Friends and Neighbours: Child-care providers reminisce at retirement

It isn’t an advertisement, but a simple statement: Angels gather here.

That’s how Lorraine Vigue describes the children she has had in her daycare for the past 38 years.

Inside there are shelves, lined with toys, lego, castles, and large bins of plastic animals. Hand-drawn pictures of children and animals adorn the walls. But most of the fun takes place outside. Lorraine is a firm believer in outdoor play and learning.

Besides the playground, complete with a tire swing, there is a garden and lots of space to run.

Just a few minutes away Heather Brooke, Lorraine’s longtime friend, has her home-based daycare. Her sign has Puff the magic dragon, which gives an indication of her yard, transformed into magical space for children. Heather has run her daycare for over three decades.

But this year both Lorraine and Heather have decided it’s time to retire. Tears come to their eyes as they talk about it.

“I think I’ve put it in the back of my mind, I can’t think about it,” says Lorraine. “I’m going to miss it.”

This was not the life they had envisioned for themselves as they earned their teaching degrees all those years ago.

“I tried to go back teaching but there was no daycare,” says Lorraine.

“We fell into it,” says Heather. “We wanted to stay home with our kids.”

Turning their homes into daycare-approved spaces wasn’t so easy. They laugh about the rules such as having 6’5” clearance on stairs because “the kids aren’t that tall yet.”

Once they were set up, both had a clear vision of what kind of places they would run.

“Sharing, caring, and loving,” says Heather.

“I wanted to be like their mom and I wanted them to feel at home,” says Lorraine.

The days were full of arts, crafts, songs, socializing, and lots of outdoor learning.

“We always planted a garden and then put it in the fall fair,” says Lorraine.

“We didn’t treat them like kids but people in a smaller body,” adds Heather.

Of course they both have a plethora of special memories. Heather recalls one Mother’s Day when her grownup sons were both away. After running some errands she came home to find one of her daycare families had written ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ in chalk on her driveway.

Lorraine smiles as she recalls the time her daycare children played daycare, set up ‘story circle’ and took turns being her.

At the end of June both Vigue Family Daycare and Heather’s Family Daycare will be closing their doors. It will be the end of an era, not only for them, but for the generations of children who have considered these places a second home. (Every Halloween many of their former daycare children stop by to trick or treat).

Lorraine says she is looking forward to “unlimited time to work in the garden,” going for lots of walks and seeing more of her children and grandchildren.

Heather has her place for sale. After downsizing her life she will have more time to enjoy the outdoors and outlets for her artistic creativity. And yet they both wonder how they will do without having little ones in their lives every day.

“They become part of your family,” says Heather.

“I’m going to miss the vibrant creativity of the wonderful little people and I’m going to miss the young moms,” says Lorraine. “It’s been a long run and such joy.”

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