I’m the first one to admit that I’m, sort of…um, awkward(?) around kids. I think they’re wonderful – so much so that I have two of my own – but I’ve always had a difficult time relating to kids in general. I tend to talk to the four-year-olds in our Preschool program as though they’re 25, and then become frustrated when they don’t respond in kind. There’s a disconnect there, but I’m quite good-natured about it and it’s become a bit of a running joke around here. I’m always willing to help with anything, but Erica is typically the last resort when aid is needed in childcare.
We must have truly been in dire straights for our Child Development Director to recruit me for coverage at one of our school sites for after-care on Tuesday afternoon. I jokingly acted as though it would put me in an early grave, and she smiled and told me to take deep breaths. My apprehension was palpable all afternoon – as the clock moved toward 3.45pm, I became more and more panic-stricken. What was I supposed to talk to them about? What if they DIDN’T want to talk to me? What if they hated me?!
Courage screwed up tight, I arrived at the site and was greeted warmly by Carmen, a relatively new hire who is an absolute star. Carmen has “Y” written all over her, and she made me feel comfortable and confident as she introduced me to her charges. I couldn’t help being a bit standoffish, though, as she clearly had a routine and the kids knew it well.
As homework was completed and put away and toys and games were excitedly dragged out, I took a deep breath and did something that made me feel like a kid again myself:
“Can I color with you?”
For the three second delay it took for Ella to process my question and form her answer, I stood paralyzed. I wanted her approval; I wanted her to recognize me as a caring adult. I wanted to color. Then, the response:
“OF COURSE, MISS ERICA!!”
…and thus began an afternoon of fun, productivity, and relationship building. I left laden down with promises of visits to the Y, challenges to Gaga games, high-fives, TWO pictures of lizards colored with care for me, and a light heart. My new friends had a great time with me, and I with them. Being open minded and vulnerable to a situation about which I had such staunch opinions proved incredibly valuable. The time spent with such bright, caring, remarkable children was an opportunity I won’t soon forget, and I can’t wait to go back.
Of course, no one here believes me.
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA