Every day, I pick up my daughter from daycare. Every day, I rush in and out of that place like a whirling dervish, loath to participate in any small talk or long discussions. Every day for years I have had only minimal contact with the people who run this place. Minimal at best. Certainly not as much as they deserve. This is not because they are not worthy of my time. Quite the opposite. They are wonderful, patient, understanding, loving, caring, involved people. It’s because I am perpetually in a rush. I have dinner to prepare and a dog to walk and it’s 5:45 and we have to get home. I can’t help myself. That’s just me.
So to make up for all of those times I picked her up and just said hello and goodbye with little eye contact as I was climbing, then shortly thereafter descending, the steps two at a time, I am here to say what I should have stopped to say all of these years:
My daughter is happy. She is well-behaved. She is bright, observant, and clever. She is funny and friendly. A lot of that is nature. Some of that is parenting. (Of course.) But so much of that is you.
We moved here when she was one and a half years old. Took her from the only home and only daycare she had ever known, and she didn’t miss a beat. And that IS you.
You treated her not as a student, but as a child. Your child. You made her feel at home. You eased every fear or concern we’ve ever had from day one.
One of my favorite stories shows just what this place has done for us. At one point last year, my daughter was giving my wife a difficult time during the morning routine for a few days in a row. (I’m already at work when this is going on at 7am.) She was saying things like, “I don’t want to go to school.” When my wife asked her why she answered, “Because the boys aren’t being nice.”
First, I was surprised. (She’s always been friends with those boys.) Then. I was protective. (I’ll beat those boys to a pulp.) Finally, I was constructive. (I’ll ask her teacher what’s up.)
So on one of the rare occasions where I took the time to have an actual conversation with someone during pickup, I asked the teacher on the playground if my daughter ever seems unhappy, if she ever complains, or if she notices her ever getting a hard time from the boys.
“Are you kidding me?” She answered. “(Your daughter) puts them in their place. If they mess with her she says, ‘No you don’t.’”
“She’s fine,” she continued. “You’ll never have to worry about her getting pushed around.”
THAT’s my girl.
“So what you’re saying is, she’s playing us?”
“You got that right.”
As a newish dad, it took me a while to realize that daycare is not just a place you pay to watch your child. It’s much more than that. It’s people you trust to help your child grow. To help her succeed. People who potty trained her. (Because she just would NOT go for us.) People who cared for her when she was sick. (Because it takes a while to get home from the city after you’ve received THAT phone call.) People who showed her love, not anger, when she did something wrong. (Because they knew she was sorry.)
People who became her family, a part of our family. People who we talk about around the dinner table. People she looks up to. People she loves.
I am glad my daughter will attend summer camp at her daycare on the days we’re not away. That means we don’t have to say goodbye just yet. As we count down to Kindergarten, I realize she is ready and confident to take that step because of you. But with the school year officially ending, there is one thing that I want to say to the people who have meant so much for so long. It doesn’t seem like enough, but it truly says it all:
Justin is a husband, dad, and writer who also blogs at Daddy Knows Less.