Today I was sat in a cafe, early for a client meeting. Frowning that line-inducing frown over the top of my computer, my eyes caught a little boy sat in his buggy happily munching a biscuit, crumbs all around his chubby little cheeks.
My frown softened, thinking of my own little chubby-cheeked boy having his adventures at nursery. The parents sat nursing their cups of tea in a quiet corner of the cafe discussing whether or not it was appropriate to buy the nursery key worker a Christmas present. The father scoffed at the idea claiming after the fees there was nothing left for gifts. I smiled knowingly to myself. But then it dawned on me, what are you supposed to do? Is it best practice to buy presents for your child’s key worker? Are you a lavish keeno if you do? Or ‘that’ mother if you don’t? I was all new to this nursery etiquette and suddenly felt nervous at doing the wrong thing.
I asked a few mums what they do and the answers varied vastly from a bottle of plonk or box of choccies to a full blown beauty basket lovingly handmade and tied with recycled home spun ribbon. I jest, but you get the idea. I can see how people feel pressured into doing something and not wanting to be the mum who sends their child to nursery empty-handed in the Christmas week. I recall I once lived with a a friend who was a teacher and the presents she came home with at the end of term before Christmas were amazing. From gorgeous little cards with cute messages from her charges to seriously well thought out gifts giving us mere mortal non teachers major present envy.
A few people I’ve mentioned this to have laughed and said the same as cafe daddy. They spend enough on childcare fees to be worrying about extra spending. And I totally get it. Not everybody can afford extra luxuries and it’s tough to prioritise hard earned pennies. I contemplated this and then thought about Joseph’s key worker. She’s a young sweet girl who in the short space of time since Joseph progressed to the ‘cubs’ room has made Joseph and myself feel totally comfortable. She’s a girl who has learnt our little person’s ways so very quickly. She plays outside in the nursery garden tirelessly with Joseph because she knows he loves being outdoors in his welly boots. She is a girl who knows what Joseph’s funny little grasp on the English language is and takes her time to help him learn about the world through the games, toys, books and songs that he loves. This is the girl who patiently tells me exactly what he’s eaten that day and the exact timing of his nap so I feel I have some handle on his life that day. The girl who Joseph went for a cuddle with when he was still a little run-down after being poorly and fell asleep in her arms. In 19 months of existence he has never fallen asleep on anyone, (except my boobs which despite what he may believe are not real ‘people’ and thus cannot be counted). This is the girl who at the end of every day tells me that Joseph melts her heart and looks at him like he was the best baby in the whole wide world. She likely does that for all her babies and mummies but I do not care. In that moment she makes me feel like my child is loved and cared for and so, so special. Which he is. He is the most loved, cared for and special thing in our whole world and she keeps him safe when we leave him away from the safety of that world. He is the most precious thing we have the pleasure of knowing and in her arms we trust.
So this Christmas I will absolutely be giving Joseph’s key worker Sophie a gift. It may be a lovingly slap-dash inexpensive painting handmade by Joseph. Or it may be a bottle of plonk or a handmade beauty basket! Whatever it is I’m not sure it really matters. I think we can be guilty of overthinking the politics of nursery/school etiquette and really thank you does not have to be expensive. I bet you a hand-spun ribbon that your key workers would be absolutely made up to receive a gaudy, crayoned card creation made especially by their little charge just to say thank you. And as parents we are all so thankful.
For me, on those two days a week when we drop Joseph off to nursery, Sophie takes our greatest ever adventure on his own magical adventures and I want her to know that matters. It matters very, very much to us and we want to say thank you.
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Liz is a first time mum hurtling towards her late thirties. Once surviving a high-power career on a mixture of caffeine, adrenaline and Sambuca-filled Saturday nights she is now one year into her new-found path as a mummy to Joseph and still trying to pretend she’s cool whilst watching Peppa Pig far too much. You can read her blog