The other day, as at least ten kids lingered in my driveway, garage and front lawn, my neighbor jokingly asked me if I had started a daycare. Laughing with her, I asked her if she had a couple more that she could send my way.
One night last week, between jumping on my trampoline, shooting hoops out front, and even finishing their homework at my kitchen bar, there were five kids here – my kids weren’t even home yet. And to be honest, I thought nothing of it.
You see, in my house, there is an open-door policy. Literally, my garage door is a revolving door all throughout the evenings and weekends when we are home. Any of these babies in my neighborhood are welcome at any time.
And truly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that they all feel comfortable enough to plant their feet in my play sand and go to town, grab a basketball out of my garage and work on their game, borrow a bike or scooter and let some energy out or even ask me for a snack or a drink.
A friend stopped by one night and asked why all the kids are always here. Truly, I didn’t have an answer to that question. All I could respond with was, “I don’t know, but I am glad that they are.”
Sure, I get to deal with all the tattletales and small little tiffs that are bound to pop up, and there are times when I literally just get home from the store and I feel like my pantry is yet again bare, but knowing that these kids have a safe place that they can come to and just be kids, gives my home an extra special meaning.
One night, all the kids – mine included — went down to another house to play – another Mama who totally gets the same feels that I do about having all the kids around. But for me, the silence was almost deafening. I literally did not know what to do with myself without all the littles hanging around.
Oh, it didn’t last long, but it was long enough that I was ready for them to come back. And eventually, they did. Thankfully, they always do.
Maybe, they come here because I have a wild, young one that I allow to express herself in all the creative ways – makeovers, slime and mudpies. Or maybe we are just the hand-me-down house of my family that happens to get all the used but new-to-us toys (including a recently gifted trampoline). Maybe they know that they can almost always sucker me out of another snack or popsicle.
But, I would like to think that they come here because they know that they are always welcomed here – that no matter what, my door is open and there are always opportunities here to just let loose and be a kid. That, I am always open to watching their “look at me” tricks, take one for the team by participating in their spa nights and am in the front row of every dance recital that they put together.
I hope that they come here because they know they will be accepted for who they are – basketball isn’t your thing, no worries, go get the gymnastics mat out. Oh, you want to draw, absolutely, go grab the paper and crayons. Baby dolls aren’t your thing? We have dinosaurs as well!
And for me, I cannot get enough of watching these kiddos shine in their own elements. When they are so excited to tell me about their day, a family adventure coming up, or even an embarrassing thing that their parent did (oh yes, I get to hear them all), I get excited that they think enough of me to share their thoughts.
And my hope is that one day, when they all turn into teenagers that no longer think adult opinions matter, that they will still come around and tell me all the things – that they will know that I counted how many times they could jump rope, witnessed all the attempts at cartwheels, wiped off many full faces of hand-drawn makeup and cooked up endless boxes of mac-n-cheese, and I will still be there for them. All of them.
So for now, I am soaking up all the time I get with all the babies – my own and everyone else’s. Because daycare status or not, these kids have such a special place in my heart. And I know that all too soon there will come a time when they will walk out of my house for the last time.
And I truly hope that they can take a piece of love, lessons and acceptance from the time that they spent at my house.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.