When Ethan was born, I was blessed to be able to stay home with him for seven months. Then I was blessed that my grandmother was able and willing to take care of him while I worked. I didn't have to worry about some stranger taking care of my baby or him bringing home of the icky sicknesses or bad habits that I'd heard about.
But around the time Ethan became a big brother I realized that he needed something different. He needed a place that could help him get ready for school by working with him on his academics and getting him accustomed to an orderly environment. I was a nervous wreck. But I wanted to help him any way I could. I started by looking up day cares on the DSS website that would be easy for me to get to on my way to and from work. There were several, but I didn't know anything about them other than what I saw on the computer screen. So I began to ask around. I particularly asked people at work who I knew had had children stay at day cares in the recent past. There were two pieces of advice that were offered over and over. 1.Stay away from X. and 2. Miss Martha is the best. Take him to her; you won't be sorry.
Miss Martha happened to be the grandmother, or Nannie, of a girl I had taught in the past. At the time, she had told me that the day care started at 2 years and that she did a great job. Of course a granddaughter would say that, but this girl was very mature and I didn't believe she would steer me wrong.
I made the leap. I called Miss Martha. She sounded sweet on the phone and scheduled a meeting for me in the evening to come over with Ethan. A few days later I found myself in her basement turned day care with my 2 boys. They played while she talked with me about her policies, expectations and everything else that goes along with that territory. I felt a little overwhelmed, but I had a good feeling about Ethan staying there.
Soon enough, Ethan was one of Miss Martha's babies. He loved her like another grandmother. She was nice, but firm, and she had high expectations. He did work, played, celebrated holidays and birthdays. He was writing his name, phone number and address. He brought home new work every week and would excitedly tell me about his visits with the book mobile where he would get his hand stamped. There were days when Miss Martha would tell me about something Ethan shouldn't have done and what his punishment had been, but those weren't very often. Ethan was thriving and Miss Martha had a big hand in it.
And Miss Martha was becoming a friend. We talked about lots of things in the evenings when I picked Ethan up. School, religion, her grandchildren, the kids at the daycare, my recommendations on a new employee, anything and everything could be brought up. She was working on her degree and asked for help several times. I gladly helped when I could and pointed her to others when it was something I didn't understand (math and biology). When anyone brought boy clothes to give away, she would sweetly offer them to me, especially after we had number 3.
By this time last year, all three of my boys were going to Miss Martha's. She wasn't with the younger ones, but she was over there as much as she could be. She worked hard to make sure her all of her facilities were what they needed to be for every child.
Last June, Ethan became a graduate of Martha's Day Care. Graduation was a fun event, which Miss Martha coordinated with songs, decorations, poems, and cake. It was just what a day care graduation should be. Unfortunately, our circumstances changed this year and I didn't have any kids at Martha's. I called her to tell her and she was understanding when she assured me that the Lord had provided several more kids for her to care for and that she would move some in from the waiting list.
Sadly, I got a phone call Monday afternoon telling me that Miss Martha had died suddenly. She had been found unresponsive and never recovered. The most difficult thing I have had to do as a parent was tell Ethan that Miss Martha was gone. It hurts me so much to see him hurt. It's difficult to know what to say when I don't know the answers. Thankfully, we have our faith. Miss Martha lived a life that told me she would go to Heaven and it's been nice to relay that to Ethan. We went to the funeral home last night. I didn't force him to go, but I allowed him to chose. We waited for over an hour and a half - a testament to Miss Martha's life. She was the only person outside of family that I entrusted my children with, and I heard that echoed several times last night as kids ran around the funeral home. Thank you for everything, Miss Martha.