One of the biggest challenges for parents in our time is, well, time. Or at least the shortage of it. Having to keep up with inflation, with the Joneses, with technology, with the news and with ever-increasing demands at work means that many parents need a place for their kids to be after school hours.
Of course, we do not want our kids to be just anywhere. We want to keep them in a safe place, operated by friendly people who like kids, where our children will be kept occupied, interested and preferably even educated. Not an easy thing to find, especially when that place also needs to make money…
On the emotional side, leaving our kids with others and staying long hours at work creates loads of guilt feelings. If you have ever put your child in childcare, I am sure you have thought to yourself, “What kind of a parent am I if my kids spend most of their days away from me and get most of their care from other people?”
That was exactly my feeling when Tsoof was in Grade 4 and we needed a place for him for a couple of afternoons a week. The guilt feelings were almost unbearable and we were very apprehensive, especially because the choice was limited. After all, how would he get on his own to any place farther than a block away?
This story is not just about one place. It is not even just about after school care. This story is to tell you that when you have to find a place for your kids to spend some time, you can actually find them and your kids can actually be happy there.
We decided to check out the closest option first and, since he was at Macgregor State School, that was the Macgregor Outside School Hours Care (MOSHC). “It’s zero walking distance from his school and there’s a chance some of his friends will be there”, we reasoned.
We were so wrapped up in our own feeling we did not even notice the friendly smiles, the busy atmosphere, the confidence with which the kids conducted themselves or the quality of the facilities and equipment. We were just bad parents and there was nothing more to it. Our little boy was going to sit there resenting us and feeling abandoned.
But he came back saying he was having a good time. He mentioned the names of staff members he liked, telling stories of fun activities and developing a weekly routine based on what was on offer and which of his friends was there with him.
A few years passed and our situation changed. Tsoof went to high school and became very busy with his music, while Noff started school and needed a place to be until we came to pick them up. She was not in Grade 4, though, she was in Grade 1. She was also our youngest (by far), which meant we looked at her as the family’s baby. How would she manage all by her little self?
So we picked her up on the first few days and gently tried to find out what horrible feelings she might be having towards us, but she cheerfully recounted play time, arts and crafts and other fun stuff.
One day, Noff asked if we could come and pick her up later. “Pick Tsoof up first and them come for me”, she said, “I want to have afternoon tea with my friends and then play for a while”.
Turns out the kids got fruit and crackers for afternoon tea. Noff loves fruit and we are all for healthy food, so that was great.
Then, she asked if we could take her to MOSHC early when Tsoof has morning rehearsals. “I want to have breakfast with my friends”, she said, “Some of my best friend are there (she named them) and they have raisin toast – my favorite!”
At that stage, we were starting to feel abandoned ourselves. 3 days a week, our kids all got up early and left home at 7:00am – Eden wanted to practice piano at work, Tsoof had rehearsals and Noff had breakfast and played at MOSHC. Even on days when they came back late, Noff just cheerfully went early and had a good time.
Now, one of the biggest time challenges for us happens during school breaks. Having the kids home for a few weeks at a time can drive even the most sane parents bonkers, because there is only so much you can do to keep them busy.
But with a full holiday program, including raisin toast for breakfast, fruit for afternoon tea, a wide range of friends, a big playground, wonderful staff and loads of activities (drawing, painting, dancing, cooking, baking, reading, role playing and … TV), MOSHC is our savior every time. Noff goes there on most vacation days when Eden leaves for work and we can keep doing the things we need to do.
We just have to keep our guilt feelings in check. Just in case, we ask Noff about her adventures every day and she is delighted, so we relax … until the next day.
Ronit and I often talk to parents about sending young kids to childcare centers and they are afraid their children might feel deserted and might have difficulty adjusting, but our experience with all 3 of our kids has been that as from early as 15 months old, the little ones want to play with friends and have a lot more fun without us fussing about them. Evidently, this goes on until the end of primary school, after which they can take care of themselves anyway.