Parents, raise your kids!

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for taking care of me yourselves.

As Mother’s and Father’s Day approach, I’m appreciating that my parents didn’t dump me in daycare. Some would argue that I missed out on interacting with other kids and building immunity to colds, but I don’t think I missed anything. I interacted with my sister and friends, and I got plenty of colds. Plus, I gained the security of knowing that my parents had really wanted me—enough to spend most of their time with me. I wasn’t the equivalent of a pet for them to enjoy on evenings and weekends.

We lived in a house on the grounds of our family-owned motel, so Mom and Dad carried my sister and me on their backs while they cleaned rooms. We played in our living room while they greeted guests at the front desk. We tugged at their sleeves while they took reservations over the phone. We were underfoot. It would have been easier to pay strangers to feed, change and entertain us, but I never felt like a burden. I felt like part of a family.

Of course, parents can always justify putting kids in daycare. My parents could have worked additional jobs or improved the business if we weren’t around every day. Instead, they took care of us themselves, drove a Volkswagen bug (our only car) and never acted like martyrs about it.

I can hear the protests now: “I would stay with my kids in that situation, too. Try needing jobs away from home!” Some parents, obviously, need to work in order to stay off of welfare. But affluent couples I know routinely leave their children to go on ski vacations and relax at Club Med, not to mention working jobs they don’t need, all in order to become fulfilled individuals and therefore, supposedly, better parents. They live in nice houses, drive nice cars and have kids for their own pleasure. Parenting is one of the few jobs these adults think they can hire substitutes to do. Would they think they were doing an adequate job at the office if they hired someone to go to work for them?

When my sister and I were 11 and 9 years old, my parents left us for three weeks to visit family in Austria. Our babysitter was a dear family friend, but a couple of weeks into it, she got sick of us and we could tell. She still cared for us well, but we learned the difference between being someone’s job and being someone’s joy. Normally, having a babysitter was a rare treat; now we felt like a burden to our friend. For daycare kids, the rare treat must be spending so-called quality time (i.e. minimal time) with Mom and Dad.

Naturally, some kids survive daycare unscathed, but I feel sorry for them. They’re missing out on spending their days with the people who love them most. My childhood wasn’t perfect, of course, but my parents spent all the time they possibly could with me during my early years. I thank them for that, and I wonder if others ever thank their parents for leaving them in daycare.