Essay: I Was Scared Of 4-Year-Olds Today But Learned Something Valuable

I want to write something personal here again because I’ve not done so in months… I guess it’s because something “personal” usually has to be inspired by a certain mood and then, I imagine if it’s really that interesting to belong on my blog or not. Well, I’m not sure how interesting this post will be, but I definitely got inspired by something funny that happened to me today and felt like sharing because I wonder if some of you are out there and can relate in some way to how I feel. Today’s experience was nice though, it resulted in me getting a big invisible hug - a hug that I really, really needed right now, a hug that I’ve craved for months.

Annie Spratt

First of all, I had a great day. It began with a smoothie and rewarding work in my office, then I met a friend and had coffee, and later, I went shopping in the city and got distracted by goddamn Gucci bags again (I can’t explain my sudden interest in Gucci, I’m not even a brand-y person, I blame Instagram), but then… An emergency text arrived.

My son’s pre-K needed me to watch the kids to fill in for my husband since he couldn’t do it. (There was a teacher’s meeting and parents volunteer to help at the school we belong to.) Anyway, I was feeling tired and not so keen on going in, mostly because I hadn’t planned on it and had a 4pm conference call with a brand I freelance for, so I knew being with kids from 3-4pm would be tough.

Thing is, I care about my son and I want the school and the kids to like me, because then he is treated well too. I also reasoned that if I timed it right, I could do the call on the way home from the school anyway, so everyone wins. The school, my client, me.

I rushed in panting a bit from running up 3 flights of subway stairs (which made me very aware that I have to work out more), literally dropped my shopping bags on the floor (H&M, not Gucci), and said hello to all of the cute little 4-year-old faces greeting me. They didn’t really know what to expect from me because this was my first time watching them. I usually go in and out of the school quickly to pick up my little boy, so they know me but they have no clue what my personality is like.

BUT I had a strange first thought when I saw them.

I’m embarrassed to admit this.

I was worried they wouldn’t LIKE ME. (I want to not publish this post after writing that.)

I was actually SCARED they wouldn’t like me.

Had my son been there, I wouldn’t have given it much thought, but he was already home with his father. So it was just me and 12 kids and another parent volunteering whom all of the kids seemed to know and love. But yeah, I was scared of these kids.

I didn’t know why I was scared and even intimidated by them, but I turned that mental switch off and smiled, delivered a good time to them, was totally myself and got them cracking up and some were even on my lap by the time I left. We danced and later, played on the floor with plastic animals. When their parents came to collect them, they didn’t jump up and run off, instead they made their parents WAIT until they were finished with me. Some asked what certain German words were in English and also taught me some new German animal names when I got stuck on a few of them (like Chimpanzee / Schimpanse - more or less the same word!). It was cute and very special.

When I walked home, I had my conference call and by the time I turned my key in the front door, I felt DAMN GOOD. No, actually, I felt GREAT.

After getting home and sorting through a few emails along with the dinner and bedtime routine for my little boy, I thought more about my feelings and tried to get to the heart of WHY I was initially so scared of a pack of kids. What was at the root of this?

The more I thought, the more I realized something. 1. You can’t bullshit kids. You can bullshit adults and they can bullshit you right back. With kids, they see YOU. It’s intimate. You cannot pretend to be happy or feel good if you don’t. You can’t pretend much of anything with kids because they see through it all and even call you out on it. 2. I often second-guess what people’s reasons are when they REALLY like me. Like, I think it’s because they need something FROM me, not because they just like me for me.

I didn’t realize the 2nd part of that until today, but when I think about it, I really, truly do get worn out by this - not ever knowing if people like you for you.

I never did this before I was in a position in my career where I was able to really influence and help other people as I can and do in my current role. When you have a job with a certain measure of fame and success, you sometimes DO wonder if people like you for YOU or do they like you for what you are able to give to them. Whether it’s in your company, your position in another company, or on the internet, sometimes a job can make you feel that way.

Even family. My little boy doesn’t mean to, but every day he asks that I buy him toys, or give him candy, or let him please please please watch a show on television… And when I say no, which I do a lot of, he gets so pissed and suddenly mama is no longer cool or special - mama is the bad one. This goes on all day and ranges in intensity, but I heard this continues for as long as your kids live at home with you, so this is something I need to learn how to manage emotionally (any tips?). I guess this is just normal family dynamics and a case of being married for a long time, because I often feel my husband doesn’t even “see” me anymore. Like what I do is just expected.

I hear a lot of women feel this way, especially mothers but few people talk about this stuff on the internet - because on the internet, your home has to look perfect, you have to look perfect, and your family life has to look like The Stepford Wives Instagram edition.

During my hour spent with kids who needed NOTHING from me but to give them a warm, happy feeling and to be playful - not to buy them something, manage something, sell something, hustle something for them… well it was BEAUTIFUL.

It made my heart feel bigger and fuller than it has in a really long time, to sit on the floor with those cute kids today. It was a wonderfully warm feeling to really experience unconditional love and I wondered about how to get this more in my life - not just sporadically but regularly.

Anyway, I wanted to write this because I had no idea how much it affected me, how much it was draining me, to not feel needed for just me being me. It reminded me of how basic humans really are, how at the end of the day, we really just want to feel needed. To make someone laugh. That’s it.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash