Daycare Debate (reprised)

A piece I wrote 14 years ago this month, published in the Montreal Gazette.  Time has flown, but the cultural issues are much the same.


A child’s first birthday is a wonderful event in the life of a family – filled with balloons, cake and party hats.  For many parents, however, the joy of first-birthday celebrations is tempered by the realization that mom’s year of federally-subsidized maternity leave is coming to an end.  Going back to work means finding someone else to take care of a child.  And as my wife and I recently discovered, a year of advanced notice doesn’t make it any easier to work through this time of transition.


They are all angels while sleeping.

As a part-time pastor and full-time graduate student, caring for our little one didn’t seem to be in the cards for me – time was in short supply.  And my wife was returning to full-time work as a nurse.  Her twelve-hour shifts, seven days out of fourteen, meant that we needed someone to care for our daughter two or three days a week.

Thus it was that we turned to daycare, that near-universal institution, to solve our dilemma.  It wasn’t easy to find a daycare that would accept a child for only two or three days each week (five-dollar-a-day daycare seems only to be available to those who part with their children five days a week), but we eventually found a non-subsidized daycare space we thought would be good for our daughter.

The first week of September our daycare ordeal began – and it was an ordeal.  Day one was no problem – our daughter found everything new and interesting at the daycare.  Day two wasn’t so pleasant – this time she knew that mom and dad were leaving her behind and she clearly expressed her displeasure.  Days three through four left us guilt-ridden and in tears – our little one was equally teary-eyed on each morning’s hand-off, and again at pick-up. Continue reading


searching for home…

My beautiful pictureWhen I think about my late grandfather, images of him come quickly and vividly to my mind. I see him sitting on the front porch of my grandparent’s home – surrounded by potted annuals – a cigarette between his fingers and an ashtray on the table beside him. I see him on another occasion leaning over me on that front porch as I painted the floor in typical front porch grey – he was a housepainter by trade, so there was advice concerning my technique. I remember him standing at his painting easel, also. If he was a house painter by trade, he was an artist at heart. I see him walking through the greenhouses that he and my two uncles owned and operated together, never doing much better than breaking even. I remember sitting beside him on his hospital bed, thin and weak, not too many days before he died.

My grandparents immigrated to Canada from The Netherlands, with many others, in the post World War II context. In 1951 they came as a family, my mom a 14 –year-old young woman at the time.

Whenever I think about my grandfather – whenever I think about his life and identity – there are so many rich memories. But when I think about him today I also do so in the light of words spoken about him at his funeral in 1989 – words spoken by my dad at that time. An important aspect of my grandfather’s life and identity was that he was never really at home here in Canada. From these shores he looked back on his life in The Netherlands, and there was so much he missed: Continue reading

with shouts of joy…

Today we continue taking a look at the Psalms of Ascent – those fifteen Psalms that follow immediately after Psalm 119. Last week we took up Psalm 121 and this week we turn to Psalm 126. Doing so, I’d like to begin a little differently this morning. I’d like to begin by sharing, somewhat a length, a modern version of the story of the Prodigal Son – a modern version as told by the American journalist and author Phillip Yancey. I trust it will become evident why we begin in this way. Here is Yancey’s version of the story of the prodigal. [The original version is on the Christianity Today website, here and there is more on Yancey here]. 

A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. “I hate you!” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away. 

She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail the gangs, drugs, and violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.

Continue reading