By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Ann Hodges found her talent early in life.
“My niece and nephew, I was the one who took care of them. I had a younger brother and took care of him. It was natural,” said Hodges, a 54-year-old Nettleton resident. “It actually started at home and went on from there.”
She wasn’t paid in those days, and at least one relative wondered what all that baby-sitting meant for her future.
“My grandmother said, ‘You’ll never have children of your own because you’re always taking care of someone else’s,’” Hodges recalled.
The prediction didn’t come true. Hodges has a 32-year-old son and a 22-year-old daughter, and she still takes care of other people’s children at North Mississippi Medical Center’s Child Care Center.
She started when the center opened in 1992, and her daughter was among the first classes. Those kids have reached college age by now, but there’s always a new crop of young ones.
These days, she’s focused on 2-year-olds, and they’re not always reasonable.
“Today, a little boy had the toy lawn mower on the slide. I said, ‘We don’t put lawn mowers on the slide,’” she said. “He closed his eyes when I was talking to him. It was like, You’re not talking to me. Talk to the hand.”
Her room is known as the Potty Training Room. Hodges and her team teacher have helped guide scores of children through that particular rite of passage.
“That’s what we do,” she said. “I was telling a mother that her son was doing so good with the potty. She said, ‘I know. We came to your room and didn’t have to do anything. He was potty trained.’”
Hodges works the 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift. The early start fits her.
“Most times, I wake up at 4:30 and the alarm goes off at 5,” she said. “I like to get up and get things going.”
She and another teacher entertain the early arrivals until the other teachers arrive.
“We’ll dance or let them play in the centers,” she said. “They might ask for bubbles – I love bubbles, they love bubbles – or we read a story. It varies.”
Her classes follow a curriculum for each month. The kids took a field trip to a pumpkin patch in October, and they’ll visit Santa at The Mall at Barnes Crossing in December.
They learn about their shapes and colors, and spend time with the ABCs and 123s. Hodges gets down on the floor with them to read or play.
“I like watching them, just seeing how different they are and how they develop,” she said. “There are lessons to be learned. Adults can get upset with each other and hold onto it for a long time. With kids, it lasts a minute, then they’re laughing and hugging.
“There’s always a kid that God sends. You’ll be having a bad day and one of them will come up and say, ‘I love you, Ann.’ God sends one every day.”