Tag Archives: toddlers

An Open Letter To Esther Evans Central NY’s Own Mary Poppins

18 May

Dear Esther,

It has been several weeks since we met at your home tucked away in the rolling hills between Skaneateles and Marcellus, N.Y. You agreed to talk with me on the dawn of your retirement from 16 years as a licensed family child care provider, so I could “profile” your story for Child Care Solutions. The stories I typically write are attempts at illustrating the importance of the work we do on behalf of the Central New York child care system.  I spin negative circumstances which our agency has helped parents or child care providers overcome into heart-tugging pleas for more money, better legislation, and progressive public policies. But your story is different. Your story is an example of our vision –“every child being cared for in a high quality, safe and nurturing environment that cultivates healthy development, early learning and joy” – being brought to life. There is nothing to spin, no barrier to hurdle, no struggle to detail. Yet I want you to know, you tugged at my heartstrings like no other person I’ve interviewed.

The day we met began with a nostalgic drive down memory lane on the country roads of my youth. Farm houses, sturdy barns and rolling pastures brought me back to simpler days and led me to a humble home that felt comfortably familiar. I stumbled up your gravel driveway; you held the door open for me, your cheery yellow scarf blowing in the wind, and shouted, “Honey, I’m so glad to meet you.”  My heart knew you meant it. I loved you instantly. After formal introductions and offers of coffee and tea, I settled into a well-worn couch and learned about the volumes of knowledge accumulated during 16 years as a family child care provider. What was supposed to be a quick ½-hour interview about retirement evolved into a 2-hour visit that filled me with gratitude for having met such a kind soul. I could have stayed nestled in that couch forever. I’d liken the experience to what I am sure Jane and Michael Banks felt after realizing that Mary Poppins had magical nanny powers – it was mesmerizing!esther

Please know that meeting you felt like kismet to me. You came along during a period when I was questioning the relevance of my work and becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of political/societal will to change a dysfunctional child care system. You single-handedly reignited my spark because in you I saw what I’m working for – child care that is filled with learning, play, security, comfort, and most importantly, love. You embody what every child care provider should be. This vocation was your calling and countless children and parents benefited from your passion. My hope is that by writing this letter, others will reap the rewards of your wisdom; they will know your story is a diamond in the rough … and that we need more diamonds.

In 2000, you worked up the courage to open your own child care business. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” you told me.  You had never been your own boss, having worked in retail and at a Camillus copy center – where people would come in and scream and yell all day. The thought of anyone yelling at you is heartbreaking. Who yells at quite possibly one of the kindest ladies I have ever met? These jobs led to an assistant position at a child care center in Skaneateles, where you found your destiny. And I don’t use that word lightly. It is my belief that some people are simply hardwired to perform certain jobs. Child care is one of the hardest professions around and it takes a special person to do it really well – and to want to. Let’s face it, you weren’t in it for the money. You said yourself you should have charged more, but that wasn’t what it was about for you. For you, it was about the kids and loving them and helping their parents. “Where else can you go to work every day and get a hug and ‘I love you’?”  Oh, how I wish I would have known you when my children were small. The heartache you could have saved me.

As you know, Esther, heartache like mine can be quite common among parents who rely on child care when they are at work. Leaving your child in someone else’s care is a leap of faith. It is the ultimate test of trust. For you, it was “a privilege that parents would trust [me] enough to help raise their children.”  When you uttered those words, I choked up and thought, why can’t everyone feel that way? For truly, it is a privilege and an honor (albeit not always an easy one) to be entrusted with another’s safety, security and education. (We need this privilege to translate to community and political leaders – a letter for another day!) For 16 years you did it with grace, humility, confidence, common sense and a little bit of flair. That flair shines through in what I’m calling “Esther’s Pearls of Wisdom.” These are the nuggets you peppered into our conversation, and I’ve compiled them into a list so you can easily share them with others:

  1. Play outdoors all of the time, but be prepared for anything. Always have extra sweatshirts, socks, and underwear on hand.
  2. Thrifty Shopper and the Rescue Mission are a child care provider’s best friend for things like sweatshirts, coats and snowsuits. A little soap and water and things are like brand new!
  3. Don’t be afraid of making messes. It’s OK if you get paint on the table. It will come off.
  4. Let kids play. Let kids make mistakes.
  5. Kids are so smart. Give them the time and patience they need because slow and steady wins the race.
  6. Encourage, don’t discourage. Praise children for things they do well. Listen and get excited for them.
  7. Say “I’m sorry” as an adult and teach children to say “I’m sorry” sincerely.
  8. Place children on your heart and never take them off.
  9. Adults have good days and bad days. Children are no different – always remember that.
  10. Don’t buy expensive toys. It’s OK to get toys at garage sales.
  11. There are no bad kids – only bad situations.
  12. Greet children at the door with a hug or a handshake.
  13. Document, document, document every bump, bruise, tummy ache, etc.
  14. Jump in the mud!
  15. Do arts and crafts outdoors. Kids will be inspired.
  16. Parents visit a child care program multiple times before you make a decision. You can’t get a true sense of what a place is like in one day.
  17. Know what your limits are and what you’re capable of.
  18. If you can’t give kids 110% it’s time to quit.
  19. Have a schedule and share it with parents. Be flexible with the schedule if you need to.
  20. Enroll in CACFP.
  21. If you are the child care provider and you witness a child’s first step or word or smile, DO NOT TELL THE PARENTS! Let them have this experience.

These pearls of wisdom are just a few of the examples of the kind of child care you provided, Esther. How lucky are the children and parents who benefited from this advice.


As you embark on your retirement, please rest assured knowing that you served the parents and children of your community well. The impact you’ve had on children’s lives cannot be underestimated. Children like Mackenna Caryl are better people for having been in your care; I’m sure she will always credit you for being the person who got her to eat green beans (a magical feat for many parents) and for being a second “grandmother” to her. Your “kids” who are now teenagers come back to visit you and write cards and letters. That says something!  So from me personally and the entire staff of Child Care Solutions, thank you. Thank you for your dedication, for treating child care as a profession, for doing right by children, for being the type of child care provider everyone should emulate, for being Central New York’s own Mary Poppins. You will be missed.


Patrice Robinson

Marketing & Development Director

patrice crop

PS. Don’t be surprised if I stop by for freeze pops one day this summer!

Esther made differences in children’s lives every day. We need more qualified and caring individuals like Esther to support working families. When you support Child Care Solutions, it’s an investment in Central New York’s future. Your donation supports professional development opportunities for child care educators and providers like Esther and our public policy and advocacy efforts on behalf of quality and affordable child care.

Every day Esther invested in children, parents, and our economy. Make your investment in Central NY’s future.






Governor Cuomo, The Children of NY Need Your Support!

21 Nov

Child Care Solutions is a member of Winning Beginning NY, a coalition of early childhood advocacy organizations from around the state. Last week Winning Beginning NY released its recommendations for 2012 to Governor Cuomo. They asked the Governor to:
• Invest $20 million to begin implementation of QUALITYstarsNY (QSNY), New York’s new quality rating & improvement system.

What is QualityStarsNY? from Walking Whale on Vimeo.

• Restore $37 million in funding for child care subsidies and explore setting consistent statewide standards for parent eligibility and co-pays and provider reimbursement rates.
• Maintain the current commitment of $384.3 million to support Pre-K services for nearly 99,000 four-year-olds across the state.
• Adequately and equitably fund K-12 education aid to prevent school districts from reducing access to Kindergarten for five-year-olds.
• Invest $30.3 million to sustain evidence-based home visiting programs for vulnerable children and families.
• Restore the Early Intervention (EI) Program to last year’s funding level of $230 million.
• Restore the Advantage After-School Program to last year’s funding level of $22.5 million.
Child Care Solutions supports the Winning Beginning NY agenda because we believe that investments in young children help families and children thrive today and give children a foundation for life-long success. Even in bad economic times, no, especially in bad economic times, when so many families are struggling to make ends meet, we can’t afford to do less. We hope you agree.

Peggy Liuzzi, Executive Director, Child Care Solutions

To learn more about Winning Beginnings click on this link. http://www.winningbeginningny.org/

Kindergarten Called…Why Are You Redshirting Your 5 Year Old?

5 Oct

Redshirting for 5 Year-Olds?
Why It Doesn’t Make Sense Continue reading

Just Say No…

3 Oct

Here is true story from a small town in the Midwest:

A woman took her five year old son to the psychiatrist at the local mental health center. This little boy was considered disrespectful, defiant and demanding by the people who knew him. His mother agreed and often sighed over having a child she considered troubled. The psychiatrist observed the mother and the little boy together and then met with each of them separately. Finally, he came out of his office and had a prescription in his hand. He told the mother, “I have something here that I really think will help your son.”

The mother was very eager to get the prescription and seemed relieved that the psychiatrist had found something definite and “medical” that was wrong with her son. The psychiatrist went on and said, “I want you to make sure he gets this four times a day. It’s very important that you keep up with this prescription.”

“Absolutely,” said the mother “I’ll do anything to help my son. I’ll make sure I get this filled and give it to him four times a day.”

The psychiatrist told her it might not be easy, but she said she was willing to do anything.

The psychiatrist kept holding on to the prescription while repeating to the mother how valuable this prescription would be to her son and how important it would be for her to be consistent and diligent in giving it to him. Meanwhile, the mother was just itching to get her hands on this prescription and assured the doctor that she would make absolutely sure her son got it.

The psychiatrist handed her the prescription and went back into his office. The mother looked at the prescription. On it the psychiatrist had written, “Tell him, ‘NO!’” For a long time children were told “No” quickly, automatically and harshly. No one thought that children needed or deserved any kind of an explanation to go with a “No.”

You may have experienced this in your own childhood. If you haven’t, you probably know people who have. Gradually some adults began to question whether this was good for children.

To go along with this, some children heard “no” more than anything else from adults. Again people began to question whether it was good to have children experience so much negativity. At some point, these adults began to voice their opinions and the pendulum began to swing away from these automatic, harsh “No’s.”

Many adults are worried that saying “no” is guaranteed to be negative and that no good could ever come from it. However, saying “no” can be very beneficial for children in several ways.

It is one of the tools that adults can use to guide and teach children. Think of this analogy.

Suppose you were the parent of a child who was in the third grade and that you lived about five blocks from the elementary school in a neighborhood that had good sidewalks and was safe to walk in. Suppose also that you had been walking your child to school since kindergarten and that now she is asking to walk by herself. After thinking it over, you agree to let her do it. If you are like many parents, you do not stay in the house as your child sets out to walk to school by herself the very first time. Of course not! You slip out of the house and follow her, ducking behind trees and cars so she doesn’t see you. Now suppose that at the first intersection, she turns left instead of right so that she is heading in the exact opposite direction of the school. Do you stand back, shrug your shoulders and sigh, “Oh, well. She went in the wrong direction. She’ll never get to the school going that way. I have no idea where she will end up, but oh, well.” Of course you don’t! You jump out from behind the latest hiding place, rush to your child and say, “No, no. You just went the wrong way. Let me help you. Let me turn you around so you can go in the right direction.”

Now suppose that instead of walking to school, we are talking a child who is still in the process of learning how to behave in the way that we would like. When the child’s behavior is not what we have taught or not what we want, wouldn’t it make sense to say, “No, no. You are doing the wrong thing. Let me help you. Let me turn you around so you can behave in the way we talked about.”

Saying “no” can also be beneficial in protecting children from harm or from situations that are beyond their experience. Young children do not anticipate or appreciate danger. They believe that if they want to do something, they will be able to. This is what leads them to try things that may be dangerous. Many years ago in a nursery school, a group of 4-year-olds once created a “mountain” out of chairs while the head teacher was out of the room and the teacher assistants were working with other children. The head teacher returned, and the children proudly showed off their mountain. They were thrilled with their creation and were ready to climb it. They were absolutely convinced that there was no danger. The teacher said, “You might fall and hurt yourselves.” They replied, “No, we won’t.” In this situation, the teacher really needed to say “no” to climbing the chair mountain.

An effective “no” can help enforce limits that support children. It is the job of adults to set limits for children. Limits help children feel safe; they need to know that someone who knows more than they do is watching out for them. Here’s another analogy.

Suppose you’re in a plane that has just taken off on a trip to Hawaii. Everything is going smoothly. About an hour into the trip, the loudspeaker comes on and you hear, “Welcome. Make yourself comfortable as we head to the tropical paradise. We will be cruising at about 30,000 feet. . . 30,000 feet . . . 30,000 feet . . . 30,000 feet . . . 30,000 feet . . . 30,000 feet . . . etc!”

Here’s what any logical person would probably think, “It doesn’t sound like there is any real person flying this plane! And here we are 30,000 feet up in the air. I can’t be responsible for my own safety here, and it doesn’t look like there’s anyone else who is either.” We could go into a free fall, and the only thing that will stop the plane is the ocean or the ground!

This is not very reassuring. It’s the same with children. When no one sets any limits, it’s like the children are on their own. They really aren’t capable of navigating all the challenges of life, but there’s no one piloting them.

Once limits have been set by caring and responsible adults, it is the children’s job to test them to see how good the limits are. If children push against the limits and no one says, “No, that’s not what we do,” then the limits are not very solid. They are limits that won’t support you; they will let you down. And this is also not very reassuring to children!

Experiencing “no” can also help children learn that sometimes the answer or response is “no,” but it’s not the end of the world. Children learn through their experiences. If adults always manipulate their experiences so that everything is or turns out to be “yes,” children will expect that they will always get everything they want or be able to do everything that they want. Eventually, however, they are going to be in situations with other adults and children, and they are going to come up against “no.” If they have no experience with a reasonable “no,” they are really at a disadvantage in life. Children who have experienced a “no” and learned that things turned out all right then develop a perspective on not getting their own way – “Sometimes I don’t get what I want. I don’t like it, but things can still be okay.” This is a powerful life lesson.

Caring adults who give children appropriate and effective “no’s” help those children develop the ability to eventually control their own behavior by saying “no” to themselves.

These are all very positive interactions that are good for children. So it is important for us to recognize that telling children “no” is something we need to do if we truly care about children. But, we need to learn to do it well. We need to learn to do it so it is effective – so it works for the child. That is, it clearly sends the message that what the child did or said was not the right thing and also gives them more information about the right (or at least better) thing to do or say.

Author:  Gretchen Kinnell, Professional Development Specialist

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