"I love you, Emma!" Sophie says as she skips away to her first-grade classroom. Two weeks into the school year and she has already begun clinging onto my leg. And not. Letting. Go.
Lots of little ones gather up their backpacks and are careful not to forget their morning art projects - sometimes beads heated together to make a butterfly, sometimes construction paper with meaningless scribbles on it. It's at this time when I reflect on my job as a before and after school care counselor. I realize I play a big part in making or breaking the kids' days, and I take that to heart.
I believe that every kid is worthy and deserving of love. Even the fifth-grade boy who menacingly throws bugs at his little sister and her friends, or the young girl who kicks and screams when someone touches her Barbie doll. Early ages for kids are crucial stages for psychological development, and I think that interacting with them and being an excellent role model is a healthy way to grow internally for me and them.
Before working at my current job, I was a food service worker, and before that, I had lots of volunteer experience with kids in dance studio and elementary school settings. It was at these times when I felt most happy and most like I was serving my purpose in life. Foodservice was quite the experience, and I'm glad I did it because I learned a lot of skills, but it definitely was not my destiny in life. Dreading going to work every day is not something I want to experience ever again, and luckily I don't anymore.
Each morning I work, I wake up and wonder what Joey is going to make me out of string and glue, or the one-woman show I'll get to see Claire put on. I always go into work with a smile on my face, even in the wee hours of the morning when the sun is still asleep.
For many of these kids, I will be the first or second person they interact with in the day, and it's important to me that I make those moments memorable for them. Working with kids isn't just a job, its a learning experience on both ends. I get to learn how to cheer someone up, come to a compromise when kid A doesn't want to share with kid B, use my imagination more creatively, actively supervise, and so much more. My kiddos get used to me too, by learning that it's best for them to follow the rules, ask an adult if they need something, and that I always want to play with them (no matter how old they think I am)!
To me, childcare means you shine a bright light on any child's life. You love them and respect them no matter what age they are. You have positive hopes for all kids, even the "troublemakers". You do everything you can so their day can be a little bit better and you always want the best for them. You go home at night satisfied with the joy you put in their lives, and you are excited to go back the next day and do the same thing.
She looks back, her bouncy hair stuck to the leftover food on her face. Her light up shoes are on the wrong feet, but I still admire her dearly. "I love you too, Sophie."