She said, "Wendell, I want you to meet [name name] my partner. [Name] this is Wendell, the world's greatest child... something. I don't know how I would have made it through those days if it weren't for him."
Those days were when I was still with the Family Resource Centre, staffing a family drop-in and heading the childcare support to programs for parents. That was about 10 years ago - she told me her little boy was 13 now and doing well - so although I remembered the mom and son, I couldn't remember much detail. I certainly couldn't recall doing anything special. I just offered the same level of care she and her boy ought to have found in any supportive, child-centered playgroup.
I walked home thinking about that. Thinking people can be so moved simply by someone doing their job in a reasonably competent way. Well, I thought, we should never underestimate the value of the help we give to parents of young children.
But then, later, somebody called looking for the web address of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (U.S.) position statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (pdf link).
And that reminded me of all the time and effort I'd spent reading this and other papers from the NAEYC, and from CAPC and Health Canada. In those days, before entering the decadent and leisure filled world of literacy, I was an earnest and hard working little beaver forever trying to improve my practice. And I did improve my practice, right up to the point where I got fired three times in a row (well, okay, twice I quit - but they were writing it on the wall when I left).
So, yeah. Okay. I'll take the compliment. Not the world's greatest, for sure. But I was a pretty good childcare worker and parents' friend. Though, actually, I seem to recall that I did some of my best work dressed as a large red dog.
In any case, here's a shout out to the NAEYC, and to the many undervalued early childhood educators and parent-support workers who keep trying to do things a little better today than they did them yesterday.
The pay's crappy. There's no pension, benefits or security. And if you do a really good job somebody will probably fire you. But the parents remember, and that's worth a lot.