This phrase comes to my mind almost every day, with my own fam­i­ly and with the fam­i­lies of the chil­dren I know and I care for.

The father of the lit­tle girl who came to my house vir­tu­al­ly 5 days a week until she was 4 years old, told me, very casu­al­ly, years ago “isn’t that what par­ents do?” He was refer­ring to his respon­si­bil­i­ty towards his two daugh­ters and his family.

It just so hap­pens he is Eng­lish too and was born, as I was, in the south east­ern part of Eng­land the same year as me. We were both about as suc­cess­ful at school as the oth­er (not very), both immi­grants to this coun­try in our 20’s, who have gone on to build a home and fam­i­ly, found sat­is­fy­ing work, col­leagues and friends, and now find the rela­tion­ship between our fam­i­lies has gone from acquain­tances to care­giv­er for a child to a friend­ship of near­ly 18 years.

But the most remark­able thing about the com­mon fac­tors between us is that both we and our fam­i­lies under­stand our respon­si­bil­i­ties towards our chil­dren and fam­i­ly life. This was reflect­ed in the qui­et thank you I heard from his youngest daugh­ter, for whom I cared, to him on the day of her grad­u­a­tion from high school. She whis­pered in his ear “Thanks Dad, thanks for the mon­ey and the car” and then she left the fam­i­ly cel­e­bra­tion to join her friends.

First of all she thanked her father, sec­ond­ly the car was the hand-me-down one her sis­ter had dri­ven for most of her col­lege years – noth­ing grand. But she thought­ful­ly and qui­et­ly thanked her father for his efforts – how appre­cia­tive he must have been. He wasn’t doing any­thing more than he thought was his responsibility.

Com­pare that to the moth­er of a 1 year old I know and care for in a group day­care. He lives on the premis­es with his moth­er, the busi­ness own­er. He fre­quent­ly seems tear­ful – just think­ing about the care­giv­ing chaos of his first year gives me the shivers!!! 

For some rea­son (parental pri­or­i­ty?) there nev­er seems to be enough baby food or real food in the house for him. And yet the oth­er day his moth­er returned from ‘an errand’ with sev­er­al bags from the ‘Lucky’ store – for those who read this blog, since your pri­or­i­ties will be much like mine (!), you may not know that Lucky jeans used to start at about $100!!

In the same facil­i­ty a 3+ year old child with obvi­ous yet undi­ag­nosed speech and com­mu­ni­ca­tion delays (his par­ents said they couldn’t get him to a speech ther­a­pist before August!!) was spend­ing his last day before trans­fer­ring to anoth­er school. 

It’s bad enough that his teacher dis­cov­ered he thought every­one from our school (includ­ing his beloved ‘my hap­py baby’ – his favourite baby) would be going with him to his new school, but to top off his day his father dropped him off (usu­al­ly it’s his moth­er) and said “see you in a cou­ple of days, remem­ber that …… will be pick­ing you up”!!!!!! 

We were all mor­ti­fied for him. His par­ents were going away for the week­end on his last day at his first beloved school. The won­der­ful scrap­book his teacher had thought­ful­ly made for him wouldn’t be read with him as soon as he got home, he would have to wait three days!

His teacher and I tried to make his depar­ture event­ful in a cheer­ful way but both felt exceed­ing­ly sad.

So tell me which child you’d rather be? The one whose father and moth­er real­ly care about you, fos­ter your warm rela­tion­ship with your lov­ing care­giv­er or the baby who ‘lives’ (exists?) in a very much more expen­sive house (NOT a home) with­out food but with a moth­er who buys for her­self from expen­sive stores or the child whose par­ents are total­ly insensitive?

Most of you will also instant­ly tell me which of these three chil­dren is/was fre­quent­ly sad or crying.

It’s their pri­or­i­ties, stupid!