My mother has been an influential role model for my entire life. Even at a very young age, I remember closely watching her every move and interaction. Little did I know how much that would help me with children in my life.
My parents owned a small furniture store, and we lived in a small apartment at the end of it. My mom was constantly bringing in the cute babies to introduce to me. I learned very quickly how to hold a young child, and to appreciate their beauty. When it was time for me to start babysitting at age 11, I took the course, then hung my sign by the customer desk so that my parents could screen potential clients. My mother insisted that I check in with her during my early jobs. She wanted to make sure I was okay, and to answer any questions I may have. It’s a habit that continued all through my years of child care and continues today.
I received a lot of hands-on experience as I also cared for children in our home. Mom allowed me primary control over the child’s care, but stepped in, almost like a little conscience on my shoulder, when I needed help. If I flubbed a situation, she would tell me how to better handle it the next time. Sometimes I would allow her to take over, just so that I could observe the master in action.
I learned how to set clear boundaries and how to follow through on my proposed consequences. I learned how to talk through a situation with a child, to understand why it happened, and to strategize how to prevent its recurrence. I learned how to love and care for the lonely child, the scared child, the sick child, and even the naughty child. I learned patience that allowed me to comfort the child with chronic ear infections who would cry for hours on end. I learned how to handle and nurture the perpetually naughty child who would do anything to get an adult’s attention. I learned extra patience for children and adults with special needs.
My mother often shared anecdotes about her childhood, her babysitting experiences, and tales of the trials and tribulations of raising my sister and me. I filed all of these stories away, to draw on when I encountered a similar situation.
Even after years of studying psychology, child development, and education, and being involved in education for fourteen years, I still find myself dialing my mother when I have a child question. I continue to hear her voice in my head, sharing her similar experiences, and coaching me along. I live in her example, and I know that she is proud of me today.