They say that the best form of birth control is to watch someone else’s kids! For years while I was (still am) struggling with my infertility, well meaning people would suggest that volunteer or get a job that involved working with children.
For several years I worked on board cruise ships doing just that! I was the “Temporary Tattoo Lady”. I airbrushed thousands of butterflies and dragons on little boys and girls and loved to see the smile on their tiny faces when they looked in the mirror at their new tattoo.
Brandishing a baseball cap, shorts and flip flops, none of those parents would have guessed that I was old enough to be those kids mom too. But after many years of frying my brain in the Caribbean, the beating sun burned me out. At 40, I decided it was time to hang up my tattoo gun and life jacket and move on to greener pastures.
Not that I have fully matured into adulthood yet, (I’m a work in progress), but my new vocation as an ESL teacher has brought on some new experiences with kids.
My first private lesson with a 4 year old girl was anything but pleasant. This tiny kid picked up a plastic chair twice her size and hurled it at my head! I’m also deathly allergic to the family dog and every time I step into their apartment I have my inhaler ready for the asthma attack to begin.
Several times I have tried to gracefully “back-out” of lessons with this kid only to be coralled in once again because I have no backbone and after 40 minutes of hanging out she usually starts to like me a bit. By the end of the lesson she is running down the corridor and begging me not to go!
Kids are smart. They know I can’t understand what they are saying in Italian so they understand how important it is to understand me. Especially if I have something they want…like a toy or coloured pen. I can appreciate their frustration of English immersion and all I can think is “Welcome to my world kiddo!”.
There are days when I still wish I had kids of my own, but teaching them has opened my eyes to what a truly full time job raising one can be. I have always been realistic about motherhood, but in today’s society raising kids is becoming an ever more challenging task for parents.
Italy is expensive and quite often both parents work. They enroll their kids in every after school activity imaginable just to keep them ahead of the game and prepare them for the real world. These kids “act out” in lessons because they have been awake since 7 a.m. and schlepped off from class to class.
I am alone most of the year and if we had kids I would be a single parent most of that time. I’m exhausted just looking at my students struggle to stay awake and focussed on “this is a pencil, this is an eraser”. The big kid in me wants to take them to the park for some gelato and fresh air and toss a frisbee around-but I’m the English teacher, not their Nanny (maybe a career as a Nanny is in my future?).
My 4 year old student is older now and I will commence lessons again with her shortly. It is an uphill battle with this kid, and secretly I think she hates me. But her mom is persistent and I am stubborn, so together we make a great team! It takes a village to raise a child, so call me the village idiot because I’m in!