Working with kids is hard. Some of you are parents, so you know how trying these little beings can be. I was a nanny for about six years before I graduated college, but I truly was blessed with children that listened when I spoke, did what I asked them, and showered me with love and affection.
I took a job with East End Community Services in August that would allow me to go to an elementary school everyday and serve bright eyed seven year olds all day. I walked in thinking I had the experience that was required - I would even go as far as to say I was cocky about the experience I was walking in with. It took about thirty minutes for that cocky facade to be shot right in the center and continue to splinter, and splinter, and splinter. I repeat - working with kids is hard.
In my first week I was quickly informed of what students were being raised by grandparents due to incarceration or death of biological parents. I was quickly informed of which of these beautiful babies was going through therapy or being medicated for molestation. I was quickly informed of which students might need some more love, some extra care because of the lack of safety they were coming from. In my first week I realized I was no longer in the middle of cornfields and a town of farmers.
There have been significant times in my adult life in which I've considered what I might say to my younger self, had I been armed with the correct knowledge. What might I say to the little seven year old who had to wear sports bras because precocious puberty had snatched her childish frame away from her? What words of wisdom would I have for the thirteen year old child who let a boy verbally berate her at every turn? What could I give to the sixteen year old who thought for sure she couldn't learn anymore about herself than in that specific year?
I come back to these moments so much more now that I am watching seven year olds find themselves and learn how to be. I watch young girls flex their muscles at being the queen bees and the wannabes. I am a witness to young crushes and hurt feelings when those crushes aren't reciprocated. I see attitudes form and flourish as nothing more than mechanisms of defense for what they face at home. I see personalities developing, internal wars being waged, burdens being shifted so they may become lighter and I start to think - what can I say to them that will make this all seem easier? What wisdom can I impart to show them this isn't it? What could I give them to ease some pain?
The same thing I would have said to myself all those years ago when I was seven, the same thing I would have said to myself a few years later when I was thirteen, what I should have said to myself at twenty-one : there's more, you'll find strength, life is about change.
I wish I could take these precious kids home with me and love on them until they realized how precious and treasured they are, but I can't. So I will set out everyday trying to make them realize that today does not define you, tomorrow does not define you, this moment will not define you.
You define you.