Goodbye nursery, you dear old friend…

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If only we could all go to nursery.
If only we could all go to nursery.

Like many children across the UK, my daughter will be starting school any day now and so has left nursery ready to make the leap into reception class. She’d been going to this nursery for three years and so knew all the staff and had made a number of friends.

Bizarrely, the experience of leaving nursery seems to have been much tougher on me than on Helen. When I picked her up on her last day I felt oddly bereft. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend that was emigrating.

There were no tears or upset from Helen. Just a casual “today was my last day” and the following morning she said “I don’t go to nursery any more.” It may be the reality hasn’t sunk in yet and the tears and tantrums are yet to come. Thus far, however, all is quiet on the home front.

I’ve always felt a bit guilty that we’d sent Helen and latterly her younger sister to nursery (little sister goes to a different nursery). Helen used to go full time and it was discomfort with this situation that persuaded me to give up my job and become her main carer, at which point she became a part-time nursery brat.

Once Helen was in nursery, however, we could see the benefits she was receiving and there was no way we could deprive her of it. At the time she was an only child and so she got the opportunity to mingle and learned the importance of sharing and socialising with others of a smilar age.

My mother tells me I barely touched a pencil before I was five years old. Not so Helen. She’s done her share of drawing and scribbling at home with mummy and daddy but it’s the skill of the nursery staff that have got her writing the alphabet (well, selected bits of it anyway). As for her numeracy, she didn’t get that from her innumerate parents.

The skill of these staff is something that should be recognised and it annoys me that childcare is an occupation with such poor status. I can think of one particular nursery worker that took Helen under her wing.

This individual originally came from a French-speaking nation. She picked up on the fact that Helen has some French heritage and started casually talking to her in French. It was all simple phrases; “ca vas”, “bonjour” and so on. It had always been my intention to ensure my children spoke more than one language and when it became clear Helen was picking up the basics of French I arranged for Helen to have lessons and she’s doing incredibly well.

I could, of course, make the odd criticism. The occasion I turned up at nursery to find two of Helen’s little friends had got hold of some craft scissors and restyled her hair didn’t go down too well. As my wife said at the time; “she looks like a German exchange student.”  

Following this incident my wife and I had a Soprano’s-style sit down with management and made clear that three year old children shouldn’t have uninhibited access to scissors. They listened and scissor use was regulated from that point on. The fall-out was dealt with very well and there was no repeat performance. At the end of the day, children will be children.

I think the experience of Helen leaving nursery has made me realise just how important good quality childcare is. It’s done a lot for Helen and I’m sure her little sister will benefit in a similar way. It’s come at a price, but it’s a price that’s been worth paying.

11 thoughts on “Goodbye nursery, you dear old friend…”

  1. Hi John, thank you so much for sharing your experiences as a parent and for personally sending your blog to me.

    It is refreshing to hear how positively you dealt with ‘Scissorgate’,
    how the nursery listened to your concerns and informed you what they were going to put in place and how you appreciated this. As you say, children will be children. C’est la vie!

    As a parent and expert in early years/childcare, it is imperative that parents share their positive experiences of childcare. Because, at times we only hear the negative stories.

    I would say that Helen’s key person had what I call the ‘fire in her belly!’ Personally connecting with Helen and thinking outside of the box to communicate with her in French.

    Also, how you recognised that Helen’s learning and development was enhanced within the three years at nursery.

    I look forward to hearing about Helen’s experiences at Primary School.


    1. I think all us parents can focus a little too-much on the negatives and that’s something I can be guilty of. We should, however, aknowledge, it when a childcare practitioner goes out of their way to nurture a child and I don’t think this happens enough. There are some first rate practitioners out there and their efforts do not receive enough recognition.

  2. Hi John,

    Your post made me smile. It was a heartfelt expression of the importance of the nursery community for children and parents and even grandparents. Your experience is mirrored across the country in good settings but rarely voiced or written about in such a real way.

    ‘Scissorgate’ was horrendous but both you and the nursery handled it very well and clearly your relationships was not dented.

    Lovely read, thank you!

    1. Oh dear – it has a name now doesn’t it”scissorgate”? Oh well!

      I think good childcare practice should be aknowledged and the poor status of the work is unwarranted. I know my wife and I talk about our favoured practitioners in the highest terms.

      Thnaks for commenting and glad to have made you smile.

  3. You are not alone! My son recently left the preschool he attended for three years and I am emotionally scarred. My son didn’t seem to be the least bit sad at the time, but the reality hit him when summer was over and it was time to start his new school. Then the drama started and the trauma was evident. Things are better now (for both of us), but it wasn’t a smooth road!

    1. Ah, I see. In which case the next couple of weeks could be very interesting indeed as that’s when she starts school! I’ll let you know how we get on.

  4. John, I agree with Laura when she says we need parents like you to celebrate the many lovely things nursery staff do for the children. It’s very much underestimated but most staff will nurture the child, and get to know and understand the child’s idiosyncrasies. The transition to school will begin to be felt when you realise that a school teacher will never have time to do this and those little special nursery moments become a thing of the past. In some ways parents mourning the passing of the nursery have consciously or unconsciously realised this.

    1. Very kind of you to say so June. I just don’t think childcare practitioners get the credit they deserve. The really good ones stand out and their efforts should be applauded. I’m more than happy to say so!

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