I’ve softened a lot in regards to my views on children in the past year or two. I really could not be bothered with them between the years of 2001 to 2010. I didn’t want to hear them screaming or crying. When I worked in a restaurant, I certainly did not want toddler’s grubby little hands smearing food all over my tables and throwing things onto the floor for me to clean up later. My old roommate and I used to dread going to the supermarket for fear of unattended children running into our shins. Looking back, I think I was just uncertain of how to interact with kids. I like to talk. A LOT. And I consider myself a very articulate person. I always found it difficult to interact with kids because I felt like they could never understand what I was trying to say. And I found myself unable to say things in a simple, relatable way. (I have this problem with peers and adults too. If I say something the way I want to say it, and it’s not understood immediately, I have a really hard time rephrasing it.)
But I remember what actively changed my mind about children. I met my friend Owen’s 1-year old son, Liam, for the first time. I had met other babies/children of friends and family members prior to this day, but something about this casual afternoon with Owen and Liam was special. We were watching kids’ shows and Liam was eating pizza (I think), and just playing. I just became fascinated by how open and inquisitive he was. When he picked up a toy and I asked, “Liam, can I see?” and he brought it over and shared with me, there was something so simple and innocent and sweet about it. It was love at first interaction. I was also fascinated by the side of Owen that Liam brought out. Owen is someone who I have known for years, but seeing him interact with his son was different than seeing him in any other situation – it was also tinged with simplicity, innocence, and sweetness. The love I could see and feel between my friend and his son, and the love I felt towards my friend for bringing someone so magical into the world and letting me share an afternoon with him, filled my heart. That day changed my demeanor towards kids forever. Soon after, my cousin and his wife had a baby girl named Michelle. Two years ago, I would never have made the effort to get to know my adorable second cousin, but presently, I did. And I love that she knows and recognizes me. And I love when we make silly kissy-faces at each other.
But I don’t just have a soft spot for children that I know or am related to. I smile at kids in stores now. I tell little girls that they have cute dresses or pretty headbands or awesome animal hats. Let’s face it. Kids have all the best clothes and I am totally jealous. I also never ever thought I would want to work with kids but I do - I work as a mentor for school children grades K-8. And while I still find that some can be bratty and annoying (so can adults), I mainly find them to be sweet and joyful. There is nothing like a first grade girl holding your hand and asking you to sit next to her on the bus. There is nothing like the pride you feel for a fifth grade boy who notoriously acts out when he works quietly and completes all of his assignments correctly. There is nothing like a game of “I Spy” with a second grade boy who calls you “salty.” There is nothing like first graders screaming with laughter when you are chasing after them on the playground. There is nothing like getting an arts and crafts project with ridiculously drawn likenesses of you. These are just some of the things I have experienced working in a school for 5 hours a week for only 6 weeks. The five hours a week I spend with my kids are almost always the best hours of my week. I have no idea what the future holds for me in terms of whether or not I will ever have kids of my own (if I do ever, it will not be for a very long time). But in the meantime, other people’s kids just keep on amazing me.