Yesterday I helped out at my nephew’s pre school. The experience bought a new light for me to childcare, working in childcare and to child development and, most surprisingly body issues in children.
Firstly, naively perhaps I didn’t realise how free the children are in pre school. They are left to choose what to do, this is probably obvious to most but it was a suprise for me. I’m a very structured person and the chaos was mind blowing but fantastic. Having a freedom of choice is a great lesson and teaches the children great lessons in independance. After i’d got over the fact that I could do what I wanted and wasn’t going to be told where to go or where to sit I merrily pottered about with the children, flitting from activity to activity.
During my flitting one of the preschool teachers (?) asked what I do for a living, ‘work in an office’ i replied as I just didn’t have the time to explain in detail, there was too much to do! Cue a look of pity. Which made me think, there is more to life than working in an office. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve obviously thought this many times (who doesn’t), I love my job but it was a surprise for me for someone to pity me for my job. That’s never happened before. I’m (relatively) successful, have worked hard at my career and have a great job. In fact I’m proud of my career. I took a look around me and I have to say I saw her point. The room was just full of energy, magic and laughter. Working with children must be extremely rewarding, where I’ve been motivated by my actual job role, responsibilities and money to be honest, it opened my eyes that other achievements are
as more rewarding. Seeing your own child develop is special but helping other children and seeing them learn and try new things, grow in confidence and independence every single day but not have to get up five times a night to them must mean you sit down in the evening, sigh and think, I did something worthwhile today. Can I say that after a day in the office?
Being a helper at pre school isn’t really helping its getting to be a kid for a day again. The children don’t see you as a teacher, you are a special person and as such are witness to their most open conversations. There is one conversation which really made me think about growing up and how bloody hard it is! We were just playing outside in the water table, two boys were talking and the conversation went like this: ‘my daddy’s thingy is bigger than yours’, ‘well my daddy’s thingy is fatter than yours’ ‘well my daddy’s is bigger than yours’, ‘well mydaddy’s is thhhiiiiiissss big’, ‘well my daddy’s is thiiiiiissss fat’. This went on and on for quite a while.
I didn’t react and just ignored it, it wasn’t my place to get involved in such a
row game. I also tried my very hardest to keep a straight face. It was so hilarious, I can see why they thought it was funny. But it really made me think. Where on earth did they pick it up from? It was a game to them but did it have underlying messages? They are four years old. How do they know about things like this? How do they know that it matters (if it matters!)? They can’t have picked it up from their parents surely, neither had a sibling old enough to know about things like this either. I just don’t get how they know it matters, I’m sure they have absolutely no idea why it matters.
Bodily issues are a huge worry for parents and children, growing up is hard enough as it is but going through puberty and the pressure out there from the media is just astounding now. I’m sure that parents pass on worries through their own dieting, exercise, bodily worries and insecurities. But surely at four years old they can’t have been exposed to this. Even if they don’t yet understand it. But they must have been, somewhere, by someone of something, exposed to ‘it’ mattering. And if they have, what else do toddlers pick up? Can anorexia and bulimia be implanted as young as four? These young impressionable personalities have picked up information they are yet to understand but that will, later, come to matter hugely and will impact their own behavior. It made me feel very sad to think what we all expose our children to without even realising it ourselves.
We can’t protect our children from everything they are exposed to but we can educate them to understand insecurities and differences in appearance. We can only hope that the media become fairer in their portrayal and more conscious of the impact they have on extremely young impressionable minds. As parents we have a role to play in our ensuring our own insecurities are not transferred to our children, its just another part of parenting.
As I pondered it over though I was left thinking, I wonder who’s thingy was bigger…hmmm