Thursday, February 9, 2023

Parenting Decisions, and the ONE I know I Got Right

I know I'm not alone when I say that parenting is a tricky journey. It's part roller-coaster ride, part introspective journey, part blindly plodding through vast stretches of the unknown. I became a step-mom in 2006 and a bio mom in 2009....which means I've been doing this mom gig for about 17 years. 

Parenting is 1,000 different decisions that you second-guess all day long, and again when you wake up at 2am. To raise humans is to become one with uncertainty. What is right for one kid might be completely wrong for the next one. One day you're supposed to put your baby to sleep on his tummy, and the next he must be on his back. The crib your baby has been sleeping in for 6 months was recalled a year ago. You go out of your way to make hearty, healthy breakfasts for your kids, only to discover (after 2.5 years) that your kid is allergic to eggs. You enroll your child in a performing arts school where they grow into their introverted personality and despise the spotlight. You pull your hair out over your child who moves at the pace of a sloth ALL THE TIME only to learn that he actually has a legit processing delay which makes it impossible for him to do nearly anything at a speed that you would consider to be reasonable. 

That is just a very small sampling of things I *didn't* get quite right in this parenting game. 

For all the mis-steps along the way, there are some beautiful and important parenting decisions that we got 100% right. One of those was choosing Cozy Kids Childcare. 

My daughter was born in the middle of the 2008 recession, which turned out to be fantastic timing because it allowed me to cut back my hours to part time so I could be more available for mom duties. The process of selecting someone to care for my newborn while I was at work was gut wrenching. I was conflicted about returning to work at all. I was unsure I could trust a stranger to properly care for my tiny, helpless human. 

When I first met Carol during a site visit at Cozy Kids Childcare, I remember vividly the moment she said to me, "Your daughter will not get the level of attention here that she would get at home with you. It's just not possible in a group daycare setting." 

Uh. What? 

I was stunned. I was shopping for daycare and this did not strike me as the most convincing sales pitch. But as I thought about her words later that afternoon, I realized she wasn't trying to scare me away. She was setting me up for reasonable expectations. Being at home with mom and dad is different than being at a daycare with a bunch of other babies and toddlers. There are perks like socialization with other humans (big and small) but there is also the reality that no child is going to be the center of attention at daycare like they are at home. And maybe that's a good thing. Or at least, that's what I convinced myself of in that moment. 

So, we enrolled my daughter at Cozy Kids Childcare and hoped for the best. Three years later, we enrolled our son. Little did we know, our hopes would be realized and exceeded tenfold. 

The first day Clara spent at Carol's house, I raced there as quickly as I could after work, anxious to see my little 6-month old baby. I found her contentedly rocking on John's lap (Carol's husband) in the backyard. When I approached, he looked up and said to me, "I almost feel guilty for taking your money for this one. Almost." 

My mild-mannered, low maintenance baby had won his heart. And Carol and John won ours over and over as the years passed. 

Carol's house became my kids' home away from home. They made friends, learned how to be gentle with animals, experienced extremes of hot and cold with the seasons because at Carol's house, there is no such thing as "inclement weather".  The kids got dirty. SO dirty. Every day. They picked cucumbers from the garden to gnaw on as they rode around the tricycle track. Hours upon hours were spent swinging, climbing, painting, playing in the sand box, or creating elaborate make-believe stories in the reading loft. At Carol's house my kids lived out the seasons of learning to sit up, roll over, hold a fork, eat independently, and potty training. 

Occasionally an "alumni mom" would show up and share a cup of coffee with Carol in the mornings. I remember being envious of those moms who had 30 minutes to spare on a weekday morning, as I was quickly dropping off kids, wiping drool off my shirt and calculating how/when/where I would pump breastmilk that day. 

"This will be you one day!" Carol told me. 

From the depths of the baby/toddler years, I couldn't fathom having the time or energy for a leisurely cup of coffee with another adult. 

There were annual traditions like a field trip to the pumpkin patch, a Christmas party (complete with a visit from Santa and gifts for every child) and Easter egg hunts. Carol visited me in the hospital when my son was born, attended Baptisms and birthday parties and hugged me as I cried when I was laid off from my job. 

We were never "customers" at Carol's house. We were family. 

Fast forward 13 years to the summer of 2022 and my daughter returned to Carol's house as a helper. She was so proud to be the "big kid" and also just happy to return to this space that was her cozy home away from home as a little person. Every time I would drop Clara off for work in the morning, I thought to myself...I should stop today and have a cup of coffee with Carol. 

And every morning, I pushed it off for another day. 

Unfortunately, this summer gig was cut short when Carol and John's home was destroyed by fire in July, 2022. It almost seems like a cliche in these parts. How many dreams and plans have been dashed by fire? At this point, everyone has a story.

Carol and John ultimately opted not to rebuild, but instead decided to retire and move to Washington to be closer to kids and grandkids. The loss of their childcare business is a bummer for our community, and a heartache for so many families that had the privilege of trusting our kids to them over the years. 

This is not the ending I would have written for Cozy Kids Childcare but sometimes the choices are not ours to make. But for every decision that I've second-guessed as a parent, Cozy Kids is not one of them. 

My only regret is that I never got that leisurely cup of coffee. 

Carol with my kiddos at the pumpkin patch,
circa 2013