I’m that one friend that wakes everyone up at a sleepover at 7:00am because I have to go to work. However, I’m not getting paid to do this.
When I tell some people that in only the past year and a half I’ve volunteered over 300 hours to be around kids, most tell me I’m crazy. 300 hours is just under 2 full weeks- yes, that’s right, I worked for free with kids ages 5-16 for the equivalent of two weeks (24 hours a day)! In terms of money, considering Arizona’s minimum wage, I would’ve made over $3,000 (maybe I shouldn’t have looked that up…) if I had been paid. Although I would have loved an extra $3,000 sitting in the bank, I have to admit I’ve learned most of my life lessons not from school or classes, but from giving up my weekends, numerous birthday parties, and sleepovers to go work with my kids.
What exactly do I do? Sometimes I teach, sometimes I just supervise them in hallways for hours at a time. Other times I read to them, lead them around “centers” or activities, conduct first aid, or even just heat up mac n cheese in the microwave. To date, I’ve worked with kids in many, many different environments; from a children’s community theatre, to several churches, to the library. To most other people, these jobs seem exhausting- and trust me, they are- but there’s nothing I love doing more, and here’s why.
1. You’ll get to experience several “firsts”
I think one of the best things that happened while I was working was when one of the kids lost their first tooth. I had this happen twice! It was so much fun to see how excited the kids were, and being the “mom friend” I am, I would always take pictures of them with that toothless smile, and text it to their parents right away. The moms would always tell me, “How’d you think to take a picture? That’s exactly what I would’ve done!” #PerksOfBeingAMomFriend
2. Kids are obsessed with any game you will come up with, even if it makes no sense at all
I can’t even start to count the number of times that my kids ask me to come up with another game. At my theatre, I’d go digging through the costume closet for rainbow glasses for the kids to wear in some makeshift game of “janitor”. For now, I’ve reverted to teaching them “repeat after me” songs like “Little Sally Walker” or “Ol Rattlin Bog” (that’s their absolute favorite, you HAVE to try it).
3. They’ll love you unconditionally
Kids have 0 judgment when it comes to meeting someone new. When I start a new show with a new cast of kids, all 60 of them warm up to me in no time, all because they’re open-minded and excited for whatever comes their way. As long as you’re kind and understanding, these kids will flock to you whenever they need you, and even confide in you when there’s something important to be said.
4. Age doesn’t matter to them
Usually, I’m about double the age of the kids that I work with. Somehow, this never seems to phase any of them. They still love to play games with me, tell me about their wild vacations, and introduce me to their entire family when they come to see the shows (I especially love meeting all of the dogs).
5. Connections with parents are amazing
It seems odd, but as much as I love all of the kids, I absolutely love all of their parents. There’s nothing odder to my friends when we’re out at a movie or at dinner and a group of moms yell, “Hi Emma! How’s your summer?”. I love meeting all of the parents, and talking to them each morning on the weekends or during afternoons afterschool usually creates some amazing connections for me- from watching their kids on the weekend, to pet sitting while they’re on vacation.
6. You’ll have the coolest handshakes
For lots of people, this isn’t really a bragging factor, but for me, it totally is. One of my “littles”, Augie, who I got to meet for a very short time (he was on vacation and at a summer camp I was helping with) came up with one of the coolest handshakes that involved lots of karate chops and fist bumps.
It’s hard to believe… but these are just some of the benefits of working with all of these kids. They endlessly love me and tell me that, and provide an amazing experience I’ll never forget, every time I get to see them. I can’t wait to work with my kids again- actually, that’s very soon. I already have an orientation to volunteer with the 2nd-6th graders at my church this Saturday! New adventure, new kids, here I come!