Time with kids doesn’t have to be work

By Cameron Bocanegra | Reporter

Between being one of five children in the family, working summer camps for the past three summers and studying education in college, I seem to think I understand children more than ever. Every summer morning, I tucked in a shirt, threw on a fanny pack and slipped in the back gate of the childcare center, ready to sing “Kidz Bop” with 30 children under the age of 10. I showed up and left whenever the sun did, although it never felt like a day wasted.

It was not all crayons and field trips every day. There were moments when I did not understand why Josh threw a mud ball at Triston, why Ella stole every single person’s pink marker or why they all thought it was hilarious to pour out my full cups of coffee. For this, I understand why many people are not the biggest fan of children.

Kids are a mess. They are scabby elbows, loose teeth, goofy haircuts and the question, “Where do babies come from?” They tell you things you do not specifically want to know about their parents’ relationship. They are always reflecting whatever they recently learned, heard or saw. Children often act as mirrors. Monkey sees and monkey does.

Kids are brutally honest, blunt and never worry about the harsh doses of reality they are constantly throwing at you. When they say something, they mean it. They mean every word in the moment from their head to their toes and their elbows to their nose. If you ask a child if they are OK, they will not lie. If you ask them what love is, they will simply explain what they have heard of it.

These are the small and delicate lives that are being molded each day and I was privileged to be part of. In tiny moments, I impacted their lives and if I am lucky, they will remember something their frazzled camp counselor once said during a game of kickball or mouthed through the fish tanks in the aquarium. It may be, “Don’t kick your friends,” or “Be kind,” but I hope that if anything, it is something good.

We will not all be in the position one day to work with or be parents of children, but there may come a time when you are asked to babysit or you are frantically handed a baby with no direction on how to hold up that child’s neck. What you will do is appreciate the small lives growing around you. If you get the chance to be around kids, take it.

You were once rubbing your eyes raw from watching cartoons too late the night before and living so purely and honestly that when a grown up walked into your life, you listened because what else were you supposed to do? Those that raised us, even the ones who played minor roles, have impacted us all.

We have that opportunity. Take it. Swaddle your aunt’s crying newborn and listen to what your youngest cousin has to say about the moon. Children are a gift, so accept it.