I wrote about the cost of childcare recently, which was a bit of a moany rant if I’m honest. But I realised that what I didn’t write about is how amazing these people are, who work in nurseries and pre-schools and schools. So, this is for them. Er, it’s also my first poem so please be kind.
“Are you coming for a cuddle then?”
“Shall we wave to Mummy from the window?”
As I hand over my children.
I run down the road
To my car. Away. To my ‘actual job’.
This is your actual job.
Unfailing. Never cross. With more strength and enthusiasm and cheer and kindness
Than I can sometimes muster.
I pay you. For the good days.
For the sad, snotty, Calpol consent form days.
But those good days? They’ll break my heart if I let them.
A first birthday. Carrying her up to the baby room.
She doesn’t know it’s her birthday, see? Tomorrow, my day off…
…we’ll have a special pretend birthday.
“It’s her birthday today and…” It’s her birthday today.
Hands, tissues, an arm around my shoulder. “It’s ok, Mum. It’s ok.”
A cake, party games, candles, a visit from her sister.
All these things you did
On that day
When I paid you, to look after my children
So I could sit at a desk and drink hot tea and wee in peace.
How trite it all seemed. At 4.33pm. When she turned one, without me there.
Minds, like little sponges.
How much you teach them! All the new versions
Of songs, and rhymes, and games.
“Baa baa pink sheep, have you any spots?
Yes sir, yes sir, lots and lots.”
I sometimes wish I’d taught her that.
My fridge, at home. And my husband’s desk, at work
(most surfaces, actually)
Filled with sheets of card and blobs of glue and cotton wool and splatters of paint
That I can’t be arsed to do with them myself, because of the mess.
You do that. You set up and clear up and carefully peg artwork
To dry. For me.
When I am drained from that job, at that desk, with no meaning
Often too tired to care, really, what they ate for lunch
You tell me anyway. And you show me things, you reassure me
That the baby has just had her nappy changed, so I don’t need to worry.
Then my toddler leans up to kiss you goodbye, and you let her
I realise, you are raising them.
You are filling in my gaps
(There are many, many gaps)
We’re doing it together, you and me and my husband and my family.
How many children, have you played Mummy to? Over the years
How many have you waved off, aged four, to school and new beginnings?
How do you cope with that?
I saw once. One of my favourite staff, who’s left now
She said goodbye to one of her key children
On her first day of school, as her Dad dropped her brother off in the toddler room.
She turned to me, to take my child, hot tears on flushed cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “That girl was one of mine
For a long time.”
Thank you. Thank you so, so much
For everything that you do, and everything that you are
On those days
When I really don’t have it in me.
You are building these children, shaping these minds
-SJW March 2017