As a grandma involved with little children, I’m revisiting places I knew 25 years ago: the playground, soccer pitch, school, and daycare. It seems to me that these places are a lot more fun than they used to be.
Take the McCauley Community After School Care Association daycare at 93 Street and 108 Avenue. It’s bright, colourful sign heralds a space filled with giggles and glee. The first thing I noticed was that staff seems to be eternally cheerful. Grumpy Grandma or Laughing Leanne and Bubbly Barb? When the children started going to after school care, they kept begging, “Can’t we stay longer?” or, “Why did you come so early?” We were disrupting dodge ball, or a hula hoop competition, or an intricate craft, or time at the outdoor park. When I asked, “What do you like best?” they respond with the names of new friends – Isaiah, Seth, Abel, Molly – and the prizes they get when they do “good stuff.”
It’s the staff that makes the place. When I ask Leanne what she likes best about the job, she points a finger here and there. “The kids,” she says. She actually tried to resign recently. It’s hard to make ends meet on a daycare worker’s salary and the split shift makes it hard to add other work. But she missed the kids too much. She couldn’t do it. For now, it’s her calling.
When the children are off school for a PD day, they often go on a field trip. Josh was sold on the place when, on the second day he was there, they took a bus to Let’s Play, a place that this grandma had never heard of. They have baked cookies and visited Chinatown. They love the snacks that they won’t eat at home – oatmeal! Recently, Fashion Week was celebrated, complete with mannequin heads that needed new hairdos. I don’t know who put a head in the fridge but it was a bit of a shock to open the fridge door to get lunch and encounter a ravishing blond head and staring blue eyes.
The pièce de résistance was a Beach Party in the dead of winter. These intrepid women filled up numerous children’s wading pools with warm water and invited everyone to bring swimsuits and towels. Who needs Palm Beach? But even when it appears that fun is the only thing on anyone’s mind, staff is vigilant. They make a complete sweep of Sacred Heart Park, picking up glass and whatever else they may find, before the children are let loose. They always have an empty lap or a warm hug when someone is having a bad day. They crack a joke or use diversionary tactics when an altercation over a toy arises.
I recognized the genius of the staff when I walked in after a tiring day to find them involved in playing “Graveyard.” This involves the children lying dead silent all over the floor. The winner is the kid who stays quiet the longest. When that competitive streak kicks in, even a chatterbox closes her mouth! I think I may try it at home.