I had this shocking revelation yesterday--I realized that I really do like kids! I know, that may not sound very newsworthy and maybe it's a given for a lot of people, but this discovery has been a real eye-opener for me.
I was the baby of my family, and until turning ten years old I had no cousins. I was delighted to "get" cousins (I had asked my uncle and aunt to give me one that was my age, and one that was a baby so I was a little disappointed that they both arrived as babies, but what can you do...). Unfortunately, we lived a few hours away from that part of the family,and so I really never felt that I was very involved with their childhood. In fact, there is an awkward picture of a young me cradling my baby cousin in my arms, with a look of fear? discomfort? maybe even panic? on my face.
The fear/discomfort/panic of being around babies and young children never really went away. I blame this on the fact that except for one isolated event, I never even babysat as a teenager. In other words I was inexperienced and as I got older, the less and less it really seemed to matter. As I got into my twenties I started to wear it as a badge even--I'm Not a Kid Person. Sure, by then I knew I had to play by the rules--coo and fuss over friends' babies and ask the right questions to seem interested--but my heart was never into it. I ashamedly now remember feeling irritated when friends' kids would come along if we were hanging out. I'd think "Why can't they just get a babysitter?" Now, I realize that's what the people at our restaurant of choice on Friday nights are thinking of us...
If this dirty laundry isn't bad enough already, the worst is yet to come: I must admit that I had not changed a diaper until I was pregnant...and at least six months pregnant at that! My friend who had just had twins graciously handed them over so I could "practice". And I was sitting on that same friend's couch--again, awkwardly cradling one of her infant babies--and now nine month's pregnant myself--when I confessed that day to "not being sure that I had the mothering instinct for my own baby". I really believed that I might not feel loving toward my own child, given my history of indifference and discomfort with other children.
Angelica came into the world soon after that confession and rocked my own world. As every new mom learns, I knew immediately that there was nothing I wouldn't do in order to protect and help my sweet baby thrive. Yet I was still fraught with insecurities and ended up just hoping to get by each day without completely screwing it all up, since "it" was a lot on the line. Yet even after mastering diapering and sleeping schedules and transitioning back into work I realized that my love for other babies was still very intellectual. I could talk passionately about being a mother but I could still look with disdain at a child throwing a tamper. I was, and still am, very far from being Mother of all Earth's Children.
But yesterday I laughed and played with my friend's kids and Angelica with complete abandon. I delighted in the antics of the little boy playing peek-a-boo with his plastic glasses and gleefully put them on myself. Last week I found myself really interested now when I chat with another friend about her five-year old's development, and I can't wait to hold the new babies and those still to come. I loved on the kids on our trip to Mexico, and realized that Dr. Seuss was right on when he penned A person's a person, no matter how small. Not so long ago, that quote would had no real signficance to me but now I finally understand why having kids around has the potential to make us better people. These little people have hearts of gold and live with reckless abandon. Their uniqueness and talents are printed on their DNA and it's our joy to find what they are and foster them, even from a very young age.
Not only that, their trust must be conserved by us, the older and "wiser" adults. We must protect their innocence, and not insist that they grow up too fast. We fan the flame of their joie de vivre. And not just for our own children. For all the children in our life, because they enrich us and we have the power to give them their wings.
This is not a test, so I haven't aced it. And if I still don't always have the right words for your child at the right time, I apologize. I still tend to get shy and tongue-tied around people I don't know well, children included. However, my recent discovery has freed up my silly side so I can laugh until it hurts with the small crowd when the inspiration comes.
Interestingly enough, liking kids makes me like me a little more.