When I met you for the first time one year ago, I was in the throws of an enormous mental breakdown as I brought my youngest, Bobbin, to day care for the first time.
You knew I was low; it was quite literally written across my face in streaks of tears, red eyes, and a puffy nose. But you don't know that you're one of the people who helped save my life.
I felt like I was getting "neglectful mother" stamped on my permanent record when I walked in there that day. Not because I was placing my child in to day care, but because my doctors and the government agreed I was so unwell that the public purse would pay for her to be cared for by someone else three days a week for six months. That it was in everyone's best interests; hers, mine, even the taxpayers.
As welcome as financial assistance is to a single income family in a low socio-economic area, qualifying for it under those circumstances was demoralising.
Parts of that time are a tear-stained blur to me, and others I can replay in my mind as if they happened yesterday. One of the things I do remember was that day care was a blessing, giving me time to attend appointments, go to therapy, and focus on recovery. I also clearly remember that you stood out amongst the staff. Not just to me, but to Bobbin. And I believe children are excellent judges of character.
You were kind, relaxed, and soothed my fears in a way that didn't patronise. You swooped in, a smiling angel in hot pink, and made Bobbin feel safe and secure at a time when she really needed it. At a time when I couldn't do it as well as I'd like to.
The way you cared for her, and helped her transition to having more weekdays away from me than with me was invaluable. On good days you would chat, and on bad days you'd appear as if from nowhere with a cuddle for Bobbin to make the separation easier for us.
Some people might say that's your job, but it felt like so much more.
Bobbin would come home and talk about you endlessly; telling me stories of painting, playing, and learning songs from you. You quickly learned what she liked and incorporated it in to the activities. I remember one day you made extra playdough in yellow, her favourite colour, because she'd told you it wasn't as fun when it wasn't yellow.
On the days you weren’t there, the others were capable, but they weren't you. You always went that extra mile. You even swooped in to the kindy room a few times after she’d left your toddler area when you could see either she or I were having a rough drop off, and I can tell you that it didn’t go unnoticed.
Our chats were sometimes the only non-therapy adult conversations I’d have in the early days. To be treated like a decent human being helped me to realise that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t terrible after all.
As time wore on, those small chats became conversations full of laughs, and littered with our mutual obsession with all things Disney, wild hair colours, and tattoos. Drop off and pick up times got longer and longer as we shared stories. The drop and run was not on the cards when there was an Alice in Wonderland party to discuss! As I recovered and was able to step back in as a full time parent to Bobbin and she attended the centre less and less, the care you gave her continued, and drop offs got even longer as you'd excitedly explain a tattoo idea, or listen to my thoughts on Beauty and the Beast.
I’ve tried to tell you this in person a few times, but I keep faltering. Two words, thank you, just seem too small to convey the enormity of what you did and the depth of gratitude that I feel. You helped teach her the alphabet, got her back on the toilet training wagon, but more than anything you made her feel secure.
You raised my child when I couldn’t.
Your kindness shone brightly through the clouds of my dark days, and I will be forever thankful.
With more thanks than you'll ever know,