Tuesday, September 27, 2005

But... You Don't Even LIKE Children

It was laughable, really, me getting a job at a day care. However, I'd rather laugh with a paycheck than continue with my sobering stint of unemployment.

It was the summer after I graduated from college. I had neglected to inform my boss that I would be around for the summer before moving off and starting a new life. As luck would have it, I finally got around to telling her the day *after* she had hired someone to take my place. I don't think I even realized she was interviewing for my position. Of course, as I had worked in the office for two years, including the previous summer, she would rather have had me around than have to teach a newbie, but alas, my procrastination (and a lacking budget) truly worked against me.

Speaking of lacking budgets, I attempted to find a "respectable" job for about a month before the funds ran depressingly low and I broke down, applying for the first guaranteed prospect: working for the campus day care. You may be able to guess my friends' reactions from the title of this post, but I reassured them that everything would work out swimmingly. After all, I had a nephew whom I loved and he was a kid. Therefore, if a=b (I love my nephew) and b=c (my nephew is a kid), then a must equal c, right? Surely, I must love kids, right? Wrong.

I was the last person they hired for the summer and ended up being the "floater." Basically, I would go wherever a person was needed. At first I was "stuck" with the two and three year olds. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings we had 18 of the little buggers, most of them ESL (English as Second Language). In the afternoon on those days, we had 5 kids, also some ESL, with one little boy who would NOT. STOP. CRYING.* Honestly, I don't know which was worse, the morning or the afternoon.

It wasn't until I this job that I understood the allure of "Happy Hour." Honestly, chasing after rugrats all day really wore me out and ran my spirits ragged. In a couple of weeks, though, I was moved to the four and five year old class. I *loved* it there. If you don't understand the different developmental stages of kids, let me help you out. Younger kids like to explore and learn on their own. They might have one or two bosom buddies with whom they will share their experiences. If you are not one of these people, back off-- or at least enter with caution.

Four and Five year olds, however, were fascinating. They played with me. They talked to me. They explained the inner-workings of their minds. Even the ESL kids could speak English for the most part and they even came out of their own worlds every once in a while to ask my name, to wonder who the heck I was and why I wanted to play with them.

Then my worst fear realized itself and I was switched back to the twos and threes. After playing with kids who would respond, I thought this sheer torture. That is, until Kevin repeated "truck" and Sam echoed "giraffe." At that moment, the moment where I realized they do pay attention and they actually want to learn from me, at that moment, my heart broke open and those chubby little hands massaged my soul into a play-doh-like goo.

I can honestly say those few short months at the day care changed my life forever. I loved playing with the four and five year olds, I even had some fun with the six to twelve year olds (though they work the nerves a bit themselves), but after I finally peered into a two year old's eyes and saw a little genius waiting to be taught, struggling to learn, inviting me into his independent little world-- after that, my heart was never the same.

Isn't it funny how that happens so often? You go somewhere to "teach" and end up "learning." I hope that never changes.

*Incidentally, this little boy did finally stop crying-- his last day at the day care. It was funny. He finally adapted and played and had fun. Then he had to leave all over again since he was just visiting the States for the summer from Korea. Poor little guy must have been so traumatized. = ( He taught me a lot, too.