Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Other People's Children

I have spent most of my life surrounded by children. 

I was born near the middle in a long line of cousins, and growing up we spent a lot of time together.

I  babysat and tutored younger kids as soon as I could.

I taught religious education through all my years of high school.

I worked at summer camps in college.

I volunteered in hospital nurseries. 

All before I had kids of my own.

Since having mine, I've still been surrounded by other people's children.

Play dates and birthday parties.

Scouts and sports.

Volunteering at school.

Neighborhood families.

It seems like I have always spent a lot of time with other people's children, in just about every capacity one could imagine.  I've taught, I've led, I've cuddled.    If I ever tried to come up with a number as to how many there have been, it would be a big one for sure. 

I must say that all the years I spent with them before my kids came along helped to prepare me somewhat for the realities of parenthood. 

There are a few kids from back then that stick out in my head as special.  The little boy who struggled with his parent's divorce by acting out all the time.  The girl who lived with only her father, she'd crawl in my lap every morning and ask me to brush her hair.  The babies in the nursery, the ones left there alone, mom too strung out on drugs or in jail to care for them.  I always wonder what happened to them.  They would all be teenagers or adults by now.   What kind of people did they become?

I learned so much from them.  I hope that I was able to teach them a fraction of what they taught me. They made me become a better mother.   They all did.

Then there are the kids, the other kids, in my life now.  The other kids I feel some kind of responsibility for.  Some by choice, some by necessity, some just by mere proximity. 

They make me a better mother too, those kids.  Their struggles are different than those of my children.  Their gifts and talents different too.  They teach me.  I hope I teach them.

One thing that doesn't change is that kids are kids.  They always have been.  They always will be.  This world they are growing up in now a very different one than we grew up in, than the kids before in my life grew up in.  Their parents all have different worries and fears than ours ever did. 

At the end of the day, though, kids are just kids. 

And raising kids, whether they are your own or someone else's, isn't easy.  It is most assuredly a labor of love.

I firmly believe that it is important to spend time with children who aren't yours.  For them and for you.  Nothing wrong with a little perpective.

If you ever need a reminder of how good you have it, spend a lot of time with other people's children.

Trust me on this one.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent point. They do teach, endlessly. Parent or not. Huh I haven't thought of it that way since maybe my early twenties. Never around kids much getting older. Even my brother's kids kind of boxed in what I thought most kids were. I'm saying very little experience with kids. Thank God I have the common sense to realize when my daughter acts out or does something whacko lol, she's "a kid". Maybe I'll remember doing something just like her. That's a fun discovery. I find myself teaching my own mother, 3 kids, that Mariah is a KID! "Kids do that mom", as if none of hers didn't. Frustrating. I hope no matter how much the world changes when my kid grows up, I'll always remember what she's taught me. That will come in real handy if she has kids of her own. I definitely do not want to be a grandma that insists there's something "wrong" with them because I had forgotten what other kids taught me. :)

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