Carmen Davis| Planting the Precious Seeds of Kindness

February 21, 2024

Carmen found her sense of purpose when her son began having problems at school. “In kindergarten,” she says, “He was a thriving little boy. But when he went to a new school for first grade, he changed. He would come home from school with his head down, all discouraged. So, I went to the school with a family liaison officer to find out what was troubling my son. Together, we talked with the principal and two teachers, who said he was acting out and would not do as they asked. After listening to them, the liaison officer told me my son wasn’t the problem. The teachers were the problem because they were making my child feel diminished. She was right and once I switched him to a new school, he began earning straight As. What happened to him has been a driving force for me, and I want to plant the seeds for every child to flourish.”

She has been doing that since 2008 at Carmen’s Precious Moments, her family child care home in Nashville Tennessee. “My mother and older sister had encouraged me to open a family child care home for some time,” Carmen recalls, “but I didn’t find the courage to do so until one Sunday while attending church. I go to a big church, where the pastor doesn’t know me. But I felt like he was speaking directly to me as he preached about walking into your purpose. I felt like God was telling me to begin sowing my seeds and I started the process of opening my home child care. I did the orientation, obtained a license and walked through every step of the process without facing any roadblocks or delays.”

It helped that she had seven years of experience working at Small Wonders Child Care, a Michigan early learning center, where she earned her Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™. “One day the director of my center told me that all the teachers were getting their CDA®. The director was also going to earn her CDA though she already had a master’s degree because the CDA provides knowledge that sharpens your professional skills. So, I agreed to earn my credential, though I was hesitant at first. I’m glad I overcame my fears because I found that the CDA opened my eyes to many aspects of classroom practice. Learning about child development, age-appropriate materials and parent engagement made me feel I could give my best to the all the children and families I served. Earning a CDA prepared me to open Carmen’s Precious Moments.”

Carmen’s professional life has gone smoothly since then, though she has faced some personal trials along the way. For two years, Carmen took care of her older sister after she developed dementia and her mom died from cancer a few years back, but Carmen didn’t have to face these tragedies alone. She shared them with the members of the Nashville Area Family Childcare Network, where she serves as VP. “We come together each quarter,” she says, “to trade information on developments in our profession and discuss challenges in our personal lives. When there’s a death in the family, we also come together to see what we can do to help.” And so do the members of Carmen’s Parent Advisory Board, who help her to make decisions about her prices and what she teaches in her program.

Carmen didn’t want to let these parents down after her mom died in hospice last July. “The hospice called me at 1:30 in the afternoon and said I needed to come there soon,” she recalls. “Yet I didn’t leave until hours later when my last child went home. And the next morning I was hurting, but I knew my parents depended on me, so I still opened my program. When no one else showed up, I wondered why until I called my parent president. He told me that the board decided to close for the next couple of days and I shouldn’t worry about it,” Carmen recalls. The parents are concerned about her because she’s so concerned about their kids.

Take a mom named Shirley who came to Carmen in tears because she was so worried about the care her young daughter was receiving at another day care. “Shirley was distraught,” Carmen recalls, “because every time she went to pick her daughter up the child was either in a high chair or a baby bed.” The little girl was so inactive that Shirley thought there was a developmental delay. But that wasn’t the case as Shirley saw after enrolling her child in Carmen’s program. “The child turned two last September,” Carmen says, “and she’s thriving. She’s walking, talking, and doing music and movement, as Shirley sees every time she pops in for a visit. There was nothing wrong with the child. She just didn’t get the appropriate materials and stimulation she needed to start moving around.”

Helping children to make breakthroughs like this is demanding, as Carmen admits. “If you’re caring for a six-week-old, for example, you spend a lot of time sitting on the floor with the child, feeding them, talking to them and reading to them. Then you close your eyes for a moment. And before you know it, that child is sitting up, walking around the room and grabbing a toy to tell you what it is. When you watch a child flourish, it’s so rewarding.”

What you get back is more precious than the pay you earn, Carmen knows. And she showed her commitment to her work while caring for two homeless children after their parents fell upon hard times. She realized the family had become homeless because the children would come to her program wearing the same clothes as the day before and would keep asking for more food. So, Carmen told the parents, “I don’t want you to choose whether you’re going to pay me or feed your kids, put gas in your car and go to work,” as she recalls. “And I cared for those children for almost no pay until the family got back on its feet two years later,” Carmen says. “I did it because I’m a true believer in my faith and if someone’s in need, I have to help them.”

Her sense of commitment led the Tennessee Department of Health and Human Services to use her child care as a demonstration site for how to run a program. She has also guided other providers through her work in the TOPSTAR program held by the Tennessee Family Child Care. Alliance. “I mentor new child care providers and work with existing providers who want to improve certain parts of their programs,” she explains.

But the lesson that Carmen wants most to pass on is how to be kind and treat other people. “So, when my kids come in and show me that they have a new hair style or new shoes, I try to redirect the discussion,” she explains. “I don’t want the children to focus on what money can buy. I tell them I like your smile better. I like that you put your toys away and helped your classmate yesterday. I want every child to feel good about themselves because of what’s inside them,” she explains. And her commitment to help all children have a good self-image comes from her memories of her son. “I don’t want any child to feel discouraged and diminished,” she says. “So, I work each day to plant the precious seeds of kindness in young children.”



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