This summer I’ve thought a lot about time. One of my day care jobs is to be the scheduler. In the summer, some families work less or like to be away. Others have school age children who need care. I try to make matches, fitting requests to offerings. For awhile, the job has felt overwhelming. This weekend I got so many kind notes from families whose children will be joining us before heading back to school, that I remembered that part of the job, which is not only a chore but also a gift. Most things have many parts. It can be challenging to see them.
I’ve also been filling two last minute day care openings for fall. One family with two children is moving. This is complicated for them, leaving a place and day care they love for a new country they also love and jobs they’ve been trying hard to find. It’s also complicated for me. Most people looking for day care in the fall are all set, all those on our prospective families list included. It’s taken some new thinking about how things have changed for me to stay in the game at this point in my career. This morning I talked with my son about marketing. He interned on a local farm in Troy, NY and had read a book on marketing grass fed beef that he shared when I told him how different the market in Somerville has become, how larger centers have proliferated and how the going rate and offerings there challenge the way I market my program. It’s all about creating an emotional attachment, my son reminded me, something I know, but needed to hear. What that has to do with time, I’m not sure, except that I feel old, like time is passing me by, when I try to fill these spaces and see all the web sites and changes in the early childhood landscape that have occurred in the twenty years I’ve provided family child care from my home. Time moves on. We get old. We adapt or become obsolete. I worry about becoming obsolete, am not ready to close up shop, am not sure what the larger world will hold as time goes on.
I won’t change our program philosophy to compete with programs that offer music and language and yoga classes and preplanned curriculum when what we value is play and relationships and conversation and time. I won’t lower the wages of our teachers to compete with places which charge lower tuition but pay their teachers much less than we do. I won’t lengthen our hours to compete with places which are open in some cases from 7 to 6 and require teachers to work overlapping shifts rather than to start and end the day with the children. I can take the time to get to know the families when they come, and to share some of the things we do that they might value. If I can find the time, and I get clearer about it, I can change our online presence to highlight some of the things we do that other places might not, like writing and sharing daily observations, delving deeply into things that come up with our kids and families, caring for siblings in the same group and for children over time. I can point out that we provide healthy, home cooked meals, that we spend much of our day outside, that we are all experienced, mature, long term providers, that we have a great deal of higher education and life experience and that we share both with our children and families in important ways. All this takes time, and requires thinking about things a little differently. After twenty years of mostly filling our spaces very easily, I’m finding this year its harder. If I want to keep our day care thriving I have to learn to do some things differently. That takes time to observe what is different, to learn what is going on around us, and to do some new things that might at first seem burdensome, but might end up to be quite rewarding. It never hurts to stop and reflect.
Other thoughts I’ve had about time include all the sorting out of schedules and calendars and transitions I’ve done with my own kids of late. I’ve been thinking with my younger teen about her summer, about how all the camps and traveling and camping fit with family life. Figuring out how to get it on a calendar in a way she can understand has been fun, if also tricky, a task she took on when she wanted to plan her summer this winter and asked for help in sorting it out. I’ve also been helping my older teen sort out his calendar, first time he’s really wanted to do that with me, prompted by jobs that involve him submitting his availability to work. My older son is home and finding his time in the evenings and on the weekends to be his own. After expecting to be busy with organized sports, he’s adjusted to making time to do other things, hanging with friends and family, hiking with buddies last weekend, including asking for a day off work, doing appointments he’s too busy to do during the school year, working out, riding bikes, even yoga tonight with me. Later in the summer he and his gal are planning two weeks of staycation, divided between her home on Long Island and Ben’s homes here and with his dad. You never thought I was much of a planner, did you? he asks. I didn’t, but he is.
In day care we talked yesterday with the toddlers and preschoolers about new toys, about the challenges of sharing them and figuring out where to put them. I had offered a bunch of new things the last few weeks, a tent, marble blocks, dolls and doll things, all pulled out of closets and the basement to settle or enliven the play. When new things arrive, the children have trouble sharing. I wonder if its’ about time. Sometimes when I remind them the toys will be around awhile it helps, though its hard for the kids to hold that thought when getting the first turn or having a long turn seems so important. Yesterday our three was holding a new baby the two wanted. First the two screeched. When I asked if she wanted a turn with the baby, she said yes. I suggested she ask if she could have a turn when the three was done. She asked very softly at first and needed help getting the attention of the three. Once she did, the three agreed to give her a turn when she was done. Then the two thought to ask, Will it be a long turn? What a good question, I noted, and repeated it to the three. It’s enough to agree to wait, important to know how long.
Over the last two weeks Richard’s father-in-law Bill has been very ill. We think he may be dying. We don’t know if and when. At first it seemed he was just ill and would go home. Then the hospital was hard for him to take, but he had lots of visitors. Someone was there much of the day, but not overnight. As time wore on, it became less clear he was going to get well. Visitors arrived from further away, one by plane from Florida. Now he’s been moved to a nursing home, under the label of rehab, though it seems more likely it’s for hospice. Richard and I visited quite a bit two weekends ago. Last weekend I didn’t go and Richard came and went. This week Richard visited friends in NYC and tended to his mom’s home in CT and worried about Bill. Today and tomorrow he’ll give Bill time, hopes to offer his full attention. That is a gift at this stage of the game, sitting in wait together, facing the unknown day by day. Without eating or drinking or getting out of bed, there isn’t much for Bill to do. He watches tv, he dozes, he visits a little when folks come by. I wonder how time passes for him, what is on his mind, if he spends much of it contemplating the end of life, or not.
Richard and Liana and I have all struggled various nights with sleep. Richard thinks it’s the death and dying causing it for him. Not sleeping makes time at work or in the rest of the day pass differently, reaching for the next round of sleep. It also opens up a part of the day we tend not to experience fully, the early morning hours when most of the world sleeps. At first I was up and busy. Some days I did wash, dishes, paid bills, cooked things, all before the rest of the world woke up. Liana had been in her garden at 5:30. Other days we don’t get up. I lay in bed and think, let the thoughts move through me, sometimes come to a place I’m grateful to have reached.
This morning I have a quiet day before heading to day care at 1:30. I found time with my son before he left for work. My other kids are in Texas one more day, so now I have quiet time to write and maybe read and do some house chores. Mid-morning I’ll shop for Richard’s birthday gift, then meet a friend for a late morning meal, something I rarely, if ever do on my weekdays at home. Then it’s day care with Jen and the kids this afternoon, time with her this week before her two week break, and I’ve got things I hope we’ll do. After work it’s yoga with my son, a first for us, in a place I haven’t been since I last went with my gal many months ago. Dinner after that, and bed. All the time in this particular day day will be used up, will have passed, and another will soon begin.
I’ve been listening to Eckhart Tolle on youtube. He talks about time and pain and being in the now. It never occurred to me to connect pain to our experience of time, but as he describes it I can see how much of what we experience as pain is about recollecting the past or anticipating the future in ways that feel not right. His suggestion is not to avoid those experiences of pain, but to be with them, to notice them, to make ourselves conscious, a term he uses a lot and defines in a way I do not really understand. So I might read or listen some more, hope for more help from this wise man in learning to be present, conscious, healthy and happy in the moment and over time.
Enjoy your day! I learned this phrase several years ago and like it so much, better than Have a good day, more intentional and proactive and generous somehow. I try and hope you will, too.