I was visiting with my mom the other day and she mentioned how different things are now in child care then they were 30 some odd years ago. She said, “When we needed care back then we didn’t give the same thought to it. No one was talking about early education. You looked for a safe place to leave your child to play while you went to work.”
I was cared for by my great aunt through most of my childhood, but I do recall distant memories of group care settings.
There was a stretch of time when I was about three when I attended a child care center in Hill City. I remember it as being dark, and the very best thing was every day at naptime they would let me lay down with a carton of chocolate milk.
When I was five and six, I went to a big facility in Rapid City during the summer. There are recollections of traveling on the bus to the swimming pool, and roller skating to She’s My Cherry Pie at the local skating rink. There was also a large theatre in the building. I did my first non-dance performance, lip-synching Manic Monday. I remember the way the art room smelled, a mix of playdoh and poster paint, and the warm sand in the sandbox under the big cottonwood trees outside.
I hear many stories of what people remember from the early care settings of their childhood. I’ve heard the stories from adults about the child care providers they loved as a child who now care for their children. I’ve heard of the grandma who started out watching her grandchild and how that grew into a business that she loved for fifteen years.
I’ve also heard of the children who were forced to drink “purple medicine” every day and how they would awaken just before their parent’s picked them back up. I’ve heard of the centers where a child was grabbed and an arm was broken, because a teacher “lost it.”
I remember being alone and afraid at the age of three at the center in Hill City, and being handed chocolate milk and told to be quiet. I remember being five and six and trying to have fun and make friends at the center in Rapid City. I also remember being cornered and bullied by older girls, pinching me, pushing me, and calling me names. Every. Single. Day.
Children remember. It shapes who they are. For better or worse our interactions with children count, every day. The way we organize their environment, the way we show them that we care about them, and the way we encourage and empower them to be strong and stand up for themselves matters. Every. Single. Day.
What will our children and our students remember?
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