When Lydia Van Huizen, 56, started providing day care in her home, the children called her Aunt Lydia. After 31 years of doing what she describes as a passion that is both a gift and a privilege, she is now a grandmother – Oma – to her own eight grandchildren, as well as to all the other children in her care. Christian Courier interviewed Van Huizen to catch a glimpse of her daily life filled with loving and nurturing little children.
CC: What motivated you to become a home child care provider?
Lydia Van Huizen: At the same time that our oldest son, Michael, started kindergarten at Beacon Christian School, a friend of mine was going back to work after having had her first child. She asked if I would watch her son. That was the beginning. It was an easy decision. It gave me the best of both worlds – I could stay home with my boys and make an income to cover the cost of Christian education.
Any idea how many children you’ve taken care of?
I have a notebook in which I have written the names of all the children I’ve cared for – 125 children and counting.
How have parents heard about your service? Have you had to advertise?
I’ve been very grateful that my job has been a blessing. I’ve never had to advertise. The parents have heard of my services through word of mouth.
How do you and the children spend a typical day?
I take care of the children from about 7:30 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. A typical day starts with breakfast for some of the children, and then sending some of them off to school. The other children are all preschoolers, so rigid schedules don’t happen here. Lunch happens on time, as do snacks, but there’s a lot of free time – colouring, playing, and, most important, lots of snuggles. I treat each child as if they are my own grandchild. Different activities happen daily, depending on the mood and health of the children. They watch Paw Patrol on T.V. After lunch, they have naps and then more fun. In warm weather, we play outside on the big climber, riding toys, swings and with bubbles. In the winter, we colour, play inside and make puzzles and crafts.
You’ve struggled with illness during the years that you’ve provided home child care. What were you dealing with and how did it affect your work?
Years ago, when my youngest was about two years old, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I also have arthritis. This type of work is awesome for me because I’m not on my feet all day, but I am moving a lot. This prevents my body from stiffening up. Also, during the children’s nap time and quiet time, I have a chance to eat lunch and reboot.
What role has your Christian faith played in your work? How have you experienced God’s presence?
My faith has played a very big role in my life. Raising five of our own children took a lot of prayer and perseverance for my husband Ted and me. Many of the families of the children I care for come from our Christian school community and church community, but not all of them do. I bring my Christian faith and love for Jesus into my job daily. I love talking with the little ones about Jesus and singing about him. The conversations between the little ones are awesome to listen to. Just the other day, a discussion between two kids was about deciding where Jesus lives – “In your heart?” “Yup in my heart, too! ”
I’ve learned over the years to pray for perseverance because if I pray for patience, I am tested all day long! Perseverance gets me through some tough days, although I must say I see God’s sense of humour almost daily.
God’s presence is here daily too. It’s revealed in the gentleness of an apology between two kids. Or when the children sing as we spend time colouring and listening to music. I saw it when my grandson, out of the blue, said, “Oooo are gorgeous!” Many times, it’s as simple as a child saying, “I wuv you, Oma, to the moon and the heavens and back!”
How do you think you’ve influenced the lives of both children and their parents?
I hope and pray that I’ve touched the lives of many children, as well as their parents, in a positive way. I know that they’ve truly touched my heart and life. When a child leaves my care, it’s like sending one of my own off to school. It’s awesome when I see these children now – the oldest one is now 35 years old and a parent himself. I’ve also cared for a child of a child who I cared for years ago – second generation! There’s excitement if the children see me outside of my home in the community. The hugs and exclamations of “Oma” are fantastic!
Some of the families have had struggles. I’ve walked alongside some whose marriages have had difficulty. Some have experienced separations. I’m glad that I was here to provide some stability through those times.
For some parents, I’m the first person they see after a bad day at work, and they take a few minutes to vent. Then going home to be with their children can be a little less stressful.
Also, I’ve been asked advice about parenting many times. Encouraging many of these young moms through their parenting is an honour for me – a real privilege because these little ones are their greatest treasures.
What aspects of your work give you joy? What are the challenges?
There are many joys, and for sure this job comes with plenty of challenges, from easy diaper changes to the real messy ones, to a fussy child who won’t nap or keeps climbing out of his playpen while getting ready to nap. There are the endless cuddles and hugs, the “I love you, Oma,” but then there’s the persistent whining, which I know will pass. All part of a regular day.
Listening to children reason with each other, and discuss things over lunch gives me a lot of laughter – like when they discuss where does the food go after we eat it? One story I particularly remember. I baked a batch of cookies and they were cooling on the table. I was downstairs changing one of the children’s diapers, and some of the children took off. I was busy so I couldn’t leave right away. When I went upstairs, they were sitting at the kitchen table. They had gotten paper plates for themselves and were chawing down on cookies. They were proud of themselves because they had gotten plates so they wouldn’t make a mess. Every day presents new challenges, but the joy and smile moments override them all.
Any last thoughts?
In recent years, I’ve watched and cared for families that are associated with the local Christian school. I personally know what a financial strain that it is and I try to be fair with them in their payment to me.
Some people have asked, why do you still do this? I still do it because the phone still rings – people still would like me to watch their children. It also gets me out of bed and moving – fibromyalgia needs movement. And, really, what a way to spend your day – hugging and snuggling, singing and dancing, crying and whining – it’s all part of it!
Last year, Ted and I were visiting with a younger couple. We shared some joys and frustration that can come across in work like this. The husband said to me, “You’re living life with these little ones.” That has changed my perspective big time! I’m not just a 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. working person. I’m walking alongside the children and their parents. That in turn has a positive impact on me and, I pray, on the families as well.
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