Sharing 7 things I learned while working with one-year-olds!
Working with children is something I stumbled into. When I was younger, I baby-sat a couple times. In college, I worked at two different summer camps working with middle school children. I thought that would be the end of my time working with kids since I was actively pursuing my business degree. When I decided to work on a cruise ship, I applied for one of the youth staff positions simply because it was available. Working on youth staff is definitely one of the best jobs on the ship, assuming you like working with kids. But again, this was just something temporary. I knew I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life working on a cruise ship, and I had no intention of continuing working with kids.
When we moved to Ohio, the first company that would actually give me an interview was a childcare position that I applied to on a whim. I got the job, fell in love, and decided to switch career paths to become a teacher. I ended up quitting my job working with 3- to 5-year-olds and took a different childcare position where I worked with children ages roughly 8-22 months, depending on the transition periods. I had a love/hate relationship with that position, but overall, working with one-year-olds challenged me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. Yes, I changed diapers, washed my hands 20 times a day, and spent a lot of time doing damage control, but I also learned a lot from working those guys. I grew in unexpected ways, and I can confidently say that I was good at my job.
Even though I miss those little nuggets all the time, I know quitting that job and focusing on my schoolwork was the best move for me. Luckily, my time there left me with lots of lessons and growth to reflect on.
Here are seven things I learned while working with one-year-olds:
1. CELEBRATE EVERY ACCOMPLISHMENT, EVEN THE SEEMINGLY SMALL ONES
So much human development happens while we’re still infants. It’s absolutely insane. Not only are we growing physically, but our brains our learning things like crazy. As someone who isn’t a mom and as someone who is an aunt to two little kiddos who live far away, I’ve never had the opportunity to watch an infant develop. I remember any time the kids in my classroom were taking a step or said something in sign language or saying a word I had never heard them say before, I was genuinely ecstatic. I clapped for them and said “Yay!” and tried to encourage them to do it again. I celebrated with them even though they didn’t understand the caliber of their actions. It served as a reminder to me that it’s important to celebrate my own accomplishments and to give myself credit where credit’s due. If I get an exemplary on an exam, I should celebrate. If I finish a task on my first attempt, I should celebrate. Working with one-year-olds has reminded me of the importance of celebrating all of life’s accomplishments, even the seemingly small ones.
2. IT’S OKAY TO GET A LITTLE MESSY
This was a tough lesson for me to learn. As someone who hates going to bed with dishes in the sink and insists on cleaning the entire house before I go on vacation so I can come back to a clean home, getting messy doesn’t come easy to me. It’s especially tough when working with kids because they don’t realize they’re making a mess. They’re just learning and exploring and trying to figure out these new textures and materials. Even though it would drive me a little crazy when doing art projects (especially ones that involved paint), working with one-year-olds has definitely taught me to loosen the reigns a little and to get a little messy. It’s all part of the fun!
3. HUGS FIX EVERYTHING
Being that one of my top Love Languages is physical touch, you’d think I’d have this lesson down pact, but truth be told, sometimes my anxiety gets in the way of that. When working with one-year-olds, one of the toughest things is knowing what they want. They can’t communicate their feelings and desires with words. A lot of the time, their communication comes in the form of crying. I’ve found that simply holding a child and hugging them brings so much comfort, and that rings true for me as an adult as well. When I’m upset, Kyle always holds me and makes sure he’s giving me the good hugs because he knows that it will help me feel better. Even though it can be awkward for people I don’t know super well, I need to remember that a simple hug can do a lot of good.
4. DON’T TAKE LIFE TOO SERIOUSLY
I’ve always thought of myself as a spontaneous, easy-going person, but the older I get (and the more therapy I go to), the more I realize that that is the opposite of who I am. My anxiety has a lot to do with control. I like to know the things that are coming my way, and when I don’t, it makes me uneasy. When working with children, especially ones that can’t talk, life is a huge question mark. Even when you have a set schedule for the day, anything could go awry. Outside time could be cut short because of an unexpected rainfall. A fire drill could interrupt your nap time. A child could projectile vomit and ruin your clothes and leave a big mess to clean up (true story). Things will go awry all the time, but that’s okay. It’s important to just roll with the punches because what’s the worst that can happen. Taking things too seriously won’t do anyone any good, so let loose and have some fun!
5. EVERYDAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN
As mentioned, anytime one of my kids learned something new, it was something for all of us to celebrate, even if their friends don’t really understand what’s going on. The thing about being a one-year-old is that you literally have so much to learn. You have to learn how to hold a spoon, how to speak (and/or use sign language if you choose), how to walk, how to jump, how to kick, everything. Everyday, those kids were learning something new or continuing to do something they just learned. It’s so cool to watch kids grow. It really is. Working with my little kiddos reminded me of how much knowledge there really is out there. Granted, Kyle loves to learn, and he’s constantly learning something new about a plethora of different subjects, so he also serves as a daily reminder of how awesome it is to take the opportunity to learn.
6. SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO CRY IT OUT
Not gonna lie, I didn’t really need the kiddos to teach me this lesson. I cry all the time. But working with one-year-olds definitely tested my patience. When infants cry, it could be for a number of reasons. I found myself going through a mental checklist every time a child started crying, and then you also have to know the child too, because they may cry for reasons that are totally different from other kids in the classroom. When I was working with one-year-olds, there were multiple crying fits several times daily for several different reasons, and even when that was frustrating, I had to remind myself that it’s okay that they’re crying. That is a form of communication that adults respond to, and they usually receive comfort after getting their tears out. The good thing about getting their tears out, is that a lot of times, they would actually move on after getting that little bit of comfort that they needed. I’ve always been in touch with my emotions, and I seriously cry very frequently, but crying is such a relief to me, and I genuinely feel better after getting my tears out.
7. IF YOU FALL, GET BACK UP
Working with one-year-olds guarantees a lot of bumps and bruises because they’re learning to walk. I’ve seen so many kids be unsteady on their feet and take a tumble. Sometimes onto the soft climber, and other times right into the bookshelf. None of these tumbles stopped those kids from getting up and trying to walk again. I’ve had so many times in the past few years where I wanted to give up. I’ve had so many thoughts of not being worthy or good enough. I’m constantly worrying about my contribution to the world and whether it’s good enough to keep going. Even on the days that I’m down, I let myself feel those feelings, and then I get back up and move on. I think this is one of the most important lessons those kiddos have taught me.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from your job?