For several weeks now, I’ve been volunteering at the local YMCA. It’s a three hour shift in the child care room and each time I wonder if the gym membership that comes with it is worth it. Those three hours wipe me out like you wouldn’t believe.
On the other hand, what I get in spades by watching other peoples children is perspective. On a weekly basis, I get to see how other kids do at talking, sharing, playing alone, socializing and just generally being kids. I get a comparative sample of kids and a few other moms to gauge myself against.
What I’ve found is that I’m actually the mean mommy. I’m the one who insists that everyone takes turns. Toys that can’t be shared go away. Snatched toys are returned to the people who had them. Kids older than three are asked to use their polite words. Sometimes, I can tell that they’re not there yet and we let it go, but for the most part I just have to give them the “mommy look” and they stop testing and get down to the business of playing.
I’ve also found that Fiona is a good kid, with very low tolerance for unfairness or for bad behavior in other kids. When push comes to shove, she doesn’t push or shove, she screams. Which isn’t ideal, but it’s better than some of the alternatives.
I’ve found that some people have wonderful, sweet, loving kids. And others? I’m sure they are the parents who need to drop them off for an hour the most. Some kids should come with a warning label. Don’t get me wrong, they should still come, they need the time to practice and their parents need the break, but a little heads-up would be helpful.
There are some parents who are infinitely patient, some who are wonderfully playful and some that I want to hand a book on child development. (I’m looking at you, Jerk! Your three-year-old should not be being threatened with a spanking if she doesn’t say thank-you to us when she’s leaving. Not. Cool.)
All told, I think it’s good for us to keep going. To keep volunteering. To keep forcing ourselves to engage with other people. It’s frustrating and tiring though and I’m completely beat.