January 2015


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Today our recently retired teacher Alice reentered our world. She arrived at 8:30 and stayed until 2. This time she didn’t have to do dishes or prepare meals or carry toddlers up and down stairs or change diapers. She only had to be with children. Sort of like a grandparent, with plenty of time to hold and cuddle and talk and observe, read and play, in the company of children happy to have her here.

At circle time Alice let us know she would decide when it was time to leave based on how she felt. I explained that this is part of being retired. Now Alice is older, she is having more time for the things she needs and doesn’t need to be here, is here by choice. Today it was Ben’s and my job to be the day care teachers and Alice’s job to be our visitor. Lucky children to have so many adults looking after them. Lucky adults to spend the day with such happy children.

We glued, read, climbed, dressed up and pretended, shared meals and conversation, walks and time at the park. Our days aren’t constructed by us teachers in planning books on the weekend, they are lived by each and all of us as they unfold.

Thank you to Alice for taking some time to adjust to your retirement, and thank you for returning to the day care with such a good heart. We were all happy to have you here and look forward to more days in your company.

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Today was one of those celebratory days for me. Unexpectedly, I ended up spending the day working with my son in our family day care. I got to share our story with the newest family, recalling how the day care started over nineteen years ago when Ben was a baby, how many of our things were once his, blocks, trains, books, puzzles, how the day care grew from just me and Ben and a baby and a toddler to what it is today.

Shortly after eight Ben came downstairs, opened the curtains and shades, put on the lights, got the blueberries out of the freezer. At eight thirty he greeted kids, then sat and talked and played with them at the table of play dough and tools, later helped them clean up, sing the I Like Song, lay out mats, wash for breakfast, enjoy their breakfast with conversation and kindness and humor. After breakfast he put the monkey in his snowsuit, laughing as the monkey bawked, empathized, took the monkey outside to get the carriages ready while the others finished dressing, helped me shovel before we left while the kids watched, walked to the park with a small group, kept an eye on kids there, talked with the other park caregivers, one who remembered babysitting for him ten or more years ago, others who’ve known him since he was very, very small.

At home he helped the monkey and others out of their winter gear, helped wash hands again, read to kids on the couch while I prepared the meal, then sat while the children ate bowl after bowl after bowl of food, amazed at how much they could pack away, tidied the table and the floor, washed the last few dishes, thanked me and headed upstairs. While the children sleep, he’ll nap upstairs, boy who sleeps most days of vacation well past noon up at seven answering my call asking him to sub.

So much of the day was familiar to Ben, I was reminded that he remembers his day care years, that the time stored in my memory is also stored in his. All those meals we taught the kids to clean up their own spills are stored in his person, so that when the one spilled his milk, my son asked the little guy to help him clean it up, and when the one’s sister the three left piles of cous cous on the table, my son called her back, suggesting she return with a napkin or a sponge, and their mother thanked Ben for his patience as he guided the three through the job.

It was a fine day, one I’d like to remember, circle of care complete, though perhaps that will be truer when I’m the one in need of care and my kids look after me.

Today I’m back home after holidays and ten days in Western Mass. My house is clean enough. I had a car load of groceries and clothes and work stuff to unload at 6 am. I had thought I had a couple of families visiting the day care at 9, but I was mistaken. The cat was here alone a long time. She did some damage I’m remedying while I work. The flowers from the day care families’ holiday gift are lighting up the window above my sink, cheering up the kitchen and dining room tables.

I’m in my kitchen again, enjoying the orange and purple and red and wood and glass and ceramic, drinking tea, nibbling, opening piles of mail, sorting through cards, junk, bills, checks, answering e-mails, scheming about schedules for the New Year, the summer, and the fall. Yesterday I spread the past year’s documents out on the floor in Richard’s back room, organizing them into piles to be used at my tax appointment, scheduled for a Thursday morning in a month’s time.

My oldest son turns twenty today. Wow. I’m a mom of a twenty something. The day care, which I created to allow me to look after him while continuing to work, is alive down below, kids there with two caregivers who are not me, so I can do the administration I used to cram into nap times, evenings, and weekends. It’s a fine thing to have come this far, to have a business I can count on, work that I love, three happy, near grown kids, bills I can pay for things we want and need, holidays past and again, different than ever before, happy/sad in the familiar way, stirring up all kinds of feelings and scenarios I couldn’t have put on the list with the gifts I hoped to buy.

It was a quiet drive back from Northampton at 4 am. I woke around 3, thinking about the day, decided to beat the traffic, which I did, made it home in record time, arriving in the dark, which I hadn’t expected, to put away the groceries, to turn on the heat, to mess with the furnace, finicky as it often is, to turn off lights left on in weird places around the house, reminding me someone was here while I was away, my son, the cleaners, doing things I couldn’t do from Western, MA. By 7:15 I was back in my own bed for an hour before getting up to officially greet the day. It’s an odd life, this one I’m living at 48, my guy living two hours away, his home gradually becoming mine, mine gradually becoming his, kids moving between their dad’s and stepmom’s place, my place in Somerville, Richard’s place in Northampton, and this vacation, even a few days in our shared place in Ashfield. Its a lot of people and places to keep track of, a lot of love, if I can remember to see it that way.

The cat was lonesome. Other than that, things seem to be working just fine..Even in some ways striking a balance I’ve worked toward for years. Perhaps that’s just how it goes as the kids grow up. The day care families write about being happy for the kids to come back, about how busy they keep them when they are home with them full time. Meanwhile, my daughter is in Australia, my sons have been with their dad much of the break, when they are home, or with me in Western Mass, I feel lucky, and I come and go, as do they. We are learning to be adults with overlapping lives, finding things we enjoy together, learning to share chores, to make plans as well as to live apart.

This morning on the Sudbury Valley blog there was a post written by the mother of one of my daughter’s friends about her younger daughter’s transition to life at Sudbury Valley. I had watched that young girl enter, wondered what, if anything should be done to make the transition somehow easier, younger sister trailing older sister and friends in a way that drew attention from us adults. Two years later the mom writes about allowing the process to unfold, much as she has learned to watch births unfold in her life as a midwife, as she has learned to wait for seeds she has planted in her garden to grow into maturity. The piece reminded me of the importance of waiting and watching, not always doing, whether in a child’s transition to a new school or day care, or in my young adult sons figuring out how to negotiate the next stage, whether phd or college or work or something else, or my younger teenage gal finding her own way, even learning to watch my own life unfold in ways I might not have expected, and to appreciate how much of the unfolding is mysterious, how little of it we can predict or even coax into being.

Here’s a link to the post, in case you are tired of New Year’s Resolutions, and looking to wait and see what will unfold in your own life. Here’s to watching and waiting and wondering:)

http://blog.sudburyvalley.org/2015/01/the-do-nothing-strategy/