What I’ve Learned from 4 Year Olds

There’s a bit of advice I’ve seen floating around the Internet once or twice before:

Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and those under the age of 6.

While I don’t have the opportunity to spend much time with people over the age of 70 (I should look into that), since October of 2010 I’ve spent at least three afternoons a week working as a tutor/assistant in a local Boston preschool. At first, I thought it’d just be a good way to earn my work-study money. How hard could it be working in a preschool?

Well, as it turns out, getting things done in a classroom of 20 kids ages 4 to 5 is actually a lot of work. I’ve found myself facing many challenges and having to think of new ways to handle all manner of situations. As the academic year winds down for me and the topic of our preschool graduation comes up (twice today alone), I find myself thinking back on the time I’ve spent with these children and smiling. While they will most likely not remember me several months from now when they’re off to kindergarten, I will carry with me many memories of them.

When I started working in the school, I never imagined how much you could learn from a person so young. Yet, I’ve learned some very important lessons that I’d do well to remember:

  • You’re never too old to play dress up. Go ahead and put on those ten bead necklaces, your biggest sunglasses, and the silliest hat you can find for a picnic of plastic grapes, cake, and tea. Pretend to be a superhero and save the day. Whomever you choose to be, put all your effort into it.
  • Always find it in yourself to forgive those you consider friends. Whether they knocked over your Lego castle or broke a promise, don’t hold a grudge. Life is too short to spend time fighting with those you care about. Apologize and mean it, and then move on.
  • A hug can solve many problems. Whether you’re having a terrible day, you miss someone, or you’ve got a case of the Mondays, a hug can go a long way. (They’re just as nice on good days, too.)
  • Sometimes, you really don’t want to do anything but draw pictures of zombies, and that’s okay. There are days when the only thing to do is draw yourself facing down an army of the undead. Go with it.

While I find myself sad that the children I’ve watched grow over the past years will soon be moving on, I look forward to meeting new children who have all sorts of things to teach me about life and zombie fighting.