Dina L. Relles

writer. editor. curious + common.

“Stop at the corner!” I call ahead to my two older boys as they bike the half-mile between our home and “school.” I’m pushing the baby in an umbrella stroller weighed down by at least five bags of blankets, lunch boxes, changes of clothes, sippy cups, and who-knows-what-else like a veritable pack mule.

Each of my three sons started day care at six months old, when I returned to work. With our first, I stressed over the nanny vs. day care decision. We chose day care. And then we chose it again. And then—even when it was no longer cost-effective, we chose it again.

I was in love.


In love with the teachers…

If nothing else, it is my humble hope that this post is my inevitably insufficient thank you note to them. My feeble attempt to express the endless gratitude I have for how they helped me become a mother and raise my children during our poignant, tumultuous early years together.

The teachers who witnessed my son’s first steps.
Who filled out a daily report for each of my kids—every.single.day. (All of them saved.)
Who taught me when it was time to buy my son “real shoes.”
Who observed, with keen insight, the nuances of my sons’ distinct personalities.
Who knew I was pregnant with my second nearly before I did.
Who allowed my children to explore with paint and sand and water and dirt in a way I don’t always (ever??) like to do in my own home.
Who taught them the ABCs and how to give “gentle touches”—to love learning, to play well with others.
Who taught me to care less about the mess of parenthood and more about savoring the milestones.
Who took all three of my children, daily—without question, without guilt.
Who made it possible for me to get as close as I could to having it all—who served as my support system as I was leaning in and out and all over the place.
Who have loved my kids as their own.

I’ll never forget the first time my son came home smelling like someone else. And how I came to love that—because it meant I wasn’t the only one looking out for him in the world.

In love with the other parents…

Their children were my sons’ first friends; they were my lifeline. These were my people, after all. We were all burning the candle at both ends, missing our kids when we were at work, fitting in work when we were with our kids, savoring the weekends with them, then savoring the Monday morning silence without them.

We’ve been through the difficult drop-offs together—caught between a crying child and the demands of work that impatiently awaits. We whisper conspiratorially in the hallways about the new teacher or biting policy. We exchange knowing expressions of exhaustion and empathy. I tuck in your shirt tag as you fly out the door; you lend my son pink Crocs when he’s potty training and I failed to send back-ups.

We are a team, us day care parents. We’re in this together. We “get” each other like no one else does.

* * *

You can’t hide at day care. You’re there every day—the good ones and the bad. They’ve seen you rushed, stressed, haphazard, put-together, victorious. Incredibly pregnant, and then immediately postpartum. They’ve seen you. They see you. And they help. Every time. Every day. They are a constant, a comfort.

But today? Today we move on. Preschool graduation for my oldest; a move out of town for us all. We’re ready.

But I will never forget the feeling of walking through that glass door and into those pale yellow hallways, the warm familiarity washing over me, the sudden and calming relief of knowing you’re not alone. That there are people all around you, ready to lend a hand. To love your kids, to lift you up. To give you the strength, support, and community you need to keep going.

To the people of day care, to “my people”: you have been there since the beginning—and every day after that. We are ever grateful. And we will miss you dearly.


18 thoughts on “Day Care: Love and a Farewell

  1. Grace started at daycare and I remember feeling so incredibly sad when she left (to go to preschool). It is such an important and valuable community. Good luck with your move! xox

    1. Thank you! Yes, it is quite the transition…and our boys’ day care also contains their preschool, so we’ve been part of the same wonderful community for a long time…

  2. Kristen says:

    Oh my goodness, I was tearing up with this one. My daughter started at 6 months too, and though it now feels like ages ago now that she’s finishing up Kindergarten, this piece makes that time from “long ago” seem so right now again. I thought I was the only one who noticed when their child smelled like another person. It was always something like strawberry or something fruity, like from Bath and Body works. And, surprisingly, it never bothered me because it meant that she was cuddling and being hugged for at least part of the day. It’s hard to say goodbye for exactly all these reasons. But it’s good too. (And for what it’s worth, I cannot seem to discard many of the daily sheets from daycare. Ahem.)

    1. We’ll have to go in together on a storage space for all of our saved daily sheets! So good to know I’m not alone on that one…xoxo

  3. Mahdis says:

    You and your family will be missed dearly. Wish you great days ahead filled with happiness , friendship and lotsa smile.

  4. val says:

    such a lovely post and true in so many ways. i too love the very same daycare providers and know we have talked so much about how often they’ve saved the day, offered amazing and valuable perspectives on our children and at the same time valued and honored our work as parents. you’re brought me to tears with the mention of the pink crocs, i had completely forgotten about that. you and your guys will be sorely missed.

    1. That was one of many examples that came to mind and nearly all led me back to you…thanks for always having my back and being there for me–and my kids. We will all miss you so, but I know we will stay in touch in the years to come. xoxo

  5. priscila says:

    Sorry to hear Lara will be missing her friend G and P! I don’t think she interacts. Much with A 🙂 We wish you guys all the best! Lara will sure miss her buddies!
    priscila, Gino! And Lara

    1. We will definitely miss Lara, too!! (And her parents ;))

  6. Jessica says:

    I had the pleasure of working at this very center throughout college. I had several nanny jobs and baby sitting jobs stem from that very center. My first born went there until I was able to secure a teaching job with the school district of Philadelphia. I miss it. I frequently say that I would love to work in early child care again. It is the most rewarding teaching position. To see the children grow from room to room and bond with not only the children, but the parents. I miss changing diapers, having food spit up on me, letting the children get messy, the little giggles, wiping the tears, and even the bitters! Haha This just brought back amazing memories. Thank you.

    1. I’m so glad you found this post, read, and commented! Yes, it is quite a special place, isn’t it? Thank you for being a part of it…

  7. Patrice Payton says:

    As I sit on a crowded bus Monday evening after work totally drained from my day , I begin to read this beautiful summary of your experience , all of a sudden I am overwhelmed with such joy . I am also completely humbled by your remarks . This article exceeds any monetary or physical gift that could ever be received . As teachers our relationships with the families are just as important as our relationships with the children. Thank you for being a example of true and meaningful “parent partnership “. As a teacher , It’s a wonderful feeling to know that your work has impacted the lives of so many . I can honestly say with a heart full of joy and tears that you and your wonderful family will be missed !!!!!!!

    Mrs. Patrice Payton

    1. I am beyond honored to have a comment from Ms. Patrice on my blog!! I was so touched when this note came in. You have meant so much to me, my family, my boys over the years. We can never thank you enough. You are a wonderful teacher and source of support for all of us, and we will miss you dearly. xoxo

  8. Adam (Noah's) dad. says:


    You have generously shared so elegantly and succinctly that special place and experience our families share. To our family you are as much of that place and experience as your beautiful words describe. Your family will be missed and we wish you the greatest of personal and professional successes.

    The schreibers.

    1. This comment brought me to tears. Your words are truly touching. Thank you, thank you.

  9. Lauren Altman says:

    Hi Dina- I am a friend of Judy and the Lippers– and they had mentioned your page to me recently. I just started reading some of your articles and LOVE what you write and really relate to so much of it. This day care article is amazing– completely brought tears to my eyes (as I feel exactly the same way). I shared this with my day care director — and she wants to share with all the teachers. Thank you for taking the time to write– I truly enjoy reading your work!

    1. I just discovered that I never replied to this lovely comment! I’m so sorry for the oversight–thank you for your kind words! And for sharing this piece…that means so much. So happy you found me–I hope our paths cross in person some day!

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