Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Day Care

The last few days I've been making mental notes on what types of books Kenz is ready for now that she is going to slide into home base--- and turn--- five years old.

She knows how much I like to read to her and will often use that excuse to get me away from conversations with adults or other things like chores. She knows I would never say No to a request like, "Nana, let's go read some books."
To change the subject, I found a good article about the Pros of Day Care.

Shortly, after Kenzie turned four, her parents and I knew she was ready for a school day. We chose Montessori after checking into several options. It's been wonderful. The Montessori school day goes from 8:30-3. These hours seem to be ideal for her (and us). Last year she went to a preschool from 9-11, three days a week and then stayed for lunch and play. I would pick her up at 1:30. A whole wonderful world opens up for children when they are able to socialize and observe others around them. There's much that can be said for day care, especially if it is a well-chosen enviornment. I am so glad I had the time to be with Kenzie as an infant and a toddler and I would choose this option again, but if grandparents are not a day care option (or sometimes even if they are), day care centers are not always the second best choice a parent can make.

Daycare Helps My Child Thrive Marnie Lyn Candido

My son is a daycare child. I justify this to critics of working mothers because I am the breadwinner, but it wasn't my vision of the ideal upbringing. Daycare was not in my first Five Year Plan for Justin...but neither was the break-up of my marriage.
When I mournfully kissed my baby good-bye and passed him to a "professional caregiver", I consoled myself that I didn't have a choice. But time has shown me that daycare is not "second best", that it can be a good choice to help a young child thrive.
Returning to work outside the home can be difficult for any parent at any time. Three and a half years ago, I was convinced that my career should not compromise my son's needs. But we needed an income and so we needed childcare.
What was the best a single mother could provide? We were fortunate to have Grandpa nearby but, like many modern grandparents, he has work responsibilities of his own.
After exploring various options, I put my faith in a large daycare centre that could take Justin from infancy through to kindergarten. With updated equipment, qualified early childhood educators, and a small ratio of children to staff, it isn't cheap. But I have been continually reassured that childcare is not a place to pinch pennies.
Good daycare enables me to be a reliable employee but I have also gained permission to enjoy my job, secure that my son's needs and interests are being tended by people who respect my decisions. I do not feel that others are raising my child - I feel they have joined my support team.
Like most parents, I involve Justin in domestic experiences such as cooking and grocery shopping, but I can often fit paperwork, phone calls and appointments into the workday, sparing him the tedium. Daycare gives us time for each other.
Those who look back nostalgically on "women in the home" seem to forget that the "Better Homes and Gardens" of the '50s and '60s were supported by part-time gardeners, housecleaners and babysitters. For many working mothers, daycare has replaced household help. Our earnings provide the electric appliances and convenience items that reduce drudgery. Even before the weekend, I can be glad that my son has spent more time supervised in the sandbox than competing with chores for my attention.
Daycare has influenced Justin's attitudes, skills and knowledge. Sometimes the effects build on things I initiate at home, such as toilet training, which would never have progressed so swiftly if the toddler gang hadn't started a potty competition. Other times my son's development surprises me and when I praise his problem-solving or skill with art materials I am also thanking daycare for exposure and reinforcement.
I appreciate the social benefits in Justin's weekday routine. Daycare has given my only child so many opportunities to interact with peers - not just as a part-time playgroup visitor but as a member of a group which must learn to get along, day in, day out. For all the tears and pint-sized trials and tribulations, it's the next best thing to brothers and sisters.
To Justin, the very best thing about daycare is Nigel. Both boys entered the Infant Centre as 13-month olds with mothers who hesitated to share responsibilities. As our sons learned to trust the gentle and experienced staff-members, so did we. They could help with with first-time-Mom questions: "How can I help him give up the bottle? Why won't he nap?"
It was the caregivers who first recognized our sons' special relationship and introduced us moms. Dozens of aquarium visits, birthday parties, tobogganing and beach trips later, I'm grateful they brought our families together.
Justin and Nigel are daycare's dynamic duo. They laugh, they tease each other, they fight and they've become inseparable.
When another parent took pictures of all the preschoolers, Justin and Nigel insisted on being photographed together. Their shared world includes imaginary friends named Blee-Blee and Marshmellow-Bellow, and two mental encyclopedias of animal facts. Overhearing one of their typical debates - "When do rhinos grow horns?" - I wonder if Justin would even consider such questions if he spent days with just me for company.
It is odd that parents might be expected to be all things to their offspring. Should parenthood really inflate our self-importance until no one else can meet our children's needs?
People lament the shift from family care to daycare but I challenge their concern. While family members may be unavailable, my son has nurturing caregivers and playmates who delight in his being. If it takes a village to raise a child, I say populate it not with blood relations but with a cooperative community. Let our children find their soul-mates. None of us chooses our families. We choose our friends.

Marnie Lyn Candido is a Vancouver teacher. Her article originally appeared in the Vancouver Province Sunday April 16th, 2000.

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