Working with children has been something I have been drawn to my entire life. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but for me, it was an unquestionable decision. I have always had this passion for watching children grow, watching them make friends, watching them learn something new. I was blessed to find a career I quickly fell in love with.
When I chose to work with children, I knew I was choosing a job that was done out of love, not for financial gain. With the exception of a rare few, jobs that involve working with children are low paying. From teachers to therapists, to guidance counselors, you don’t do it for the check. Whatever the job title is, working with children truly has to be something you’re called to do.
There are a lot of things people tell you to expect when you’re working with children. People tell you how much of an impact you’re going to have on these children’s lives. You will frequently hear things like, “You must have so much patience,” or, “We need more people like you in the world.” People tell you about how you’re going to help shape these children's lives; how you will play a part in making them into the people they’re going to become.
What they don’t tell you about working with children is how much those children are going to impact your life. What they don’t tell you is how much joy, frustration, tears and laughter they will bring to your world. No one tells you how much of a blessing it is to be the person who gets to teach them something new, to watch their faces light up when they finally achieve something they’ve worked tirelessly to accomplish or the self-worth you watch grow when they learn how to do something on their own. Writing their name, tying their shoes, finishing a project, saying their first words — it’s different for all of us depending on what we do with these children — but the joy we find in these moments, the joy is the same.
What they don’t tell you about working with children is how hard it is to say goodbye. While every child is special and impacts your life in their own way, there are always those extra special ones who make the goodbyes that much harder. The ones you’ve witnessed grow and change the most. No one can prepare you for those goodbyes. No one can tell you exactly how it feels or how to handle it — and the hardest thing is it’s different each time you find yourself having to say goodbye.
As a therapist, I spend years working with these children. I spend each day preparing them for the next step in their lives. I strive to give them the tools necessary for them to be successful in that next step, whatever it may be. And then they go, and I’m left to hope the person who gets to have them next appreciates them. I hope that person sees that even though that child may not always be easy and there will always be challenges, that child is worth the struggle. I am no longer the person they run to when they accomplish something new or the one they come to with all of their many questions. Someone new gets to be the person who teaches them and helps shape them. There’s someone else whose day is brightened by that huge smile and the never ending silliness. There will always be new children, new smiles, new goals to be reached, but the handprints of those special few will forever be imprinted on your heart.
So, yes. All the things people tell you to expect when working with children are true, but there are some things that can’t be taught or found in a textbook. There are some things that can only be experienced and felt with your heart.