Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Defining Moment

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.

1 comment:

  1. No, darlin', you are not in corn anymore. It is hard seeing this kind of reality and it is therapy to know that for a little while each day, you give someone an opportunity to laugh and just be themselves. But also know that you could be one of the few who can give safe boundaries to these treasures, that some are damaged beyond belief, and loving them all is not as easy as it should be.

    Guard your heart just enough that when it is time to move on, you will be able to without feeling you have not done enough. As much as you can give tomorrow is more than they might have gotten without you.

    I am so proud of you.