Sometimes I get a little confused as to the stage of life I am experiencing at the moment. Each day I get up and realize I have a fabulous job working with extraordinary people who are in the different years of experience that my career in education afforded me not that long ago. Because each day is an adventure and unfolds in sometimes-unexpected ways the familiarity from my days in education, this leads me to falsely believe I am just starting out on my career path vs. another career path. And let’s not forget the greatest gift of all, Leila who is completing her first year of school this coming Thursday.
When we are at her events I am reunited with colleagues from work both in education and policing as well as the students who once graced my life with their presence as young people moving towards adulthood. I can see them as parents, learn about their career paths, meet their spouses, and watch Leila with their children. Not to mention the wonderful people that come with Leila. Her friends’ parents are entering our circle as friends. Seriously, what can be better? So you can understand why I might get confused as to where I am in the life cycle.
A while back I made reference to how Leila’s presence in my life gave me a window into the life of parenting. My lens until she came to live with me was that of primarily the lens of a child/youth, which served me well as an educator to be authentic in my advocacy for young people. Afterall I had yet to walk in the shoes in a parental role, so how would I know the experience?
Thankfully, being raised in a large extended family and as a witness of what care of family looks like, I understood the importance of family. This understanding, this value of family was and remains the highest priority for me. As to how one wants to define family, blood is one way. With an open heart and genuine care for others the family can be as inclusive as you choose to define. I leave that with you.
However my life did change and the lens underwent the greatest shift. What would I do with this new knowledge on the steepest learning curve in decades? Early this week was one example. For the first time in my life I spoke in front of a City Council committee. One of the items on the agenda was the cost of daycare. Junior Citizens Daycare, the one Leila attended before she started school was presented as a possible cost-saving measure. The question for some people is “Why is the city in the daycare business?” Good question. Many people will have a different opinion on where the city should spend the taxpayers’ money. For all the years living in Sudbury the 2 most common issues that make the media are roads and parking. What would happen if there were an opportunity for Greater Sudbury citizens to have a comprehensive list of city expenditures with the amount and brief explanation? The taxpayers could then vote on the priorities and Council could respond to wishes of the people they serve. Just putting it out there. But I digress.
Without Leila in my life would the true value of daycare be on my radar? Quite simply, no! Before I go any further, what is coming up for you when you read this question? Most of us have an opinion about daycare; who should pay for daycare? Who should be in the parenting role in the early years? Etc. Before Leila my opinion would be supportive at a distance at best, simply because I had no first hand knowledge of the importance of daycare not only for families, for all of us in the community. Not all children have equal opportunities for a myriad of reasons, so as a community are we willing to invest in the most precious resource. People have been known to put money away in the early years in an RRSP or a GIC or savings account or property or… The return on this investment is not realized until 20-30-40 years later and we do it anyway. Occasionally, we lose a bit before we gain and we don’t pull everything out. We know in the long term we will come out ahead. The children who attend daycares are a worthwhile investment.
Leila’s experience at Junior Citizen prepared her for school. At two she could spell her name, before she entered JK she could print her name, recognize the alphabet and some numbers, and began her speaking a few words in French. More importantly, she moved from a timid child to a leader and helper. Her friends came from diverse backgrounds culturally, economically, and socially. They learned to build healthy relationships, problem-solve, and have a safe place to be children to do what children should be doing – simply have fun, be kids.
As new person in the role of parent, the staff of Junior Citizens was my teacher, my sounding board, and my support system. The parents of Leila’s friends became friends and invited us into their homes. What does this have to do with the question of daycare? Each of us has experienced risk and protective factors. If you are reading this most likely your resiliency kicked in and your life looks like success to many.
Not all people are blessed with high levels of resiliency, and for some who are their lives could still be in turmoil not of their doing because of their individual situation. If we don’t provide healthy alternatives in the early years, we will pay in the later years through social assistance, the judicial system, the health system, the education system, and the economic system. I am going to put this out there; each of you reading this has experienced setbacks in your life, yet you moved forward. You didn’t move forward on your own, who was there for you? And if life continues, you will experience more setbacks. The foundation you built over the years will give you the strength and courage to move forward again. From the beginning we look to others, depend on others to help us to grow so one day we can be in a position to step into the role. At this time in history what are the best options to ensure each child has the opportunity to succeed and to contribute?