Glenice Johnson with some of her charges, including six-month-old Alex Alford.
Glenice Johnson with some of her charges, including six-month-old Alex Alford.

20 years & 170 children

By Emma Cornford

Glenice Johnson's home is not like that of most other grandmothers.

Instead of a mantelpiece covered with trinkets in the lounge room, there is a wooden table sitting at knee height, painted in bold primary colours.

Instead of photographs, wooden pizzas and matchbox cars vie for space alongside a stuffed, green frog.

In the backyard there is a plastic pipe running down the hill, the grass at the end littered with bright, plastic balls and a couple of pint-sized bikes.

Ms Johnson's house has been like this ? a maze of cubby houses, size two dress-up shoes and craft made by miniature hands ? ever since she agreed to look after a friend's child while she cared for her own at home 20 years ago.

She became part of the Family Day Care group in 1985 and now people she cared for when they were children have grown up and want Ms Johnson to look after their kids.

"I guess they just enjoyed being here ? that's the only thing I can put it down to. Well, that and the toys," she laughs as she calls out to Tim to stop riding into Sally's feet.

Although she has three children of her own, Ms Johnson has spent most of her life looking after kids.

From the age of 14, as the fifth child in a family of 12, she cared for her younger brother and sister when her mother was in hospital and her father had an accident.

"It makes you feel young having kids around all the time. And I love watching them change as they grow up because often I have them from babies."

As well as seeing the changes of around 170 children in her time, looking after kids has allowed Ms Johnson to form theories about misbehaviour ('it's not the terrible twos, it's the fouryear-olds you have to look out for') and names ('the most popular names are those in the music world at the time so I'm waiting for a few Deltas').

And what do her charges, such as four-year-old Olivia, think about Ms Johnson?

"I like coming to Glenice's ? she has dress-ups. Come and see the cubby house!".

It would seem the toys have it.



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