A small sticky hand slides into mine. I know that if his mama were here, it would slide into hers.
Laughter erupts as I tickle her belly. I know that if her daddy were here, she'd be laughing up at him.
They trust us. Each and every day, parents, grandparents, foster carers and guardians step into this place we create. They step into this place knowing that when they walk back out the door, they leave a part of them with us. They say goodbye, their noses pressed to the gate, fighting back tears as their little one wails, or waving madly at their four year old who has barely given them a second glance as they run to the sandpit with their friends.
They trust us. We capture first steps on video and then debate about whether to tell parents or wait for them to "see it first". We delight in the hilarious pronunciation of words like giraffe, and marvel at burgeoning independence. We rock them to sleep in our arms, singing softly and feeling their sweaty hair on our neck. Together we create block towers and sandcastles, and a sense of wonder in the world.
They trust us. To care for the child of another is not just a privilege, it is the ultimate privilege. We become a part of their world. Families ask our advice, children create artworks we can stick on the fridge and we receive gifts of gratitude at the end of the year followed by tearful goodbyes when the time finally comes for their child to leave us. It is something we should never take for granted.
They trust us. We keep their children safe. We allow them to grow, to take risks, to develop their sense of self, all while making sure that they are loved, supported and out of harms way. They know that we create a place for them, a place to explore, to connect, and to play.
And so, I urge you to remember that trust. When the days feel monotonous or the cleaning up of paint splattered from one side of the room to the other feels a little overwhelming, or you're umpiring yet another toddler battle over the slide, remember that trust. Remember that each and every day, when you work with children, you are being gifted the ultimate privilege and trust, and with that comes the ultimate responsibility. The responsibility to connect. The responsibility to be joyous. The responsibility to respect. The responsibility to advocate. The responsibility to protect. The responsibility to keep safe from harm. The responsibility to love.