'We have had the privilege of listening to amazing speakers over the past few years, including Peter Gray, Teacher Tom, Alistair Bryce- Clegg, Niki Buchan, Kathy Walker, Prue Walsh and Juliet Robertson to name just a handful.
One of the first speakers we heard at our first Inspired EC "Unwrapping" Conference back in 2014 was the gentle and softly spoken Wendy Lee from New Zealand.
Wendy shared many beautiful messages and memories with us, but her main focus for that particular conference was meaningful documentation.
It was time to rid ourselves of the DAP system and checklist style documentation that the 'trauma years' provided and really strip back, and start to think about documentation that a child and their family would cherish well past their Early Years and hopefully for their entire life. What an exciting time for us, to be able to really put thoughts on paper in the form of stories and letters for children to keep a memory of their time with us, and not just a tick box chart of whether they could kick a 10cm ball through a 20cm hoop while standing on one leg with their eyes closed.
(OK, the checklists weren't that bad, but we were still very happy to rip, tear and destroy!)
Wendy said that many people suggest to her that they cannot write, or that they aren't writers.
But she says that everyone can write. They just have to start.
2014 through to 2015 was a difficult time for my family.
My father, after 6 years of living with an extremely debilitating stroke, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and we all knew that he had actually just had enough. He could no longer handle living like he was.
With a little help from the medical profession, he prolonged his few weeks to around 3 months, but it was not easy on him, or anyone around him, especially his family.
Whilst it felt like odd timing to write one of my first learning stories, it had been on my mind, and so I actually wrote this while he slept, and about half an hour before I said goodbye to him for the last time.
I wanted to let you know how happy I am that you have come to Milford Lodge and also how amazing it is to watch you find your sense of belonging. When you first started coming to play at Milford Lodge you were very sad to say goodbye to your dad and I could see how sad that made him, which made me sad too. There were lots of tears and you would tell him “Don’t be too long now dad, ok?” We would have lots of cuddles throughout the day to help make you feel better.
Over the past few months your days with us are changing, and there are very rarely sad moments throughout the day. In your first few weeks, you did not want to have lunch with us, as you were waiting to have lunch at home with your dad. I loved that you wanted to wait to have lunch with your dad, but I just made sure that you had a snack while you sat on my lap anyway. Eventually you started walking to the kitchen to ask Tahneeka for a snack yourself, and now we fast forward a few more weeks and you sit and eat with your friends at the table and casually say hi to me if I walk past. I wonder if you still have another lunch later when you get home, with your dad.
One day when we were having a cuddle in the foyer, you asked me about my dad. You told me to phone up and ask my dad if I could stay longer at Milford until your dad came to pick you up. A few weeks later I introduced you to my mum. You looked at her, and so confidently (as always when you talk to adults) asked her if she could take you to see him. So you went with my mum, hand in hand, upstairs to meet my dad. Did you know that only you and red chicken have been up to see my dad? Lucky!
You still cry a little bit when your dad says goodbye in the morning and you always say to him “Don’t be too long now dad, ok?” I wanted to let you know that it is ok to feel like this, and I want you to know that even big people feel like this. See Harper, I understand how you feel and this is why I have formed such a special bond with you over the past few months. We are so lucky, you and I, to have such awesome dads. I am about to say goodbye to my dad and I will probably cry, you might have to give me lots of cuddles throughout the day and if it’s ok with you, I may even borrow your line and tell him “Don’t be too long now dad, ok?”
Thank you Harper. I think you came to Milford at just the right time.
6th November 2014
Harper's family loved my letter, and I would like to think that they will keep it forever.
I am very much looking forward to listening to Wendy Lee again this year, as she headlines at our Village Ways conference.
I might even take her up the hill to have a drink with my dad.