Dear Gill and Zoë,
In my head I’ve been drafting this for the last year. Ever since our big girl left you to embark on her school journey last summer; we have been dreading today. Me because I can barely believe I have to say goodbye to such a happy chapter, and Jase because he knows I’m going to be a total nightmare and spend it in floods of tears.
Our little one is oblivious; she’s excited about school and unaware of the slow creeping grief that will come with the realisation that she will no longer walk through your door every week. The door she approaches with excitement, bounds through, kick off her shoes and run to your playroom, returns for a kiss once I’ve called her back, picks up her shoes and throws them in the shoe basket after we shout ‘shoes’ in unison.
We’ve done this for years now. Seven and a half years to be precise. The faces have changed; the noisy little boy who loves questions is bigger, noisier and would you believe it – more inquisitive. You’d well up to see him boot a ball with such precision into the top left corner of a goal, changing direction at a second’s notice –remembering the little boy who fell over everything, tripped over nothing and didn’t catch anything. The first thing any of his teachers comment on is his kindness. The kindness that I hope will change somebody's world one day, in however small a way. The same kindness that’s changed our world for us – the kindness he’s learned from you both.
The older of our girls holds the time she spent with you very close to her heart. During a tricky winter term she wept nightly about leaving your care, bemoaning the transition to school and asking me repeatedly to take her back to you. She still quotes you weekly, often surprises all of us by sharing memories from years ago that we wouldn’t have thought she could remember. The hair we never thought she’d grow is well past her shoulders. Every time she cries when it gets tangled – we tell her ‘You thought this hair would never grow!’ She has so many traits from you, I’m pleased to say they seem to be here to stay.
None of this I need to tell you, as all of it you already know; as you ask after them weekly and throw your arms around them every time you see them.
And the little one; well, she’s heading to school whether we think she’s ready or not. Though I suspect, if we are all totally honest, it’s probably us who aren’t quite ready just yet.
In their own little way they’ve all been ready, massively credited to the fact that you have made them so. As selfless as you’ve been in opening your home and family to us, you’ve been even more so in letting them spread their wings and leave – without fear or worry about what lies ahead. However tiny, they have left the familiarity and safety of your home for oversized school jumpers, Read Write Inc, numbers, assemblies, giant lunch trays, school cutlery and fairs, parents’ evening and discos. Able to say please and thank you, encouraged to share and take turns, willing to listen and respect but not prepared to let others treat them without the same kindness. My husband has always maintained that a huge part of their early upbringing has been inadvertently left at your door – and he strongly suspects you’re responsible for most of the good stuff. As usual, he’s right.
Do you remember the day when our little boy pointed out the luck and good fortune of having a childminder in the family? We laughed at the irony, but of course it was actually because he had no idea he wasn’t actually part of yours. That’s how you’ve made us feel ever since we came through your door nearly eight years ago. The lovely childminding duo prepared to take on my boy for 6 weeks whilst I found a different nursery to take him on, once I'd walked out of his first after only a month – we never left you and we never looked back.
In times of heartache you’ve helped carry us as a family, stepping in to support all of us and offer help and advice far beyond your professional obligations. You’ve laughed with us, wept with us and gritted teeth and grafted with us to make sure the children always came first, always knew how loved they are and made them so totally confident that you will always be there for them, that they feel no sadness about this day whatsoever.
How do you possibly thank two people (and all of your family) for what you have done for us?
We try, by sharing our experiences, singing your praises, shouting about the importance and merit of early education practitioners and most of all by realising how lucky we have been to have you. But I think the best thing we can do is make you a promise. To continue to love our children and make sure they know they are the centre of our universe…whilst making sure they realise that they aren’t the centre of everyone else’s. To encourage them to be respectful and polite to all they meet…but never be walked on by those who don’t extend them the same courtesy. To work hard and be proud of everything they achieve…whilst making sure they climb, play, run, shout and laugh so hard they cry, as often as possible.
Quite simply, we could not have asked you to do any more for us. And yet you did, time and time again.
With much love,
Ali, Jason and all of the children