April 2018

I wake up early, think about all I have to do to keep this day care going, fall back to sleep, wake up to the sounds of folks downstairs, go to see if my sons are awake, find the guests rising and shining, little guy and his mom doing their morning routine, my sons asleep, one here, one at his dad’s. My daughter slept in a tent last night and will spend today hiking Mount Monadnock with teachers and other teenage girls from Landmark, where I spent yesterday for Parent Teacher Conferences, relieved and hopeful that my gal can continue there next year.

The day care opened Tuesday and was open all week. I was there at least part of each day. The children still need to hug us more. We are still living in a place of awe and gratitude for what two months ago we took for granted, our right to be together and to share our space and time with one another.

This morning I’ll deposit March tuition as April’s tuition. At the end of April I will do the math to figure out how much to credit each family for the time we missed in April. March and the first week and one day of April will go unpaid. The teachers are doing what we have to do to comply with the demands of the DEEC. We are signing up to retake hours of orientation trainings intended for new providers. We’ll give up Saturdays, pay subs, and sit for about twelve hours each listening to a trainer tell us how to run a family child care in Massachusetts.

I am at work on communication, contracts, schedules, and enrollments that had been settled before the closure and have been disrupted. One child did not return, having settled into a new day care while we were closed. Another child or two found other options for fall as the waiting was too hard and they had to investigate other options. Some families may have lost deposits put down at other programs in order to return. In any case, its a whole new set of schedules to sort out, now through summer, summer, and next school year, contracts to prepare, communications with current and prospective families and with staff.

And we have corrective actions to consider, mostly simple and we will comply, but one thing we notice it that DEEC has become more critical of programs’ use of public parks, so we need to clarify that, comply where we can, fight where we find the restrictions they might consider reasonable too unreasonable for children. It feels important we are treated fairly and that we are allowed to do what we know is right for children. So, we will sort that out.

Liana is working on photo books. Since we returned, the children have been drawn to hand made books Alice made when she was here of the children and teachers. Liana will work with Alice to make some with our current children and staff.

We have piles of thank you’s to write, plenty of e-mails to answer, letting folks know we are grateful for their support, that we are ok.

Time to begin all of that now. My son arrived home late Thursday night. I hope to spend part of the day with him. We’ll pick up his sister at school after her hike, watch his brother in a show or two at Improv tonight, share some food here and there. Tomorrow my sister and nephew will visit after his soccer games. Monday I’ll take my daughter back to school, then drive to my mom’s in Western New York. I’ll return Wednesday for an event with old writing class friends. Thursday I’ll visit with a friend, drum with the drum circle, work on catching up at home. Friday I’ll see my daughter, or she’ll be with her dad. Saturday I’ll attend the orientation training with two of my staff, maybe a Threshing Session I’ve helped organize at the Quaker Meeting House. Sunday I’ll prepare for the return from day care vacation.

Life will have a rhythm I can predict again. I’ll gradually begin to count on my finances again. Over time we will reestablish ourselves with the DEEC as a program like any other, if exceptional in our ability to fight their shutting us down. If we rise to the occasion, we may help others to learn to fight as well. For now, though, the immediate calls, tuition deposits after nearly two months, enrollments so we can return to full capacity, bills, banking, time with my kids and in my home, cooking, cleaning, relaxing in a way I haven’t been since this whole thing began. Life resumes as I once knew it, almost.

The really, really good news is that Liana and I have been found “suitable” by the discretionary review process of the DEEC. We will be allowed to resume caring for children and to reopen the day care. We have been asked to attend a meeting tomorrow at the Boston Regional Offices of the DEEC with my lawyer and a slew of the important ones at DEEC. I’ll drive my daughter North to Landmark, leaving at 6 am, and turn around and drive South to Quincy, hoping to arrive by 9:30 am for the meeting, hoping to be full of good vibes and fight, rather than exhaustion and defeat.

Parts of me feel all of that. The DCF supported allegations of neglect still stand. The retainer for the lawyer has been spent and a lot more is due if we decide to pursue an appeal.  I found out yesterday my appeal date is scheduled for June 29th. If we decide to go forward with the appeal we have time to prepare, and a long time to wait, and no certainty at all about the outcome.

We don’t know yet when we will be allowed to reopen, or under what conditions. Our day care fridge has no day care food left in it, other than three packages of sliced cheddar and many bags of frozen fruits and vegetables. The pantry shelves are still loaded with cereal, canned goods, and crackers.  Between getting the news of our reopening and the children arriving, I’ll need to do a shop.

The contracts I had prepared for the coming year the day before we were shut down are in a stack in my work pile, waiting to be revisited. I have an envelope of March tuition checks nearby, uncashed and unreturned. We were supposed to be closed for a week of paid vacation next week and I have to decide if we will take it or not.

But today, my children are here with me, one asleep  after a late night and two days of illness, the other awake and happy to be home and puttering in her room.

I have vegan banana walnut chocolate chip bread in the oven for my daughter to complement the banana bread wrapped in foil and a bow delivered to the neighbor’s porch by accident by my friend from Western Mass, recovered from the neighbor before dinner when the mix-up became clear.

I am typing at my kitchen table, covered in plants and flowers and fruit and a candle, all beautiful things, some gifts from others to us, some gifts from me to myself and my family, all evocative of love in the world on display to remind us why we’re here.

Today I’m drinking my tea out of a Mother’s Day mug from year’s past my daughter found when looking through the cupboards as we put away groceries from our shared shop yesterday afternoon, something that made me happy. She put the flowers and plants she was given last Sunday for Easter into decorative pots, including a vase painted by the same artist who painted the mug, which reminded me I had been missing it.  Both had been tucked away in the china cabinet behind a door of wood and glass. Both are now on display and in circulation for us to enjoy.

Which reminds me of the hard place I’ve been in with the allegations and investigations, the shut down, the legal proceedings, the financial distress, the surgery and two weeks of recovery in the midst of it. Through all of it we kept pulling more beautiful things out of the china cabinet to be admired.

Connections to old families and their children came back into our lives. The love and appreciation for Liana and me and the day care teachers and community became as real as they could be. Family and friends and colleagues and Friends carried us in their hearts. Delicious food, flowers, cards, letters, visits, trips to museums and beaches, walks and talks, shared meals and conversation, games and movies and tv shows and books, listening to and making music, creating art and writing, all amidst the worry and chaos, reminded me how much of life remained.

Here I am.

Awhile back in my writing class I was searching for my voice and theme in a piece and over time. A writing friend suggested the theme was What Abides. My teacher suggested that through it all, divorce, breakups, children growing up and needing me less and leaving home, school start up and new job attempts failed, thoughts about moving to Western Mass, what remained had always been the day care.

When I thought the last six weeks that the day care might be closed for good, I found the statement even more true. What remained, even if my ability to provide care and to operate the day care were taken from me and from Liana, was the community that has grown around the  work we’ve done all these years, all my life.

When a Sharing Circle friend asked after hearing my news two weeks ago how long I’d worked with children, I replied “all my life”, and began to cry. I had realized as I wrote the personal statement for the Discretionary Review request, that I had been taking care of children 41 years, since my brother was born when I was ten and then began babysitting for neighbors’ children the following year when I was eleven

Forty years of looking after little ones for work is a long, long time. I’ve had so much joy all these years. Even the last two weeks, while we awaited the news and wondered about our future, when I was caring for children in their home and visiting with them at the park, I found new ways of being a caregiver that felt real and important. I was sitting with my five on the couch in her home when we got the news of our discretionary review decision allowing us to reopen the day care. We hugged and I sobbed and then we looked each other in the eye and smiled, and laughed, at the good news and the way we sometimes cry when good things happen, out of that mix of joy, exhaustion, sadness, and relief.

It will take some time to find out what the long term consequences of this episode will be. I don’t expect things to return to life as it was pre-park incident. In some ways, maybe many, I expect life to be richer. I know now, as I’ve been reminded by so many, without a doubt, this is work I am meant to do, with Liana as my partner, and with the other teachers and parents in our circle.

I was so happy to have so many day care families at our potluck here on Friday night, a few short hours after we got our decision. My daughter held the baby of her day care teacher from age four, who will be back in the fall as a day care child and whose mom has helped us through this hard time. The children found each other and the toys and us. My one who I haven’t seen in five weeks smiled and made me tea upon our reuniting, delivered it to the kitchen were I held him close and let him back down to play. His mom, who helped tirelessly through this whole process, helped set up and clean up, and even cut her head when the utensil basket came down on her head near the end of the evening. The whole day care was full of kids and families and teachers who want to be there, and who we hope will all return as soon as we are given permission to reopen. That is huge.

We didn’t give up. We carried on. We know we are privileged, that we have resources others don’t, that we have a strong community and a miraculous mix of people who got us through. We wonder what we can do to look at what has happened, learn from it, and share the experience in a way that helps others and ourselves.

I am going to to try to be mindful of the mantra I found through this process, May Love and Justice Prevail, and to find out how those words might guide me in my work not only in the day care but in the world. I feel relieved that on many levels, love and justice are prevailing, though the hurt and injustice are real, too.

I need this Sunday in silence to cook and clean and write and to be with my family in my home, to begin to recover from what has felt like trauma, like watching my house burn slowly, or receiving a cancer diagnosis, or hearing of an accident that affected a loved one.

None of that happened to me.  I am mindful that for others, all those things to which I related our experience are real, and that they did not happen to me, and that in so many, many ways, I am as fortunate as can be.