What can a retired daycare provider do?

"She can sleep in," Josie Swanson said.

"She can watch TV," Mari DeVries said.

"She can sleep all day," Jackson Stout said.

Those former and current daycare kids were right.

While Vicki Dalager said she liked being able to get out of bed and be at work, in retirement she can get out of bed when she wants to. Dalager retired on May 31 after 25 years of providing in home daycare in Morris.

When Dalager started her in-home daycare there were 38 in-home daycare providers in Stevens County. "We're down to 23," she said. Few reached retirement age as most instead "moved on to something else," she said.

Low pay and increased regulations make daycare a difficult job option for many, Dalager said. She needed to complete 16 hours of training a year to keep her license. In comparison, her husband Bob, a lawyer, needed to complete only 15 hours of training a year to keep his license.

Regulations have increased and some have become even silly, Dalager said. One example is a requirement to clean up rabbit poop in the daycare provider's yard, Dalager said.

The loss of her daycare will create another hole in the daycare shortage in the region. Various organizations including a group in Hancock working on a combined childcare and event center in that community estimated that 108 children need childcare in the area which includes Stevens County and several nearby towns.

But, at 66, Dalager said it was time to retire.

"It means she's not doing her job anymore because she's too old," Stout said of retirement.

Dalager laughed at Stout's comment during her final day on the job. Kids have been saying funny things around her for years.

Like the time a daycare child learned Dalager was 50. "Fifty," replied the child. "You will die soon."

"I said 'I sure hope not,'" Dalager said with a laugh. "She was horrified I was so old.'"

Dalager laughs easily. That's something her daycare kids and parents have noticed.

"She makes me laugh," a former daycare kid, Grace Lhotka, said.

"She's definitely fun," daycare parent Amy Wohlers said. Dalager provided daycare for Wohlers and husband Donny's four kids for 17 years.

Bobbi Jo Wohlers, the youngest of the Wohlers' four kids, said Dalager got to know each kid's personalities.

Wohlers said her children recall that each year Dalager would hide a pickle ornament in the Christmas tree for kids to find. She always dressed up for Halloween and the kids looked forward to it.

Dalager may be fun, but the daycare kids said she isn't very good at games.

Daycare kid Oscar Lina said he liked playing Candyland with Dalager "because I always usually beat her."

"Sometimes losing is discouraging. My job is to build them up. They do win more than they lose," Dalager said.

Dalager may transition between present and past tense when she talks about daycare. It's been less than a month since she retired.

She started daycare when her own two children were young. "I liked staying at home. I really liked rolling out of bed and being at work, especially on those nasty winter days," Dalager said.

She'd been planning on retiring for about five years as she gave her daycare parents notice. She didn't add any new kids as the last kid from each family grew out of daycare.

Her families have all been able to find other daycare, she said.

"I've been really fortunate to have wonderful parents," Dalager said.

Wohlers said her family has been fortunate to have had Dalager as a daycare provider. Her family considers Dalager part of their family.

"She is more to us than a daycare mom," Wohlers said.

Former and recent daycare families had a party for Dalager on June 8. Dalager had her own celebration on her last day on May 31. The dining room table was filled with candy dishes as Dalager tossed out the food program rules days before so she could celebrate.

The kids could choose a different piece of candy every half hour.

She'd miss the kids and the families but she planned to try and keep up with some of their activities. She will take time now to remove puzzles, crafts and dozens of other daycare items from her home.

As to her non-daycare future she and her soon to be retired husband have no big travel plans. But, it's a good bet they may go to a Twins game on a weekday. Or out to lunch or a funeral. Things she didn't get to do much during her daycare life.