Friday was my final shift at the Catholic lower school, where I have worked at for six months. And now I can breathe. It’s not that the work was very difficult (though it tried my patience quite a few times). It’s that when you work with children, your viewpoint of the world shifts dramatically, and you begin to reevaluate your whole life. Working with kids can be stressful, joyous, agonizing and freeing. But most importantly, that position of caretaker will open your eyes.
Becoming a Glorified Babysitter
I first started in September, when–after arriving for an interview–I was hired on the spot and asked to help right then and there. I had this wonderful, beautiful idea about how children behaved, and though I didn’t kid myself about their less-than-angelic dispositions, I was not quite aware of their capacities. I quickly learned how draining it could be. A certain group of boys would always hit and berate other children, and some girls just couldn’t stop teasing their fellow classmates. A five-year-old once said to me, “I like getting hurt.” Even from a young age, children can develop startling characteristics.
“Princesses” and “Villains”
It is often said that boys are the troublemakers in the classroom, and I certainly understand how it seems that way. Boys are often the villains–rambunctious, bossy, aggressive, and rebellious. By contrast, the girls mainly keep to themselves; they are “perfect princesses.” But it is simply not true that boys are harder to raise or teach than girls. I think the reason young girls seem so docile is that they have so many role models. The lower education system is run by females, and a majority of boys don’t relate to them on the same level. Female teachers actively engage in the same activities girls in their class participate. If they had more male teachers in primary schools, perhaps boys would feel they could channel their negative emotions into more productive outlets.
Bullies are Being Bullied
I used to jokingly call this little boy the Anti-Christ to my family and friends. He was always hitting and shoving and calling people names. One day he was in a particularly bad mood, and he hit two people within five minutes. The teacher sent him to time-out, and then left with the other kids to go outside. And this little boy, no more than eight years old, balled his eyes out. I was astonished.
Kneeling down to speak to him, I said, “What’s wrong? Why did you hit that boy? I didn’t see what happened.”
He wouldn’t look at me for a long time, but finally said, “He made fun of me because of my beanie hat. They all said it was stupid, and it was a girl’s hat.” He added, “And you never see them making fun of me, you only see me, and then I get in trouble and it’s unfair!”
It wasn’t stupid, I said, and they shouldn’t have made fun of him. I promised I would look out for him. And since then, he has always treated me and others better.
A common viewpoint stemming from the Nature versus Nurture debate is that people are born bad. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, and if you are around children long enough, you’ll realize this is so. Though true evil is very rare, the ones that are evil have gone through such horrible abuse and trauma as to make them almost irreparable. Evil is not biological, it is learned. Young children are incredibly vulnerable, and it is a teacher’s job to staunch their wounds instead of causing them.
I was in the campus Starbucks with my mom one day, and the cashier commented on her being with me. “I’m here for my daughter,” she said. “She is my little girl. There’s nothing like children.”
“I don’t like children,” he said.
My mother couldn’t understand this. “But a child will always love you. It is the greatest thing you can have. You don’t understand what love is, how deeply you can feel, until you have a child.”
As I don’t have children, I cannot fathom this love. But I can tell you that the first part is true; I don’t think I could ever stop loving my parents. There isn’t a day that I don’t feel deeply about them, whether I’m happy or upset or amused. I think what people mean when they say they dislike children is that they dislike the relationship parents and children have. They only see:
- the responsibility
- the stinking diapers
- the money
- the problems
They don’t see:
- the hugging
- the stories
- the devotion
- the love
They’re manipulative, they’re quirky, they’re angry, they’re insightful, they are human. As I leave this job and go to the next, I will remember this. Children are just adults in fun-sized disguise.