After 43 years in the day care business, rearing eight children and caring for nine foster children, the average 88-year-old might be ready for a break.
Not Edna Faulkner. Maryland's oldest family day care provider is taking steps to renew her day care license for another two years.
She's passed her cardiopulmonary resuscitation recertification exam and will attend a six-hour training workshop for child care professionals tomorrow at Carroll Community College.
"It's just something I've done all my life, and to me it's the most natural thing in the world," Mrs. Faulkner said of child rearing. "People ask me why don't I retire, but I know how old I am and how old I feel. I like getting up in the morning and having something to do," she said.
"She's a social services agency unto herself," said Nancy Lantz, a program specialist at the state's Child Care Administration.
Elizabeth Kelley, the CCA's licensing supervisor for Carroll and Frederick counties, said Mrs. Faulkner is not only the state's oldest day care provider but she's a month ahead of schedule in submitting the paperwork for her license renewal.
"She has years and years of experience in working with children, and still seems to be very interested and active," Ms. Kelley said.
Mrs. Faulkner got into the day care business in 1952 in Washington when a neighbor who got a job asked Mrs. Faulkner to watch her son. At the time, Mrs. Faulkner had four of her own children at home.
Her family moved to Montgomery County in 1959, and to Mount Airy in 1979. Over the years, Mrs. Faulkner reared her five children and cared for nine foster children. At age 60, she adopted three more children.
"I don't tire," Mrs. Faulkner explained. "I just like to get going, I like to do."
Mrs. Faulkner took in abandoned children and children from broken homes. She took in the children of abused women and single mothers when it wasn't acceptable for a woman to rear a child on her own.
At one time, counting her own children, grandchildren and foster children, Mrs. Faulkner had 22 children in her house.
"I said years ago I defy anyone to keep up with that woman, and I still say the same thing," said Judy Michaud, 52, one of Mrs. Faulkner's daughters.
After rearing children for more than five decades, Mrs. Faulkner has formed strong opinions about the pressures families face today as parents struggle to balance work and children.
"They bring them here at 6:30 in the morning, pick them up at 6 at night, and by the time they get home, get dinner, give them baths, it's bedtime," she said. "It's a shame. I think this is what's wrong with children today.
"These young people are good people, and they have got to work, there's no two ways about it. But parents just don't have the time to give them."
Mrs. Faulkner said she has no trouble caring for infants or keeping up with an energetic toddler. It's all a matter of maintaining control, although she said some mothers don't always agree with her methods.
"A lot of mothers don't believe in playpens anymore," she said. "They think it's punishment."
For the children in Mrs. Faulkner's care, discipline begins at an early age. With a firm "no," she warns her charges to steer clear of her cranberry glass and porcelain dolls in the living room. "I train them when they start crawling."
In Mrs. Faulkner's opinion, consistency in discipline is one of the basics of being a good parent. "You can't tell a child 'no' one day, and the next day say 'just this one time'," she said.
Parents who entrust their children to her say they appreciate her tough yet tender brand of child care.
"It helps to know that when she has my kids she's got control," said Jim Foster, whose 8-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son go to Mrs. Faulkner's house before and after school and in the summer. "A 12-year-old could easily take advantage of a laid-back baby sitter."
"She changes your attitude about what is old," said Kathy Witty, whose 3-year-old daughter, Emily, attended day care at Mrs. Faulkner's from the time she was two months old until she went to preschool.
In her spare time, Mrs. Faulkner plays bingo three nights each week and crochets afghans for babies. She also belongs to the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Department, and until recently taught fire prevention classes in local elementary schools.
"She keeps busy," said her husband, Roland, 85.
Mrs. Faulkner plans to stay in the day care business as long as she's able.
"I guess I'll keep on taking care of children until somebody hollers, 'You can't do it anymore,' " she said. "I never gave a thought to stopping."