Even as I got older, I never really had that maternal instinct or desire to be around kids. Sure, I loved my nieces and nephews, but I was so glad that I could give them back. I have to admit, when my nephew Peter was born, I didn't hold him until he was 6 months old. I've never been one to baby talk to a kid. Me? When my nephew Ryan was born, I held him in the hospital and told him I was going to teach him about tornadoes and other cool things. I may not have ever taught Ryan about tornadoes, but he and I are quite a lot alike with our interests - similar tastes in music and humor and it's been one of the ways I could bond with him as he grew up. With Alex, I didn't really sit and do kid stuff with her. Instead, she'd come over for the weekend and I taught her how to play Monopoly. We take walks together, watch movies together, and I pretty much made her my best friend by acting like she was an adult instead of a kid. Now that she is an adult (AN ADULT!? SERIOUSLY!?) we've never had to go through that awkward shift of 'you're not a kid anymore' - our conversations have stayed the same, and we both laugh at totally dumb things like we always did (I've never really been good at being an adult anyway).
Then this crazy, insane thing happened. I got married and within a year I was pregnant with our first child. Something totally weird happened inside of me and I somehow knew how to take care of my kid when he was born. Then I had another kid. And another. Then my kids got into school and started making friends. I started getting involved with their classes and becoming friends with their friends' parents. During Timmy's second year of preschool we started having play dates with various friends, some of whom are still my closest friends. I started helping with class parties, etc. I used to say "how in the world can anyone be a teacher, I'd die being surrounded by kids all day."
And then a couple years ago I started working childcare at my aunt's church once a week. The group was small, but I loved the kids I had and I started getting to know these children for more than just "another kid" and I loved them like my own. I came back for another year and continued to watch these sweet kids grow. I loved it so much that when I saw my own church was looking for help on Wednesday mornings, I realized it was perfect for me. The group I have there is very different than my LaGrave group. First, there are a LOT of kids there. Second, I had to get to know the person who would be running the room with me. My "partner" at LaGrave - we bonded instantly. She's a bit older than me, but we are kindred spirits. She's easy to talk to and we do a lot of laughing. She LOVES my kids, even Timmy, and she's never even met him. So I was a little nervous to meet the person I'd be doing childcare with at Mars. Turns out, she's great! We work so well together - she is firm yet loving with the kids, and like normal, I tend to be the one who does the snuggling and comforting. We end each time with book time and I play little guessing games with them and I am getting to know this group of crazy, funny, sweet 3-5 year olds.
So I thought, why not add another day of the week to spending time with more kids? Today I met my new group of kids at LaGrave - and it's specifically a moms group, so we have A LOT of kids - and you know what? I love them!! They range in age from a few months old to nearly 5. I also met the other caregivers and again - bonded! We all have our strengths and talents and it naturally just fell into place what our "duties" would be. I spent a lot of time just kind of moving from group of kids to group of kids and making sure everyone was happy. I read some books to Mariel, the one little girl I've known for a year and a half now, and got to know some of the kids by playing with them. I also got some baby snuggles! I LIVE for baby snuggles!!
Did I mention I also volunteer in Timmy's 1st grade class every Tuesday morning? I am getting to know his friends and all the kids in the class and I love it! Smart, funny kids that give me hugs when I leave and their faces light up when they see me come in. I really feel like I missed my calling and I hate that I didn't discover how much I love spending time with kids until now. Then I sit back and I think, maybe there's a reason it took this long - God was waiting until I was ready for it. He needed me to work out some issues and to learn and grow as a parent before sharing my gift of caring for kids.
And maybe the apple didn't fall as far as I thought when it comes to me and my mom - because if there's one thing my mom was awesome at, it was caring for kids.