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Meet Andrew Urbanus

by Erika Thuesen

The day we spoke to Andrew Urbanus, the spatter of green paint around his eye was admittedly less than he usually sports at the end of a day with 45 preschoolers, but it’s a fitting look for a guy who describes his role as “part educator, part class clown.” As director of Habibi’s Hutch -- a funky South Austin childcare center – Andrew is used to resolving disputes, shaking the sand out of a size 3T sweatshirt, and for today at least, talking about how he came to do, what some might consider, Mama’s work. As we chatted, giggling children chased in circles, climbed trees, dug trenches in an inviting pile of fragrant dirt, and clamored onto Andrew’s lap for a few quiet moments in the backyard of this “preschool and natural childlife preserve.”  Just a typical day at the office.

One of five kids, Andrew first worked in daycare to avoid the usual college summer jobs like waiting tables or delivering pizza.  After a stint of full-time preschool work, he returned to college, switching his major from English to early childhood education.  In 22 years as an educator, Andrew has willingly traded his teenage aspiration of writing the great American novel for the deeply rewarding process of guiding young minds to think critically about themselves and the world in which they live.

Natives of Dallas, Andrew and his wife Kim were drawn to Austin ’s natural beauty.  Together they have three sons, ages eight to fifteen, as well as a six-year-old daughter.  Kim has worked for many years as a bartender at Chili’s, and the kids have always attended preschool wherever Andrew was teaching.  “We’ve been lucky,” Andrew says of their children.  “They’re good students, active in sports and know how to be good friends.”

“I can see myself doing this until I retire or can’t do it anymore,” says Andrew.  “I see myself as an old man still able to do the same things, and in some ways, even appreciate working with children all the more.”   Meanwhile, he stays active playing basketball at the Y while the kids nap, and hiking and biking with his family. 

Here’s more from Andrew...

Who inspired you growing up, and why?  

My dad.  He was very soft spoken, kind and patient.  He supported us without driving us.  My mom was an inspiration, too.  She had a sharp tongue and always spoke her mind.

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

Try to stay outside longer.

What is the biggest challenge you see mothers faced with today?

Letting go and trusting your children a little more.  Less is more.  To remember that this needs to be a time of adventures.  Its not our job to make it all a smooth road.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?

Make the line between what I think and what I say shorter.  You know us preschool teachers, we never want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I could be more direct.

What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?

The school and my family.  All these children come together, then adults are brought together.  Knowing that friendships develop from what we do here.

What makes you most happy about the way you parent?

Using my training as an educator and remembering what it’s like to be that age.

How do you balance parenthood and art?

The art in parenting, being creative, spontaneous, original, open to the moment.  I feel a great artistic expression in my relationships with the kids.

Which two notable people would you like to see handcuffed to each other for a day?

Grouch Marx and Henry Miller.

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?

Instant "nanny in the closet" or just someone to remind them that they can make 1000 mistakes, but if love is there, then the kids will grow and prosper in spite of - or even because of - those mistakes.

Thanks Andrew!

Habibi's Hutch
2901 Manchaca Rd.

The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon



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