Working in a childcare center has taught me a lot about children, parenting and myself – as both a person and a mother.
In today’s world where 46% of households have two parents working full-time, many children are placed in daycare. This means that for a majority of the day, people other than the child’s parents are raising them.
Children look to their daycare for providers for comfort, guidance, and answers. They act as role models and quickly become staples in the child’s life – pillars of strength and consistency.
I never viewed daycare this way, until I experienced it first hand.
The childcare center that I was a part of opens at 6:30 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m. Some children are dropped off as early as 6:31 a.m. Their eyes are sleepy, hair still messy from bed and tummies growling for breakfast.
Mom or dad drop them off and with a quick kiss on the head, they depart to start their day. And their child’s day begins too with their second family – us.
If the child spills their milk, a staff member is there to clean it up. If they need help getting their backpack on before boarding the bus, their teacher lends a hand. Childcare workers wipe away both messes and tears.
You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Some children come from unconventional homes. Perhaps grandma is their primary caregiver. Maybe mom and dad are divorced and dad’s new girlfriend is running the household.
Every child’s family dynamic is different and each situation needs unique attention.
It’s not always easy to stay patient, calm and nurturing when a child is being less than cooperative. I can tell you that first hand.
There’s always at least one child that acts out. Whether it’s a cry for attention, love or an inability to communicate their needs, children can act out in a variety of ways.
I’ve seen chair throwing, biting, screaming, kicking and spitting just to name a few. It’s easy to react on impulse. Raise your voice, place the child in “time out” or tell their parents. And sometimes, these techniques might be necessary.
But I’ve learned that there’s a heart to every issue. Most children’s behavior is a result of something much deeper that. Often times, they don’t even know or understand why they act the way they do.
I want to share a story about a little girl. Let’s call her Monica.
Monica was one of those kids who was at the daycare from dawn til dusk. She was a quiet girl. Kept to herself. Never caused any trouble but rarely spoke. This made communicating impossible.
Monica would cry, bang herself in the head, rock back and forth in her chair but never speak. Sometimes she would use hand gestures or point to things, but she never verbalized exactly what was wrong.
Some of the more inexperienced workers at the center would say things like, “She’s such a weirdo”, or “I can’t stand her crying.”
Did her crying become annoying at times? Yes.
Would I get extremely frustrated when she wouldn’t answer my questions? Absolutely.
But instead of giving up on her, I paid attention. I watched the times Monica seemed happiest. When we went outside, she sat by herself so I knew physical activity was not her favorite thing to do.
When we colored, she perked up a bit. If we played group games, she shut down. When we painted or played with clay, I almost saw her smile.
I realized that Monica enjoyed art projects. Any time we did something that allowed her to explore her creativity, I saw the fire inside her spark. It was her outlet.
So, I took it upon myself to find art projects and crafts that I knew Monica would love. We used a rainbow loom to make bracelets for her and her sister and foam stickers helped us create a picture frame for her teacher at school.
And then I discovered origami. I remember hearing that folding the paper is extremely therapeutic. I thought Monica would benefit from this. And I was right.
We folded flowers and animals – dragons, butterflies, and frogs. Monica’s favorite figure we made was an origami bird. She carried that bird in the pocket of her jacket. The paper was blue. The wing became worn, losing color, from where Monica rubbed it. I think she rubbed it out of comfort and even safety, maybe.
When Monica had her hand in her coat pocket, I knew she was holding the bird. She would catch my eye and I could see a tiny grin on the side of her lips.
Monica taught me a lot about myself. That not everyone is fortunate enough to have the upbringing that I had. Monica taught me about motherhood. I am blessed with the ability to be there for my son. I put him on the school bus and I’m there when he gets off. I volunteer at his school and I’m at every one of his soccer practices and games.
Some parents are not that fortunate.
Monica taught me about patience. When I feel like my son is “acting up” instead of raising my voice or immediately resorting to discipline, I try to listen to him. We sit and we talk. I find out the root of the problem before making any rash decisions.
Working in childcare has taught me to approach parenting with an open mind and to view other parents and children without judgment.
I am thankful for this experience and what it has taught me.