I don't know where the last two weeks have gone. I tell you, this summer is moving at the speed of light and I barely even have time to realize it. Working at day camp, so far, has been completely grueling. By the end of every day I just want to collapse into a pile of soft, fluffy towels and go to sleep for about 5 hours before I have to any talking, thinking, etc. Sometimes the kids are cute. Or sweet. Or (the older ones) will say something very smart and sophisticated that proves there is a brain in that tiny head, and I feel warm, like there is still a hope for posterity.
And then one of them makes a joke about weiners or stands on a table top or leaves their post-lunch trash all over the ground for me to clean up, and I want to smack them in the face but instead I take a Tylenol. Ooooh, if I was so-and-so's mother. I say that sometimes--"If I was your mother, I'd..."-- and then I stop, because I realize I can't threaten this kid 'cause I'm not his mother.
Being with these kids has definitely taught me a thing or two about patience. It's taught me that children aren't robots, and they aren't going to obey you when a.) they're doing something they're happy doing and you're telling them to stop, b.) everyone else is doing it, c.) they have a history of bending or breaking the rules (in other words they just don't give a f*ck), and/or d.) they aren't getting the discipline they need at home.
Children ignoring me and--on days I'm with the older ones--talking back to me has become a daily routine. And I don't mean after a couple times a day, we're good. I mean there is a nonstop, constant power struggle every day. I have to remind myself all the time that not all these kids have been taught to respect authority...in fact, in some of their homes, they have most likely been taught to ignore it, if not resist it.
That's where the patience comes in. I've always tried to be a cool counselor, the childcare worker who plays with the kids and earns their respect by being cool and relatable. The problem is that approach ain't gonna cut it for the next two months. Regardless of my desire to be loose with regulations, and despite these kids' innate desire to defy those regulations, I have to toughen up this summer. I can be a fun, kind, and interactive Jekyll, but when it's called for, I need to show them my toughest Hyde.
Sometimes my loudest yells are whispers when compared to 27 rowdy kids. Sometimes I let myself be walked over or fooled when I give a child the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes those kids take advantage of my sweetness and forget that back-talk is never an option. But every time, I learn something. Every sore throat at the end of the day urges me to find a simpler (but still successful) alternative to yelling. Every headache that makes me reach for my pills reminds me that I need to calm these kids before they push me to that level.
Patience is a virtue, and I've always considered myself a pretty strong person morally. I'm not going to let thirty middles-choolers change that, even if sometimes they are pretty huge brats that I wish I could smack upside the head and ground for a weekend. So this summer, readers, I encourage all of you to spend some time with a child, especially one who is rowdy and defiant like nobody's business. And just observe (hopefully you're not the one responsible for detaining this child). Watch how the parent or guardian of the obnoxious tiny human reacts to it, and that'll tell you right there what kind of person the child is going to grow up to be. If you want to raise a good human, be patient, be kind, be loving, be gentle, be supportive, be there. But also, do not be afraid to be a tough motherf*cker every once in a while. Patience is a virtue, but so is reasonable discipline.