Monett’s Linda Fulp retires from childcare after 54 years
Recalls her job as a personal mission
After 54 years of working in childcare, Linda Fulp of Monett has formally hung up her mantle and retired, leaving a field that was more than a job.
Linda started at age 16, a year before she married Lonnie Fulp. Shortly after marrying, they bought a house, and from there Linda provided her service at Myrtle and Eisenhower.
"I decided this was my mission," Linda said. "There weren't very many doing daycare then. Shirley Rhea [who lives down the street on Myrtle] and I were both teenagers when we started."
Rhea retired a short time ago as well.
Linda recalled starting with two children, before state licensing was around. When Shirley would go on vacation, her charges would join Linda's, at one point raising the numbers up to 33. The Welch girls would help her with the little ones. Lonnie, known as "Paw-Paw" to the children, also helped watch them.
"I enjoy kids," Linda confessed. "They sure have changed over the years. They used to be more interested in playing outside, swimming or playing badminton or other games. Now they don't want to be outside. They want to play video games."
Parents have changed as well, Linda noted. She felt unlike her parents, who were "crazy about their kids," she sees parents today more interested in their jobs than raising a family.
With state licensing in 2001, Linda's child load dropped to 10 children, and later to four. There were also new requirements, such as taking CPR classes and having a certified lifeguard watching the swimming pool. The house also needed $1,200 in modifications.
"[Having fewer children] was probably good for me," Linda said. "It helped with my nerves. I used to put the kids outside and they'd play all day long. We'd have swimming every afternoon in our pool."
Having a schedule provided a routine for the children. Some might come as early as 5:30 a.m. Linda recalled she made the TV available daily until 9 a.m., after which the children would play until around 10:15. At 10:30 a.m. she held a combined church and school learning session, giving children papers to color and other activities. Lunch ran from 11 a.m. to noon. The children then swam until around 2:30 p.m., had a snack and then a 60 to 90-minute nap. Then they would have more TV time as the end of the day approached.
Occasionally, she recalled, a child would prove to be disruptive and fuss. A time-out sitting under the phone proved effective over the years, as did the end of the day treats.
Three years ago Linda had surgery. She said the work of keeping up with the children was much harder now. This summer she concluded 54 years was enough.
Her retirement party proved to be an emotional affair, with many presents and tears. Linda said she still sees many of her former charges around the community, and they ask about her.
Despite the challenges, Linda never changed her mind about children.
"Kids are just precious," she said. "They are God's gift to us. I would just love them. Kids are hungry for love."