This may frighten some of you but I have spent many years working with children. I know, right? Scary. I mean, I've spent years doing other things, too like retail and waiting tables and cleaning out dog kennels and mowing grass and selling vacuum cleaners. That last one was a very short experience because while I consider myself a fairly good salesperson, when it comes to vacuum cleaners I suck. Haha. Ok, anyways...the bulk of my working life, though has been spent with children. I've been a substitute teacher, a daycare teacher, and a nanny. Not necessarily in that order. I know a lot of people who say, "Ugh. I hate kids" and I used to dislike them, too until I learned what seemed like an enormous dislike of children was actually just fear. What if you break one of them? I don't think they come with any sort of warranty. What is the return policy on children? I have no idea. However, once I was tossed into the world of children I started to learn some things and the more I learned the less afraid I was.
1. Children Have Cast Iron Stomachs
My first encounter with this was when I was a nanny for a foster family. The family had eight children ranging in age from 2 to 13. It wasn't as bad as it sounds because I could get the oldest to help me with the smaller kids and eventually everyone got fed and washed and read to and tucked in. Two year olds, however have this supernatural ability to be in several different places at the same time and there was only one of me plus a 13 year old boy so, the odds were not stacked in my favor. So, after bath time one night we all settled down with twenty bags of popcorn (you have no idea how much one child can eat, not to mention eight) to watch a movie before it was time for bed. The eight year old and the ten year old started fighting and I gave the two year old her sippy cup so she would be occupied with something for a bit (hahahahahahaha, yeah...) so I could settle this squabble. After the fight was over and band-aids were distributed, we settled back down and I sat on the couch next to the two year old who was happily drinking out of the Scooby Doo bubble bath bottle. She had teleported into the bathroom, gotten the bubble bath and then teleported back into the living room (it took all of 5 seconds) and was poisoning herself right in front of me. I snatched the bottle away from her and she burped and I dialed poison control and was in a full on panic. As it turns out, it is totally fine for children to drink Scooby Doo bubble bath but it gives them diarrhea.
2. Children Have No Fear
When I was a child I feared nothing except that there might be sharks in the bathtub or the swimming pool. This comes from the traumatizing experience I had at five when my mom thought it would be fine for me to watch Jaws. Other than sharks, I was fearless. I'm not sure how I survived the first 10 years of my life, honestly. As an adult it is difficult for me to watch kids do the same things I used to do. "What are you doing with that ax?!" "We're building a fort!" Fort building is kind of a rite of passage for kids everywhere. It must be done. I used to climb really tall trees with my dad's saw (not electric) and a hammer and about a dozen or so nails in my mouth to build a fort and thought nothing of it. Looking back, my parents weren't very attentive...anyways. Over the years I have been the only one standing in the way of impending doom like stopping the seven year old from hitting his younger sister in the head with a hammer but my favorite story isn't even mine. It comes from a friend of mine who told me one day that she discovered her four year old son having a "sword fight" with his 2 year old sister...with steak knives. This story was funny for me. Not so much for her.
3. Children Sometimes Have to Learn the Hard Way
Since the children I look after belong to other people (thank God), it is very rare that I find myself in the position to teach them life lessons. And even on those occasions I more often than not refuse to become involved. Like the following (real) conversation:
Little Sister: Kim! Older Brother said a bad word!
Me: Oh? What did he say?
Little Sister: *embarrassed silence* Well...can I spell it?
Me: Fine. Spell it.
Little Sister: S-E-X
Me: ...That's not really a bad word but he probably shouldn't be talking ab...hang on...*walks to the living room* Ok, what are you talking about in here?
Older Brother: *note...older brother is 12* I just said the cat was sexy....I was kidding!
Me: Ok. That's disturbing, older brother. Don't say that anymore.
Little Sister: Why isn't sex bad?
Me: ....we're not having this conversation. Ask your mother.
There was no way I was getting into that life lesson. Smaller life lessons are ok, though. So, when the above older brother was 4, he informed me one day that girls didn't know how to play video games. I asked him where he had heard that. "My dad". "Oh. Really?" Now, I know some people will say that when you play games with little kids you are supposed to take it easy on them and sometimes let them win. Whoever made up this silly rule probably wasn't good at video games and in the spirit of not wanting to look like an idiot who had just lost a game to a little kid, they made up this stupid rule and now the whole world expects people to follow it. "Well, what are you playing there?" "Tony Hawk's Pro-skater. Only boys are good at this game." "Alright, you're on." After about an hour of getting schooled in the art of video game skateboarding, he threw the controller down and said, "How come you're so good at this game?!" I ruffled his hair affectionately and said, "Because...I'm a girl".
4. Children Have Supersonic Hearing
It doesn't matter what you're saying or how low you're saying it, you could be mouthing it and if there is a kid within a 50 mile radius, they are going to hear it. I have no idea how this works. My only conclusion is that, like teleportation, it is one of those kid super powers. It is also a power they can switch on and off. "Clean up your toys" you can shout at the top of your lungs and they'll never hear it but let a bad word slip, even if it is under your breath, and a kid in Siberia is going to hear you.
Me: *making grilled cheese sandwiches and I burn my finger* Shhht <--- note: I didn't even say the whole word and it was more of a hiss than actual speech.
Kid: *running full speed from the other side of the house into the kitchen* We don't say "shit".
Me: You are right. That is a bad word and we don't say it. I'm sorry.
Kid: That's ok. My daddy says it when he tries to fix the shower.
This brings us to the next point:
5. Children Will Absolutely Every Time Tell the Most Embarrassing Thing They Know About You to Complete Strangers.
If you have children and they're not old enough to form complete or coherent sentences you might want to start preparing yourself now. Anything you don't want all of mankind to know about, you better get rid of it. You can't hide it, whatever it is because they'll find it (another kid super power). Just get rid of it. If it's a habit, stop now. Save yourself the embarrassment. People with children who are old enough to speak have no secrets because their children tell everyone. "Oh, aren't you adorable!" "My daddy sleeps naked." (true story). When I was a kid I was out shopping with my mother. The cashier said, "Your fingernails are so pretty!" and I, of course chimed in merrily with: "They're fake". When I got older, I thought the story was cute and funny. Then I started working with children and I carry a deep regret for all the embarrassing things I ever told about my parents. On the upside, if you ever want an honest opinion, you can always just ask your children.
6. Children are Funny
We've all probably watched that show Kids Say the Darndest Things but until you spend time with children you really have no idea. Sometimes the joke is at your expense and they don't even know it.
Two Year Old #1: Let's play school!
Two Year Old #2: Ok! I get to be Miss Ashley!
Two Year Old #1: Ok! I'm going to be Miss Kim!
*Two Year Old #1 gets a baby doll, drags a chair away from the table and sets the doll in it*
Two Year Old #1: YOU'RE IN TIME OUT!
Sometimes the humor is simply born out of curiosity:
Four year old: Kim...
Four year old: Do fish pee in the ocean?
Me: Umm...well, yeah. I guess they do.
Two year old: That's nasty. I pee in the potty.
Me: Good job.
I look back at all those years I wasted avoiding kids with a little regret because honestly, you can be having the absolute worst day and all it takes is one kid to make it better. Granted, all it takes is one kid to make it worse but still...there is one thing in the world that can make all the bad things in my day seem so small and trivial:
Kid: I love you, Kim.