Today is the first day of school for my children. I love this day. It’s exciting yet nerve wracking. It is also the day I always document with the requisite first day of school photo, which I proudly share on Facebook and Instagram… and Twitter (okay on here too). I love that so many people also share their photos. It’s fun seeing kids with backpacks getting ready to begin their new adventure in a new grade. There is so much joy and hope. So much love. This year, as I scrolled through my personal Facebook news feed, I realized that the majority of the photos are of “my babies” — children I have at one time cared for in my daycare. Photo after photo, their smiling not-so-baby faces bring back many memories. Memories of infants snuggled up in my arms, toddlers learning to walk or speak their first words, preschoolers exploring the world around them and asserting their independence. Memories of families being welcomed into my home and into my heart. Since 2006, I have cared for nearly 50 children at various stages of their lives. Some stayed with me for months, while others stayed with me for several years. And I remember all of them.
Caring for other people’s children teaches incredible lessons about trust, love, compassion, patience and forgiveness. It also makes me realize why there are so many clichés about the passage of time. It does go by quickly. Children are only tiny humans for an extremely short amount of time… even if it doesn’t always feel that way while you are in the trenches.
When I welcome a child into my care, I do so completely. I have never learned how to detach myself from these babes. This is so much more than a job or paycheck. These kids and families become an important part of my life, just as I become an important part of their daily life. During this period it becomes hard to imagine a time when they won’t bound into my home or run into my arms. It becomes hard to imagine a time when I won’t hear their laughter or little voices saying, “hi Ms. Nicole” (or MsCole as some of the younger ones say). It becomes hard to imagine not watching them master another stage or surprise me with their thirst for knowledge. Yet, as I have learned… that day does come for all of them. It is always bittersweet because while my ultimate wish is for them to grow and move forward, it is also the part I hate the most. The part that reminds me of how finite an amount of time I get to share with each child. Time that most of these children will never be able to remember.
It is a privilege to be entrusted with someone else’s child. It is even more of a privilege to continue to watch these children grow after they have moved on to their next adventure. I feel such pride seeing these babies begin elementary school, middle school and even high school. With each year they will have a new teacher. They will make new friends and they will explore even more of their world.
For me, this is enough. I don’t need them to remember. I don’t need them to recognize me. I just need to know that they are doing well and are happy and hopeful for their next experience in life.
P.S. – To the parents of “my babies,” please keep the photos coming… and know your children will always have an extra member of their cheering squad for life.