posted 2012-03-21 22:25:29

Kids Can Be Good Mentors Too

Lessons from Babysitting

Alexandra Heidler

Staff Writer

During this crazy, high-pressure time in my life, I find myself grateful that my job makes me feel better, rather than more stressed and drained by the end of the day. I get paid to play Lego Star Wars, watch movies, read comics and occasionally jump around on a huge trampoline. My job is to take care of kids. I am a babysitter.

I care for two young boys: an inquisitive seven-year-old with a scientific mind and knack for great comedic timing, and his younger four-year-old brother, a fireball of excitement and emotion. Although it takes a lot of energy to keep up with these two, the reward in return is a renewed sense of self that I believe makes me a better student.

I stress and groan over my own agenda, but these kids provide a powerful reminder that freedom lies in the present moment. They also remind me of the very basic relationship between discipline and academic achievement. All semester I’ve been struggling with my geology homework, struggling to describe the plate drift of a four-million-year-old clump of rocks. But my as my brain refused to focus, the seven-year-old stepped out of his room to come investigate my outburst. “What’s wrong, Alex?” he asked. I was slumped over my notebook, exasperated by the idea of paleomagnetism, plate subduction and mid-oceanic ridges. I kept coming up with new calculations for my homework problems and couldn’t find the right solution. I tried to explain in layman’s terms how frustrated I was. “Well, why don’t you just take a breath, open your book, and try reading the instructions,” he said. I gave him a pretty dirty look. I couldn’t believe I was being told off by a seven-year-old how to do my homework. But then I was astonished, because I realized that not only was it really good advice, but it’s the same tactic I use when we get together to do his own reading homework every evening together. The same tools I’m using to shape and guide their behavior as children are still powerful and relevant in my studies today.

Being around kids has reignited my own passion to learn. As an older role model, kids turn to you for answers to questions they’ve only begun to ask. Our bus rides home are filled with inquisitive questions about the world: Why does water on the street look like a rainbow? What makes firecrackers explode? What kind of rocks do people use to build houses? Some of these questions I can’t answer, but they begin to spark my own questions. So often in our college lives, it seems we stop asking real questions, and only care about what the answers for the next test will be. It’s

no wonder our passion can go out when so little in our academic career asks us to think up our own venues of thought.

Don’t get me wrong; babysitting is not all sunshine and lollipops. Insufferable tantrums, refusals to put on shoes and stubborn eating habits can make the job pretty exhausting. But it’s good to remember that there is a simplicity out there that I lost by thinking everything was more complicated than it truly is. There is simplicity to youth we should remember to hold onto, as long as possible. It can make our life a much happier, brighter, more positive place to be.