This past summer, I decided to say farewell to the world of retail and try something new. Well, not entirely new, but new enough. Taking care of kids is no game, and it definitely isn’t easy. It can be frustrating at times, but it can also be the best job in the world. Since May, I’ve worked at an after school/summer program, and I have learned a lot. Here are just a few things I found worth sharing:
1. A child’s hug can ALWAYS make you feel better.
I am currently a college junior, and sometimes, I really feel the weight of being an adult. I am constantly stressing over school, giving up any free time to be at work, and going to sleep at late hours of the night trying to get everything done. There are days when I get to work not wanting to deal with the excitedly loud chatter of the first and second graders I look after. “No, I don’t want to play connect four with you for the thirtieth time this afternoon,” I think to myself. “Is it Friday yet?” I whisper under my breath. “Everyone please stop running around in circles so I can count how many of you are here today,” I blurt out, causing the kids to freeze in place. After about two seconds they start running all over the place again, but there’s always this one kid. “You look so pretty today, Ms. Julie,” she tells me. I look down at her blushing face, and she hugs me as tight as she possibly can. Immediately, the stress is gone. She probably has no idea that she’s my little ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.
2. They keep you young, innocent, and alive.
Every day, I pick my group of about fifteen up from school, and we wait in the library until dismissal is over. During this time, we call it “Interest Areas,” I put out a few games for them to play. Because of this, I have become a professional connect four player, a skilled Lego architect, and don't even try to beat me at Headbandz because you will fail. I feel like I’m reliving my childhood by playing with them. There is something so rejuvenating about the way they use their imagination to create magical places, make themselves into superheroes and princesses, and share the world through their eyes. They make fairytales come to life, and the only moment they pause their imagination is the moment they reach out their hand and ask me to join them in the next sword-fighting, dragon-slaying, princess-saving adventure. How can I say no?
3. They listen to you, and most importantly, they BELIEVE you.
One time, I had a first grader come to me in tears after getting into a fight with his brother. He was very upset, thinking that he would have to find a new place to live and a new brother he could call his best friend. I sat next to him and took his arm. I pulled up his sleeve to reveal his veins. Then I asked if he knew what ran through his veins. Slightly confused, he said he had no idea. So very sincerely I explained that the blood that runs through his veins was the same blood his brother had running through his. Therefore, they would always be brothers because no one else has that same blood, and the only way to change that was if someone took away all his blood and switched it with someone else. After seeing his bewilderment, I quickly told him it was impossible for that to happen. This realization hit, and very excitedly he made his way across the room to where his brother was sitting. "Brother! Let me see your arm. Did you know we have the same blood in our veins?" The other staff in the area gave me a questioning look as I shrugged and laughed. Throughout the rest of the day, he kept telling everyone he came across about his new discovery. You can only guess what the first thing he said to his dad during pickup was.
4. They are the most skilled artists in the world.
With this one, I really think pictures are worth a thousand words. These are just some of the masterpieces I have the privilege of taking home with me every night:
5. Their energy never runs out.
“Is it time to go outside yet?”
“Are we going to the gym today?”
“When can we play?”
These are only a few examples of the questions I get asked a million times a day. Kids are little balls of never-ending energy. It’s like they’ve gotten an unlimited supply while I have to drink three cups of coffee just to get through the afternoon. It amazes me how they can go hours running around outside and still complain when I tell them it's time to go inside. And they always want me to see them doing tricks. Whether it's on the monkey bars or the gym mats, they are fearless when it comes to backflips, hanging upside down, and doing other acrobatic moves that give me heart attacks just from watching.
I am blessed to be having the impact I have on these kids. I take on their pain and happiest moments as my own, and I wouldn't have it any other way. If you have children of your own, take some time today to let them know how loved they are, how special they are, and remind them of the unlimited potential they have because, trust me, it makes all the difference to them.