that it could end at any time. So we made the best of each moment.

As each of the kids were picked up, they couldn't wait to tell their parents about our day. That is the goal I should hope to achieve most (if not all) days. I am surrounded in youth. It's time to lighten up my own attitude and take on some of theirs.

It's time for me to pick up the attitude of wonder and appreciation of the moment from those I find myself surrounded by every single day. I'm sitting in the middle of a treasure cove with my eyes closed. All I need to do is open my eyes and follow their lead.