It was that winter with the insanely long spell of freezing rain and snow, when my daughter's kindergarten classes were cancelled for a week...

It was right around this time of the year, 13 years ago. It was that winter with the insanely long spell of freezing rain and snow, when my daughter's kindergarten classes were cancelled for a week, when I couldn't get the car out of the driveway for three days. I also had a semi-mobile 6-month-old in the house and a husband in Florida (because he's a college swim coach and that's where he goes every winter with this team for winter training - believe me, I got a good gift out of his absence that year).

So it was me, the 5-year-old and her baby brother, roughing it alone on leftover Christmas cookies and half a bottle of cooking sherry (don't you judge me). Eventually the bread, milk, cereal and other staples of life ran low. I was going to have to dig the car out and get to the grocery store.

First time I did it was late at night while they were sleeping. By the next morning, the car and the driveway were buried under snow again. So, for the first time in her life, my daughter had to keep an eye on her brother. Needless to say it was more stressful for me than it was for her. I would shovel a few feet, then run back in to see if they were both alive. Shovel, run back, shovel, run back. (A great workout, by the way.)

My mission was finally completed. Big Sis even got Little Bro into his snowsuit. She and I bundled up, then we all headed to the store, making it there and back safely.

The episode was a milestone, not just in my solo-parenting adventures (of which there are many when your spouse is a coach), but also in my children's ability to take care of each other. Sometimes, I've learned, we adults don't always give our kids credit (or even a chance) for nurturing each other. But it's part of how families have survived - and thrived - for millennia.

For this issue's focus on childcare, I worked on a very interesting story about a growing trend in childcare: mixed-age groups. It's one of those concepts that makes perfect sense when you think about - primary caregiver has responsibility for a small group of children ranging in age from 6 weeks to 3 years, and the children stay with that caregiver and group of children every year that they're at the childcare center.

Linda Neugebauer, a longtime leader in Central Ohio for early childhood education, is championing this concept and hopes to convince others to try it. All I can say is that what I observed at one of the pilot schools - Kids Care Academy - brought back happy memories for me, watching the young children interact with each other and, yes, nurture each other.

Jane Hawes Editor