If you’ve raised kids in the Methow Valley in the past 20 years, it’s quite likely that Signe Shaw has helped you do it. Lucky you, to have been part of the era of Signe’s “tike ranch” — an era that is coming to an end. Although Signe is not fully retiring, she is discontinuing her in-home child care business.
Signe started her career as a midwife, supporting mothers in bringing children into the world. She then transitioned to offering in-home child care and became a fixture in the community, helping families by giving parents a safe and loving place to leave their children so they could go to work.
Although Little Star School now offers extended hours to better accommodate working parents, it was only about a decade ago that Little Star only operated in the mornings four days a week. Signe filled this child care need, caring for kids in the afternoons, offering summer camps, and bridging the gap between the end of the school year and the beginning of other community summer camps.
A couple of weeks ago about 30 people gathered for a semi-retirement party to celebrate Signe and her work, and the stories flowed. Parents talked about Signe’s “incredible selflessness,” taking kids early, late, overnight — whatever was needed. Virginia Nelson, whose two children Oliver and Lumi have spent time with Signe, noted Signe’s “amazing ability to soothe parents’ fears of the wretchedness of their children, reminding parents that ‘it’s definitely just a phase,’ talking parents off a ledge, and getting babies to take bottles when the parents could not.”
“She kept our families afloat,” Elana Mainer said, speaking for many who were present at the retirement party and for dozens of others who weren’t.
Kids talked about what their time with Signe meant to them. One child said that she loves Signe because Signe always says “yes” when kids ask her if they can do things. Although there was some skepticism when parents heard this, they understood it means that Signe treats children as if everything is possible.
Virginia says that Signe became very personally meaningful to her and her family, not just for the reliability and consistency with providing childcare, but also for being like a grandmother to Oliver and Lumi. “When Lumi started in the toddler room at Little Star, it was all they could do to keep her out of the infant room where Signe worked,” Virginia said. “And any time Lumi’s beloved lamb got a hole, Signe would whip out her sewing kit and patch her up.”
Signe gave gifts to Lumi every Christmas and birthday, Virginia said. “Lumi’s last birthday gift from Signe was a dress for her and then a little one for her lamb made out of the same fabric!”
Signe has cared for several sets of twins during her tenure, including Galen and Cheyenne Fonda, who started spending time at Signe’s exactly 20 years ago, just four months after Signe served as the midwife for the twins’ mother, Meg Trebon. Cheyenne was able to attend the retirement party and thank Signe for a meaningful childhood experience and home away from home, with fond memories of her time at Signe’s.
Signe is retiring from in-home care not because she is tired of kids. On the contrary, it’s because she is so needed at Little Star. Signe plans to help out at Little Star while the demand for her talents is high, but in theory one day she will fully retire from babysitting. But as everyone who has left their children with Signe knows, she will never, ever stop caring for kids.
If you’d like to contribute to Signe’s retirement gift, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Signe-Shaw-Retirement.