I have been lucky enough to work with children throughout my life. I’ve been everything from an au pair to a mentor, to most recently a teaching assistant. And despite the snot, sweat, and tears, I genuinely do consider myself very lucky. I’ve been granted the precious gift of access to the day to day lives of some truly wonderful little beings. They’ve made me laugh, and they’ve even taught me lessons about the simple requirements of life.
Here are 12 things working with children teaches you:
1. The imagination is a truly wonderful thing.
Getting older is inevitable, but you do not need to neglect younger you. Do not let aging make you boring – or bored – both are a travesty!
2. Money has little real meaning.
Children are still children. They’ll still smile about the silliest things whether you’re loaded or not. Laughter costs nothing, and it sounds the same regardless of bank balance.
3. Sometimes, you just need to stop, draw the curtains, and watch a film.
Life can get hectic sometimes. Don’t discount the value of taking a break from it all by enjoying a movie.
4. Anything can be used as fancy dress.
There’s something very freeing about make-believe. You can travel the world without leaving the room, but only if you truly believe – believing is power.
5. Respect is a two-way street.
Do not expect anyone to respect you if you are unwilling to do the same to them. Respect has no price tag, and cannot be forced. It must be earned.
6. Fresh air and grass are the cheapest, purest thrills we’ll ever find.
Run far, climb trees, swim often, feel the sand between your toes. Do not become so fearful of seaweed, splinters, or soggy socks that you miss out on moments.
7. Do not be scattery (both literally and metaphorically).
Label your underwear (okay, perhaps not literally, although having worked in a boarding school, there is nothing more frustrating than unnamed underwear), and know your own mind. Your opinion matters – have an opinion. Do not be ashamed to take up space.
8. Manners cost nothing, but are possibly one of the easiest things you can give someone.
Often, their absence says a lot more than their presence. They matter.
9. Baking is as much about the journey as the final product.
Let them eat the cake mix. And this can be applied to more than just cupcakes — don’t stress about the final product being perfect, just enjoy the experience.
10. Most things come out in the wash.
Do not stress the small stuff. Do not become so hung up on material things that you miss the experience.
11. Sometimes we all need a hand to hold.
And sometimes it really is that simple.
12. Life skills are an important gift to give to children.
They may not appreciate being told to make their beds, or learning how to fold clothes. In fact, they will probably actively resent it (and you). But this is part of their growth. This is part of their learning. It is part of providing parameters, tasks, boundaries and goals. This is part of raising well-rounded adults.
Adults are there to teach children, but we adults can still learn a lot from them. Approach life with the purity of a child. Do not become so fearful of living (or dying) that you forget how much you truly love life. Don’t let this world make you bitter, brittle, miserable, or insecure. Do not let reality blindside you to how desperately and wholeheartedly you want (deserve, and need) to feel alive.