Category Archives: Opinions

Parent Fees & Private Childcare

So, I wrote this post more than a week ago, published it, reread it, didn’t like it, removed it, rewrote it – twice, and I think now it might be at least a little closer to what I want to say. Writing is hard sometimes.

Childcare is an important issue for many parents in Manitoba – more specifically, the lack of access to quality, affordable childcare. I’ll admit that during the last provincial election I got more than a little excited when the PC government promised to streamline the licensing process to encourage more family childcare providers to become licensed – it is not often that the government puts any focus on home based childcare. Sadly, they then froze grant funding and encouraged newly licensed unfunded providers to charge higher parent fees.

Now I will also think parent fees could be increased to help offset all the increases in expenses faced by childcare facilities. I thought this article by Tom Brodbeck was interesting. Even in my lower income area most unfunded and/or private, unlicensed home based providers charge parent fees that are much higher than my parent fees – and parents pay it. In higher income neighbourhoods and daycare deserts unfunded/unlicensed homes often charge considerably more. Maybe it is a parent’s ‘choice’ to put their child in private, unlicensed/unfunded care with higher parent fees – or maybe it is their only available option.

Funded family childcare providers like me are not allowed to raise our parent fees if we want to keep our funding. In a funded childcare facility parent fees for a preschool child are only $2.70 per day higher today than they were 22 years ago when I first began my childcare career. Over those years I have received increases in my operating grant funding so that it is now 28% of my gross income instead of just 5% of my income 22 years ago. Still, even with that grant funding and parent fees combined my income is still less than that of most private home daycares – about $13.38 per hour for hours I spend with the children – prep, cleaning and paperwork are all unpaid hours.

So yes, I am horrified when I hear a politician say they want to create portable subsidies for low income families to use in private childcare facilities because I know that even with portable subsidies those parents will still be paying much more than what they would pay in a funded, licensed facility – which already accept subsidized families. The problem is there are not enough funded licensed spaces – so the politicians say they will increase the number of licensed childcare spaces but if they don’t fund them then the parent fees will need to be increased in order to cover the costs of operating.

Even funded childcare centres are finding it difficult to attract or retain staff with the current set parents fees. When I hear politicians promise to lower parent fees to make childcare more affordable for parents I want to scream ‘Do you have any idea how much additional grant funding it will take to compensate for lower parent fees?’ Or are you planning to lower wages too and drive more ECE’s out of licensed care.

Trained ECE’s are already leaving their jobs in childcare centres and some of them are choosing to open private, unlicensed childcare homes. I fully understand the allure of home based childcare but with no funding available for new providers there is no financial benefit to becoming licensed – in fact they will probably earn more being unlicensed/unfunded and only accessible to higher income families willing/able to pay higher parent fees. There are no numbers available as to how many unlicensed childcare homes there are because there is no way to track that because they are unregulated. There are only just over 200 licensed home based providers in the whole province – far fewer than there were when I first became licensed.

Many parents and even politicians do not understand the difference between licensed and private childcare homes. When I was talking to a politician on my doorstep and mentioned that I was a licensed family childcare provider they said they had met a couple of other providers on my street – they couldn’t tell my if they were licensed or not ‘but they had business cards’. *sigh* Not licensed – there are no other licensed providers on my street – or any of the streets around me – that is easy to check here.

It is true that licensing does not guarantee ‘quality’ but I think ‘unlicensed’ is also ‘unprofessional’ even, or maybe especially unprofessional if you are a trained ECE. Many parents may not understand the difference between training and licensing and not realize that their trained private provider is in fact not licensed. In Manitoba a private home childcare provider, trained or untrained, may not care for more than four children under 12 years of age including their own children. Yet, I know many trained ECE’s whose only experience is in centre based care and who are surprised to learn that child/caregiver ratios are different in home based childcare. I also hear from many parents who are unable to find licensed childcare and have placed their child in a private home but are unsure how many children are actually being cared for there.

Yes, training enhances the quality of childcare but it is licensing and funding that enable childcare to be accessible and affordable. Private childcare is not affordable nor accessible especially for low income families even if there was a subsidy available. I don’t believe families of any income level would choose unlicensed care if there was enough licensed care available.

Maybe what should be suggested is that childcare waitlists and enrollment forms should include information about each family’s income level so licensed funded childcare facilities could weed out all the high income earners who were using up all the childcare spaces with low parent fees when they could really afford the higher fees in the private centres. I’m sure that then we’d hear a lot more public outcry that it is not fair that licensed care is only accessible to low income families.

So, I love my job and I wouldn’t want to do anything else and so far I can still pay all my bills and I get to play outside and I get paid in hugs every day so I shouldn’t complain – right? There are so many other people who are worse off than me – but really, that is my point. Even though, like other licensed funded facilities, my parent fees haven’t increased and my grant funding has been frozen for the past three years and my expenses have increased – I can still provide childcare to low income subsidized families.

Yes, I could drop my funding and raise my parent fees and still be licensed but earn more money – but then I’d have to exclude low income families and I won’t do that. I will continue to pay 22% of my taxable income back to the government because I know paying taxes is important for everyone. Then I’ll use my remaining $2400 a month to pay my ever increasing bills so I can be here for the families that trust me to provide care and education for their children while they go work to pay their bills and their taxes. I also really, really hope that the government then uses all those tax dollars to help those who don’t have as much as I do instead of offering it to those who already have more than they need.

Driving My Car

Let me stray a little away from writing about children and childcare and tell a more personal story about safety and security vs risk, fear and anxiety.

Like every teen from my generation I got my beginners license when I was sixteen. Learning to drive was a rite of passage signifying a new freedom and responsibility. It was a responsibility that I took very seriously. I took the driver’s ed course THREE times – the first two times I refused to take the final driving exam. My instructor insisted that I was ready but I was not certain. Finally, just after my eighteenth birthday I decided that I was ready – took the driving exam and passed without issue.

For many years I drove regularly both in the city and on the highway but I was always a cautious driver. I have never turned on the radio while driving – passengers in my car were always allowed to play music if they wanted to turn it on but I would just block it out and focus solely on driving. If I needed to adjust the heat or other controls I would only do so while parked – once in motion the road and vehicles around me were my only concern. I strictly adhered to all road rules but was very aware that many other drivers did not.

I wouldn’t say I feared or even disliked driving – in fact, I found it quite relaxing in the right conditions. I always considered things like rain, darkness, heavy traffic and road construction to be a little stressful but they didn’t prevent me from driving. Surprisingly ice and snow never bothered me – maybe because I learned to drive in the winter. Still, driving was never on my list of my favourite things to do and if my destination was walk-able or had limited parking available then I would always choose to walk or take a bus.

I don’t know exactly when driving became something I dreaded – it was probably a gradual process – something I blame at least partly on news media for their coverage of horrific motor vehicle collisions. Maybe it was after many years of driving ‘beater’ cars – we often owned two or even three at a time, none costing more than a few hundred dollars – essentially ‘disposable’ if/when they broke down. I lost count of the number of times I was tasked with steering a car on the back end of a tow rope on the way to the wrecker.

Yet honestly, driving those beaters might have actually increased my driving confidence. One of my favourites had been our old Mercury Marquis station wagon – I could trust that old car to start and keep going in any weather on any road. The body however was not great – some parts were held together with duct tape. The tailgate latch was broken so we used a hasp and padlock to lock it. We usually simply rolled down the back window to load/unload stuff anyway because the tailgate hinges were unlikely to hold the weight of the opened door.

Probably the main reason I liked this car so much was because other drivers did not. If I wanted to change lanes I only had to put on my turn signal and all nearby vehicles slowed down & moved out my way – no one wanted to be too close to my monstrosity . Perfect – it made it possible for me to maintain my large personal bubble no matter how much traffic there was or how slowly I wanted to drive. Talk about owning the road!

When I opened my childcare home I felt a bunch of beater cars in various states of repair would not make a good impression so we cut down to just two fairly decent used vehicles. With me working from home we didn’t often need the second vehicle but it was nice to have for those times when our main vehicle broke down and my husband needed to get to work. My stay-at-home job was also probably a factor in making me dislike driving – the rare occasions when I needed to drive somewhere caused some anxiety about my lack of practice.

We also discovered that decent used vehicles still needed repairs and we no longer had the time nor space for DIY car repairs. The higher purchase prices meant we were more likely to repair these vehicles instead of replacing them and shop repairs were expensive. Even limiting repairs to only the bare minimum to keep the vehicle operational was taking a toll on our finances.

For many years, every repair required for our vehicles brought questions about the vehicle’s history. Had past owners neglected basic maintenance? Had the vehicle been involved in a collision? There was so much we didn’t know about our old vehicles and it affected our decisions. This uncertainty and all the ‘what if’ questions made me hesitant to drive – anxious – often without any identifiable reason.

Frustrated by used car breakdowns and expensive repairs we contemplated buying a new car. I did some calculations on the purchase price and repairs for our current used car over the three years we had owned it vs the payments for a new car over the same time period – new car payments would be less. So, in 2009 we decided to take the plunge an bought a brand new Mitsubishi Outlander.

I’ll admit, I did have a bit of a panic attack when I realized the total at the bottom of the invoice was more than our family’s gross income for a full year! Yet, for the first time I really enjoyed driving – the way the car smelled, the way it handled, the silence inside as I drove – so amazing. I often volunteered to drive for outings and I actually looked for excuses to take the car instead of walking or to make multiple trips instead of consolidating all my errands into one trip.

I also became more anxious – other drivers did not fear my new car and they came far closer to me than I was comfortable with. I sometimes held my breath for long periods of time while driving and occasionally needed to pull into a parking lot just so I could sit still and breath for a few minutes. I appreciated frequent red lights as they were opportunities to stop and breath without pulling off the road.

As much as I liked my new car it became much easier for me to just let others drive me everywhere I needed to go. This was especially if true if there was any type of time restraint. When I did drive I always gave myself twice as much time as required for ‘worst case scenario’ so I could be assured I would never have to rush and would have plenty of time for breathing breaks.

I had vowed to take the best possible care of my new car and scheduled every recommended service at the time indicated. I was quite surprised about how expensive all this vehicle maintenance cost. I was also disappointed by the number of repairs required. Yes, many of the repairs were covered under the new vehicle warranty – like having the transmission replaced after only 72,000 km. Still, others were blamed on bad roads because ‘reckless’ driving was definitely not a factor.

In the past year our not-so-new car has need some fairly major repairs that were not covered by any warranty. I first started this post last month when I was very, very angry. Angry that my car was in the dealer’s service centre for a whole week due to yet another costly repair. Angry that even all the expensive routine maintenance doesn’t ensure problems are caught early enough to prevent major issues – or maybe the service people noticed and didn’t care enough.

I was/am angry at everyone that made, sold or serviced my car. Angry that in the past year repairs on my ‘good’ vehicle have cost more than the purchase price of our ‘beater’ van – the one we use for any messy, heavy, or risky purpose so we don’t damage our ‘good’ vehicle. Our ‘beater’ van which has not had any type of service or repair in the seven years we’ve owned it.

Yet mostly I am angry that I am even more reluctant to drive now. I am unsure I can trust my car. I am concerned something else may break when I am driving. I’m annoyed that my ‘what if’ list is growing so much longer. I’m frustrated that my pre-driving planning for all the what-if’ has become so extensive that I could probably walk anywhere in the city in less time than it takes me to prepare, drive and recover.

So yes, I started this post in anger but over the month I’ve been writing it has kind of morphed into something else. It may actually be yet another example that efforts to increase safety and security may simply increase fear and anxiety – even for those of us who understand the importance of assessing and taking risks.

Confession

This year, like every year, I planned multiple summer projects and so far I’ve managed to complete many of them.  There is however one project that is not proceeding as well as I had hoped.  The weather this summer is partly to blame – you see, I planned to work on reorganizing the basement on rainy days when it was too wet to work outside in the yard. There have been many days when it was too hot to work outside in the yard and it might actually be nice to spend some time in the basement but that little voice in my head always whispers ‘You are suppose to wait until it is raining‘ and of course it never does.

In my basement there is a twelve foot section of wall that is filled from floor to ceiling with plastic bins like this storing toys not currently in use;

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Yes, they all have lovely labels describing what each bin contains.  There are also labels on all the art supply storage boxes on shelves and other various spaces throughout the house.  Visitors always comment on how organized I am. LOL

The problem is that some of those bins and boxes don’t actually contain what the label says they do.  In fact, in the basement, beyond the locked door in the area that is off limits to the children there is loose stuff. Much of the loose stuff belongs in one of those labelled bins but it doesn’t fit in it because there is something in that bin that doesn’t belong in there. This is what happens when I plan too many weekend projects and don’t get around to rotating toys until late on Sunday then don’t have time to put things away properly.  ‘I’ll fix it later’ I say.  Well,  this summer I intended to fix it – but it hasn’t rained enough so it is not done yet.

That’s not the confession.  The confession is that – and this may not actually surprise anyone – I think I might be a hoarder.  You see, along with reorganizing and putting things in their proper bins I also planned to purge – yes, I was going to get rid of stuff we don’t use.  Stop laughing! I’m serious. That was, IS my plan.

Every weekend I get a little more done.  Loose stuff and mystery boxes get spread out on the tables;

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Some stuff gets boxed up to donate (it is kept out of sight so I won’t be tempted to take it back).  There are several empty shelves in the basement now;

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There are only a few ‘sorting boxes’ left on the basement floor;

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At one point there was barely any room to walk in the basement but now there is plenty of space, several empty bins, and new labels have been made so everything is accurate.

I’d also like to point out that I think that my ‘problem’ may have been caused by elementary school teachers.  It was my (now an adult) son’s Kindergarten teacher that asked me (and other parents) to collect milk jug lids and that is why I had a container full of hundreds of milk jug lids in the basement.  If you still need them – too late, I don’t have them any more.  I don’t have any shoe boxes either.  All those sleepless nights fretting about how my child was going to fail diorama making because I didn’t buy shoes that came in boxes with lids.  So, I started collecting shoe boxes – and now I just flattened dozens of them and overfilled my recycling bin.

I also have some extra space so I picked up a few more jungle animal toys.  Didn’t really need more – I had some already but now I have families of jungle animals.  I simply have to try and fit the new ones in the bin with the old ones.

I do still have a bin, two boxes and a shelf full of empty food and spice containers – I know I don’t need that many but I haven’t sorted through them to decide which ones are the most useful – remember, my recycling bin was too full.  I still have time.  Summer is not over yet and it might even rain sometime.  Besides, sometimes it is really cold in the winter and I might want to do things inside.  That is usually when I plan to defrost the freezers (which have a thick layer of ice now because last winter I waited too long and Spring arrived). Probably I should catch up on paperwork first though.

I may have other issues besides just hoarding stuff…

Students & Mentors

Throughout my career I have had many opportunities to welcome students and other educators into my home for tours, observations and practicum placements. I have found these visits to be enlightening and I am certain that I learn just as much or more than any of the ‘students’.

Sometimes visitors are here outside of regular working hours simply to see my childcare environment and get ideas for their own programs.  When there are no children present we have plenty of time for discussions and often the visitors will ask why I have things arranged the way they are.  Even as I answer their questions I may also begin to ponder ‘Is this really the best way or could I do it differently?’

The visitors who come for ‘observations’ have the most difficulty and sometimes it is downright hilarious.  Usually they’ve been instructed to ‘observe’ the children and/or me but not ‘interfere or interact’ with us. LOL The second they entered the room they became the children’s favourite toy.  “Who are you? What are you writing? Can I have your pen/some paper? I drew a flower. I have Darth Vader on my shirt. Do you like light sabers? We aren’t supposed to hit with toys. I’m hungry, did you bring a snack? …. It doesn’t end and honestly I doubt anything they observe would resemble a ‘normal’ day.

My favourite visitors are the Early Childhood Education students here for their practicum placement.  They come for longer periods of time – usually six full days.  They are expected to join in and even plan activities.  They get to know us and we get to know them.  All of the practicum students that have come here were part of the Red River College Workplace program which means they already have experience working in licensed childcare facilities.  Usually these students have only had experience working in centres but have expressed an interest in learning more about family child care as a possible career choice in the future.

They already understand child development and guidance.  Many are well acquainted with licensing regulations, policies and procedures – at least in the centres in which they work.  Some have already worked in childcare for many, many years as childcare assistants.  Really there is little or nothing I could teach them about doing their current job.  However, they are here to learn about family childcare and for most of them that is something new – and very different from what they currently do.

The first comment I hear when these practicum students arrive is almost always ‘I can’t believe how quiet it is’.  Yes, even though I may not always find it ‘quiet’ here, in comparison to working in a centre it is very quiet.  Sometimes I even find it too quiet – especially when I have a particularly independent group or there are some children absent.  There are days that I am tempted to initiate new activities simply because I am bored – I have to stop and consider if the children would actually benefit from my activity or if I would be interrupting a wonderful child-led experience in order for me to feel more productive.

Of course the play space also excites many of the students – especially the use of environmental guidance so I/they don’t have to  constantly provide direct guidance.  I love that the students recognize this.  🙂 They also note how easily the children choose, engage, and clean-up activities with little or no assistance from me.  We often share stories about behaviour issues we’ve experienced at our respective programs and how changes to the environment have/could address them.  I think that the ability to control the environment is what draws many centre staff to family childcare – they see issues at their workplaces, have ideas that could help but for whatever reason are not permitted to implement them.

However, I don’t feel that these practicum students ever experience ‘real’ family childcare when they are here.

Firstly, they are only here for eight hour days, not the eleven I normally spend with the children each day.  The college also expects that I will give them  breaks – many of the students choose to forego their break and leave earlier instead.  There was one who never wanted to leave and often stayed longer than required but still not my full day.  One insisted on taking her lunch break at lunch time – the busiest part of my day – instead of joining the children and I for lunch.  She spent an hour sitting in her car and returned when I had the kitchen clean and all the children settled in for their naps.  In my opinion there were several factors that made me doubt she was suited for ANY position in childcare.

Secondly, these students are never alone here or in their regular workplace.  Certainly there are times when I busy myself elsewhere and observe the student engaging with the children independently but they are not truly  ‘alone’.  There is nothing I can do to allow the students to experience what it is like to be the only one responsible for doing everything all day, every day.  As much as they may think that they would love to be their own boss, that freedom comes with a whole lot more responsibility and time commitment than their current jobs.

Then there is all the other stuff – the evening and weekend stuff when the children are gone.  The cleaning, the paperwork, contacting prospective parents, meetings, interviews and more – the students see none of that.  Are they prepared for the challenge to their work/life balance when they work from home – and what about their families?  The ‘family‘ portion of family child care is a HUGE factor and many providers who choose FCC specifically to stay at home with their own children also discover they prefer working in a centre and can’t wait to ‘get their house back’.

I have had a couple students who claim to understand how much time is required for FCC but then remark that they aren’t actually planning to work in their ‘real’ home because they ‘won’t do that to their family’.  They want to rent/buy a second house or use some other space away from their true home.  We sit down and review some regulations and do some financial calculations for FCC income vs expenses for a separate space. Even if the regulations allowed it, financially this is not a viable option.

Family childcare homes are not centres – they cannot be run the same nor can they be compared to centres.  Not all ECE’s with experience in centres are equipped for working in homes and many FCC Providers would not survive working in centres.  Still, there is a lot we have in common and there is a lot we can learn from each other.

My experiences with mentoring practicum students has been enlightening.  I have observed how the behavior of the children in my care, in my environment, changes with the addition of another caregiver.  I’ve been able to reflect on whether it something I do or the student does that influences the behaviours.  I’m also certain that even though there are days when I could use an extra set of hands to get everything done, I am still much happier working alone.  That’s not the case for everyone – some ECE’s need the larger groups and daily interaction with colleagues and family childcare may not be the best fit for them.

 

Year End 2017

It is December 31st and I have not written a post yet this month.  *sigh*  When I first started blogging (seven and a half years ago) I intended to write every day.   I soon realized that once or twice a week was sufficient.  Lately it has been only once or twice each month.  I really want to write more. I plan to write more. When I’m working out at the gym, outside hiking, or enjoying a hot steamy shower I create fantastic posts in my mind.  Sit down at the computer and….nope, got nothing now. Today I am adamant – I will write something to end the year.

I hosted our family Christmas dinner for nine on Christmas Eve.  The schedule was perfect – I had one full day for prep and cleaning before dinner day.  Stores were open so I didn’t fret about ‘what if I forgot something’. Of course I didn’t actually need to run out and get anything – that only happen’s when the stores are closed.  I made three vegetable dishes, two potato dishes, turkey, gravy, and a HUGE batch of stuffing.  Everyone loves stuffing so I make a separate roaster full of stuffing – used seven loaves of bread!

There were also the little extra snacky things like pickles and cheese and cranberry sauce etc that don’t require cooking.  I had done all my baking in the weeks before Christmas so dessert was covered (even now we still have dainties waiting to be eaten).  The whole dinner was completely stress free.  I had plenty of helpers available for the last minute ‘get everything on the table while it is hot’ rush and then everyone got to eat. 🙂

I ran three full loads through the dishwasher that day and washed four sink-fulls of bulky items but the kitchen was clean by 9 pm.  All the leftovers were packed up and frozen for future meals.  There was nothing left to do on Christmas day except sit and relax.  I suppose I could have written this post then, but I didn’t.  The other thing I didn’t do was take ANY Christmas dinner photos.

So instead, I’ll include this one of the team that pulled our sleigh on MCCA’s Dashing Through the Snow event earlier this month;

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I had a great time playing outdoors with other amazing ECE’s  that day but didn’t manage to write a blog post about it either.

So now, as 2017 nears its end, I’ll begin making some plans for what I want to do in 2018. I’m not one for making ‘resolutions’ but maybe, if I reorganized my office space I’d be more inclined to sit at my desk and be productive…

My Dream

In Manitoba a licensed family childcare provider can care for a maximum of eight children under 12 years of age.  Of those eight children, no more than five may be under six – the other three must be in grade one or older.  I love having a mixed age group and the opportunity to build a relationship with the children in my care from infancy through school-age.

Over the twenty years I have been providing childcare in my home I have known many amazing school-age children who have thrived in this setting.  Some struggled with peer relationships in their school environment but enjoyed being the ‘leader’ here – idolized by the younger children.  Some embraced responsibility and enjoyed helping the little ones.  Some were wildly creative and independent and of course there were also some who resented being with ‘babies’.

I’ve watched older children gain confidence and build their self-esteem by mentoring the younger children.  I’ve seen younger children develop skills they learned from watching and copying the older children play. I’ve also had some older children that taught the little ones things/words that I wish they hadn’t. *sigh*

I’ve noticed something else – the cost of providing food, craft supplies, activities and equipment for school-age children often exceeds the income I receive for their care.  I find that the school schedule is disruptive – breaking up what could be longer periods of engagement in learning activities for the preschoolers.  So, for several years now I haven’t made an effort to fill empty school-age spaces.

Summer was the exception.  I loved having all the ‘big kids’ here for the summer – working in the garden, going on adventures, making incredible creations, sharing fantastic stories – without the rigid school schedule.  It was wonderful to have all this time with the older children instead of just the fleeting moments before/after school when everything was so hectic and there wasn’t really any time to do anything.

Yet, when I only enrolled school-age children for the summer I was finding that the first month was spent getting everyone acquainted with each other, learning routines etc. Then, just when we were starting to develop relationships, summer was over and they were gone. The ‘freedom’ of summer wasn’t quite the same with ‘new’ school-age children instead of ones we already knew.  So, for the first time ever – I didn’t fill any of my school-age spaces  this summer – and I’m loving it.

The school-age table has been empty;

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The little ones are engaging in more age-appropriate dramatic play.  They are demonstrating their creativity instead of copying someone else. I haven’t heard ‘I’m bored’ once this summer, nor have I had to spend hours shopping for tons of additional food and supplies.

I’ve also been imagining what the little ones and I could do with that extra space I have set aside for bigger children and all the supplies they need but the little ones don’t.  I’ve started to think that it would be really, really nice if the province would let me exchange those three empty school-age spaces for one more preschool space.

Group childcare homes have two licensed providers and up to 12 infant/preschool children – that’s a 1:6 ratio.  I have five preschool spaces and although three of those five could be infants I rarely have more than one or two – sometimes even none. If they stay with me until they start school each one year of infant care will need four years of preschool care.  Hence, I’d have to kick out preschoolers if I wanted to keep those infant spaces full – I would never do that.  One more preschool space would help.

Big dream – I know.

 

 

What If….

What if you had a baby – a baby that was so ‘perfect’ that other parents were jealous.  A baby that was never demanding, slept through the night, was content to sit and watch the world around him but also enjoyed playing and snuggling.  A baby that was so very easy to love all the time.

What if he became a toddler with ‘quirks’ – I know, all toddlers have quirks but what if his were so abundant and so noticeable that even strangers made comments.  Yet, those quirks were so familiar – you had them too when you were little, and people made comments then too.  You understood those quirks, in fact you could anticipate and prepare for them.

What if he had sensory issues that made some places/activities impossible without meltdowns – sometimes so severe that he curled in a ball and shut down completely.  He was done for the day now, might as well just put him to bed and try again tomorrow.

What if your preschooler was so quiet and withdrawn that people wondered if he ever talked – he did, he had a fabulous sense of humor and wonderful conversations when he was in familiar settings with people he knew.

What if your child took ‘slow to warm up’ to a whole new level – taking days, weeks, or even months to adapt to a change or try something new.

What if you secretly worried about what would happen to him when he went to school.  There would be so many things there that you knew would be very, very hard for him.  You considered homeschooling where he could feel comfortable and’safe’.  Yet you decided it was important that he learn to move beyond his comfort zone and going to school was an important step.

What if school proved to be both good and bad – he had some terrific friends who were happy to have him around but there were others that tormented him unrelentingly.  Yet, he never complained – quietly independent he doesn’t like to complain or ask for help.

What if he was amazingly kind and gentle wanting nothing more than to have everyone get along, never arguing, always trying to help.  Never late. Never needing reminders to clean his room or do his chores. Never asking anyone to do anything for him.

What if some school years were better than others – depending on the teacher.  Some were understanding and accommodating while others insisted he comply to their strict regime  immediately without hesitation.  Yet all made the same comment “He is so smart, but when he has a problem he can’t solve alone he just panics, quits and walks away without telling anyone why or asking for help.”

What if school counselors and Psychologists said  we don’t know how to help him and referred him to Psychiatry who said “Anxiety and OCD – maybe medication would help’.  But it didn’t – what works is to let him ‘watch’ until he feels comfortable enough to ‘try’ – understanding that some things are still impossible at least on some days.

What if he came so close to finally graduating high school and then crashed and you don’t really know why because he won’t/can’t tell you.  Instead he spent a year alone in his room.

What if you tried to find someone to help but most said “He’s an adult now you can’t talk for him he has to call us himself” but you know that is never going to happen.  So you give him more responsibilities at home where he is comfortable and he is so wonderfully reliable, and helpful and amazing – you wish others could see it.

What if you finally find someone who says ‘Yes, we’ll try’ and it takes years of appointments and referrals and waiting lists and more referrals and throughout it all he is still quietly persistent – doing what is asked to the best of his abilities without complaining.

What if then they quit – they say “We can’t find a placement for him.”  They specialize in connecting workers with jobs and they give up without any further referrals and you’re back at square one and you don’t know what to do.

What if somewhere there is an employer or training program in Winnipeg that is willing to give him a chance.  If you know of one can you please let me know.  cheryl@cccare.ca