By Sophie Daniels
I have written this article several times now, mentally, and have never been satisfied. First I wrote it from my own point of view or how I am here when my own children come home from school, and then from articles I have collected on the subject, either praising day care: “Kids who grow up in day care centers are more socialized” or decrying it: “Day care is not a replacement for motherhood.” Both approaches seemed artificial. So I am writing what I know, what I have seen in eight years and seventy-five kids as a day care home provider.
First of all, there is no sane reason to do what I am doing. The pay is the lowest on the scale, not even minimum wage. There are no benefits, no hospitalization, paid vacations, sick leave, or holidays. My furniture is slowly deterioratingnicked, scraped, scratched or torn. One little girl scratched her initials in a table I hadn’t paid for yet. There are cribs, high chairs, toys, and mats in every corner. Everything is either chipped or sticky. Our family has little privacy. The kids are here ten hours a day or more. Most of our family crises seem to occur with little ones watching on, but…
There is a real inner peace and real contentment in this “insanity,”when all is said and done, when the dust settles and the noisy chatter, the laughter and shouting ceasebecause our brother is truly our life and because children today are the latest in a series of innocent martyrs. They truly suffer the most for all of the sins of a society caught up in self-centeredness and materialism.
CHILDREN FROM BROKEN HOMES, LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
Most of my children are from broken homes and low-income families. It is very hard for most of the mothers to leave these children and go off to work, but they have little choice; they too are victims. Too many of them have no husbands and no child support. I have had in my home little children who have never seen their fathers except in court at a child support hearing. Many children have no male role models. My husband is the only man in their life. Larry is very good with the children, taking them for walks, raking leaves, etc, and for the children.
Some of my kids have come without winter coats, raincoats or gloves and have been bundled in hand-me downs I have found from friends and family. The first day of kindergarten is exciting for any child. I have passed out pencil boxes, backpacks, drink boxes, even milk money. A regular feature is exercise timesomething to take the edge off their energy level. One day, as one little girl touched her toes, I thought, “Something is wrong there.” As she bent over again, I realized what it was. She had no panties on! She told me, slightly embarrassed, that there weren’t any clean clothes. Well, an old pair of my daughter Becki’s fixed that, and we sent her off to afternoon kindergarten properly attired.
This same girl one day lined up all of my kids on metal chairs. She was playing “choo-choo” and she was the engineer. I caught her just as she was going to start the train by sticking a bobby pin in an electrical outlet. Can you imagine those headlines? Another little girl stuck the cat in the drier. Fortunately she was too short to turn it on, but was I surprised when I opened it later and Catya jumped out! I have wiped noses, changed diapers, washed sticky hands, and kissed boo-boos. I have bonded to these kids, and they to me.
“DAYCARE: A MINISTRY
And I have learned so much these past eight years. I have found out that there is no difference among babiesblack, white, bi-racial, or oriental. They all cry and laugh the same way and about the same things. They all need love, not love as we define it, but as the Church teaches. (I Cor. 13) I have seen parents, trying so hard to struggle out of their difficulties, who were pushed down further by events beyond their control and not their faultcar problems, eviction, even a flood and a tornado!
Not only these little kids need mothering; their mothers need it as well. There is just too much sadness in this world. I have listened to so many problems - real problems that make our petty annoyances that turn us upside down come down to just that - petty annoyances. These parents have shared their lives with me, their hopes, dreams, and disappointments. And we have shared oursBecki’s first prom, John’s seventh broken bone.
We have opened our homes and our lives, we have offered our prayers and our love. We have given out advice, food, money, and clothes. My day-care kids have learned to make “church bread” and gone home to make it out of sand or play dough. They can identify the icons on my walls, and they have met our bishop and priests who have dropped in. St. Nicholas comes on December 6 and leaves treats in their shoes. Orthodoxy has made its impression on their lives without a word spoken. There is a real ministry in day care. We live in a world where all the material needs of kids are metthe best pediatricians, dentists, vitamins and nutrition.
We know just how many ounces they need for healthy bodies. We know their educational needs, and their cultural needs. But their emotional and spiritual needs are altogether neglected. There are no real heroes or role models for them. Three year olds already know who “Madonna” is, but the Virgin Maryrarely! They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan. (Psalm 106:36) Our idols are materialism and self-centeredness.
Well, enough said. It’s 8:30 am. Already one of my little ones is herea fourteen month old baby boy. His mother is only a senior in high school. How difficult it is for her! This is his first week here and he is crying…
The purpose of this article is to point out the need for good day care, and to encourage Orthodox women to become role models as day care home providers. I work for an agency which receives federal funding, but anyone can get involved. It is as simple as putting an ad in the newspaper: “Babysitting in my home.” In Pennsylvania, there are no state regulations covering care of up to three children. For four to six children, state regulations may be obtained by writing to the Department of Public Welfare. For further information, write to me at 308 Goodwin Avenue, Greensburg, Pa. 15601. I will share with you all that I know and that I have learned by trial and error to help you get started in your own home.