My Adventure to Becoming More Kid-Friendly

Have you heard of the term “kid-friendly”? Well, if you were to do a Google search for it, you would be able to pull up endless sites about kid-friendly restaurants, kid-friendly recipes and kid-friendly activities. There are even kid-friendly jokes (I’m guessing these probably involve chickens crossing roads). In my life, I’ve even met people whom you would call kid-friendly. These are adults with big, friendly (haha) smiles and usually a few pieces of candy in their pockets. They don’t mind getting down on their hands and knees to play and do things that make kids laugh, like impersonations of Elmo (which my bro-in-law, a kid-friendly guy, has scarily perfected). You could say these kid-friendly adults are kids at heart. I personally think these people are amazing and great fun to have around, especially if you have kids needing to be entertained. Which is why I think it would be great if all parents were kid-friendly … except they’re not, especially some square ones I know. 😛

I’ve always been a baby-friendly person, usually the first or second in line waiting to hold a friend’s newborn. But liking babies unfortunately does not equate to liking kids. Kids, in case you haven’t noticed, are very different from babies. Kids can walk, run, climb, etc., and the scariest thing of all is this: kids can talk. Which makes kids just as complicated as adults, only smaller in size. And because I don’t like talking much and I dislike complications, I’m not the most kid-friendly person around.

But, as usual, God likes to place us in circumstances that help us grow. (Groan, sigh, roar. Haha.)

My lil sis posted this great (and uncomfortable) reminder on her Facebook this week. ;)

My lil sis posted this great (and uncomfortable) reminder on her Facebook this week. 😉

Back in the day (before I became a mom), I had been working towards getting my license as a Marriage and Family Therapist. In order to get said license, I needed to complete 3000 hours of internships, which included 500 hours of counseling with … (cue drumroll) … kids. When I saw that one requirement, I just about fainted. I didn’t know how in the world I would be able to work with kids, let alone spend 500 hours, with them. I hoped I could put off those hours until later, but sure enough, the only internship available at the time was at an elementary school working with children from kindergarten to sixth grade. (Cue the fainting.)

I remember clearly that on my first day there I just sat in my parked car and PRAYED. I write that in all caps because that’s the kind of prayer it was. A God-this-is-crazy-please-help-me!!! kind of prayer. I felt sooo out of my element going into a place with hundreds of little people running around. I had no clue how I was going to engage them in conversation or if they would even want to talk to me.

But to my surprise and relief, they did (especially the girls!). Each time I went to a student’s classroom and picked them up for a counseling session, I was greeted with a smile. Each 30 minute session flew by as the kids shared (with some prompting) from their hearts about their families and their worries and wishes. Even now I can still see some of their faces in my mind and remember the heartfelt conversations we shared, especially this one:

K (a kindergarten girl whose mom was no longer in her life): “I wish you were my mom.”

Me (totally caught off guard, but very touched): “You really enjoy our times together, huh?”

K (nodding): “Yeah.”

I came away from that one counseling session a lot less afraid of kids and a lot more appreciative of how genuine, accepting and adult-friendly they really are.

The gift K gave me at the end of my internship. :)

A gift K gave me at the end of my internship. 🙂

As I’ve come to understand these pint size creatures better (especially after having two of my own), I see that their ability to talk is a wonderful thing. It’s their words which give us adults access into their worlds and into their hearts. As K confirmed, all I needed to do was give her a safe place to share and a listening ear, and she was ready to come home with me. I probably also looked like good mom material in her eyes, considering I was about 8 months pregnant with E when she said this.

In all seriousness though, I can say without shuddering or cringing now that the 9 months I spent at that elementary school were some of the best moments of my life. And I’m a much better, kid-friendlier person because of it. (Yay – gulp – for challenges!)

Side note: I’ve had kids on the brain (and in my posts) lately because they are the reason I created my plush toys, the Moodkins. I believe all children deserve to be heard and have their feelings validated by the grown-ups in their lives, and the Moodkins were created for that very purpose. Please check them out at http://www.moodkins.com if you haven’t had the chance yet!

I’ve always liked the lyrics of this Whitney Houston song, “The Greatest Love of All”. The first stanza is particularly kid-friendly. 🙂

Are you a kid-friendly person? Why or why not?