Unlike most people, after finishing my degree, I decided to take a voluntary gap year. Back then I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career but what I did know for sure was that I just wanted to kick back, take a chill pill and roll around in bed for the next 365 days. However, my bed became less and less comfortable as the sound of my parents’ nagging became louder and louder. So when a friend offered me a job as a private tutor for children, I said yes for the sole reason of placating my parents; a peace offering, if you will. Even if it was only for a few hours a day, I hoped that by seeing me leave the house in a hurry everyday and hearing me say “Bye! I’m off to work! No time for lunch, I’m like, SO BUSY!” would be just enough to buy me a few more months of lazing around.
Half the time they may be picking their noses and eating their boogers but half the time, children know what they’re doing.
But as I started working with these children, it started to dawn on me that this was no walk in the park either. More than a few times I asked myself, “What did I get myself into? This is no gap year. This is a NIGHTMARE”. As a human being who just so happens to be a tutor, I am not ashamed in the least to say that I have favorites. I promise I treat them all equally and very nicely, but is it really my fault if some of them greet me with a kiss on the cheek and others with a hit on my head? So here are five lessons that my students have taught me:
- Looks really don’t mean anything
It doesn’t matter if it’s the most adorable five year old with loose ringlets, puffy cheeks and a pearly-white smile, it’s still going to hurt when he slyly kicks you on the shin and it’s still going to smell when he makes you stand at the toilet door while he poops because he’s afraid of monsters.
- Children are cunning
Twice, I’ve had the same child tell me, “I don’t like you and I’m going to tell my mommy” with a sadistic smile on his face. Half the time they may be picking their noses and eating their boogers but half the time, children know what they’re doing. Whether it’s threatening to get you into trouble with their parents or begging you to play hide and seek for the next fifteen minutes, they may not be aware of the full extent of their actions but most times, they know just the right buttons to push.
- Children can be mean
A while back I had an interesting conversation with another seven-year old of mine over a spot of colouring. While shading Rainbow Dash’s tail, she nonchalantly flipped her ponytail and said through the gap in her teeth where her front tooth had fallen out a few days ago, “I don’t like her. She’s too loud. When I first met her, I cried because she wouldn’t leave me alone and she scared me… also, I was cranky, I couldn’t find my blankie and I really needed a nap”. After which she proceeded to tell me that often during recess, she and a bunch of girls would have to hide from this other girl so that they wouldn’t have to play with her. Tsk tsk. The Secret Life of Under Tens.
The fact that he was trying so hard to be an adult for his mother who had probably told him not to cry and to be a big boy when she was away made me realize that children do try for us.
- Children can be consciously kind
A few months later, while we were playing Rock, Scissors, Paper, in a show of goodwill, I repeatedly lost to my eight-year old opponent. The referee/scorekeeper who was also a student of mine solemnly observed my false disappointment and excused herself and her friend. After a quick corner conference of hushed tones in their mother tongues in which they probably discussed what a big sad loser their teacher was, they adjourned and the referee whispered into my ear “Please put up rock”. I obliged and when my opponent brandished her scissors in my direction, I was rewarded with dainty applause and gracious toothless smiles at my “victory”. Bless!
- Children are more grown-up than we think
A while ago one of my students’ mother went on holiday for a week. Throughout the week he kept up a strong façade, despite being a little more boisterous than usual. One day, we were reading through a story book together when we came across a line in the book which went something along the lines of “I love my pizza, I love my blankie but most of all I love my mommy”. I looked over at him just in time to see his face crumble for a second before he quickly buried his face in his shirt and said, “There’s just something in my eye” before excusing himself to go to the toilet.
The fact that he was trying so hard to be an adult for his mother who had probably told him not to cry and to be a big boy when she was away made me realize that children do try for us. We might think that they’re young and carefree and rowdy but at the end of the day, they’re just future adults slowly yet surely coming into their own.
Who knew there were such insightful lessons to be learned from being an educational babysitter?