Honest, it takes a village, preschool, tiny human teacher

shame less

I do not like shame.

I wrote a piece awhile back entitled “I met shame in the sixth grade”. It was talking of the moment that shame came into my life. The moment that I can use as a dividing line from being enough/not being enough.

I think that before that I knew shame. I knew that it affected me.

I was told that words could never hurt me, but in reality words have had a more profound effect on my life than any physical thing that has happened to me.

So yes, I do not like shame.

I mean, that should be pretty standard right? But, did you know that you probably have shaming language spoken to you or that you in fact use it yourself?

Think of this scenario. You, as an adult, are giving a report at work. And in the middle of a sentence your boss gets up and says “no, no, no” and proceeds to “correct” you on what you were speaking on.

How do you think you would feel? Being told by a superior in front of a group of your peers “no, you are doing that wrong”.

You would probably feel ashamed.

Now, picture being in grade school and that happening.

Do you think you’d ever want to do a presentation in class again?

What if, you were at camp and you were talking to your counselor and someone from the stage pointing you out to stop talking before they started again-but you had been telling your counselor you weren’t feeling good?

Now, picture being a kindergartener.

It’s your birthday and you are coloring a bird blue.

The person next to you raises her hand and tattles on you.

And then the teacher makes you start again because “no, the bird can’t be blue” and precedes to take your paper and give you a new one.

I know you are probably wondering where I am going with this.

Am I talking about living a life of participation trophies?

That’s not it at all.

I’m talking about choosing our words more wisely.

More specifically, I am talking about doing our best to take shaming language out of our vocabulary, specifically around the tiny humans and kids that we are around.

Shaming language is telling a child they are “too big” to be somewhere when what you are actually trying to tell them is that they are growing up. Reprimanding them from across the room instead of kneeling to their level.

Shaming language is talking about a child’s poor choices in front of them, like they aren’t there, even though they can 100% understand what’s happening. Shaming language is telling a child “they should know better” or “how could you be so dum

A lot of us, be it teachers or parents or people that interact with kids on a daily basis, grew up in a generation where I don’t believe we truly knew the effects constant amounts of shame had on a child.

And now, as an adult, I think we are learning. I myself, am still learning each day, with how I communicate and speak to the tiny humans around me.

We are learning, that the effects of using shame as a tactic isn’t helpful. It causes kids to shut down. To stop talking, stop participating, and attempting to not take up space.

Shame that was present in my life as a small child is what lead me to shut down and what lead me to do my best not to take up space.

And lastly, before you even go there, I know that children are resilient.

Trust me, I know.

(Maybe, like don’t get into this with me, because I have strong words about kids and resiliency)

But, shouldn’t we, as caregivers, parents, kind humans, do all we can to not shame the kiddos in our space? Shouldn’t we build them up and give them the tools to counteract shame instead of putting shame on them causing them to have to find the tools on their own?

There are enough times when we will screw up, or when other adults around or even other kids will put shame upon the kids in our life. Where they will feel belittled or left behind or left out.

There are so many situations that we have no control over in our kids lives.

But, we can control our own bodies. We can control our own words and reactions.

And think of the generation of kids we would be raising and helping to raise if we ourselves realized that our words had weight in someone else’s life

if we raised a generation of kids that had a first response of positivity and not negativity.

What if we just did our best to not be the reason our kids learned resiliency?

And what if, when we found ourselves saying things that don’t settle we choose to be people who explained ourselves instead of just letting it go.

What do you think that might do?

Well, personally?

I think it just might change the world.

hope is a verb, royal family kids camp

To my counselor: a letter

A day or so into camp I was asked if I’d write a letter from the perspective of a camper. I got teary-eyed just contemplating the words I’d scratch on paper. There are a few key things that get me every year at camp. So I took a couple mornings in the gazebo and part of the car ride home to change my perspective to the other side of camp. I’m working on my letter to my Royal Family, but wanted to post this first. Hidden in it are parts of my why. Why I come to camp and why I chose to fly to California to do the thing with the humans I do. 

To my counselor,

I was really nervous to come to camp. I had never been to camp before.

There were so many kids there, getting on busses and it was loud and busy. Whenever there are a lot of kids, I usually get forgotten about.

I’m nothing special.

When I got on the bus a kid sat next to me that had been to camp. They told me that the camp people were the nicest people they had met.

That they loved us no matter what.

I couldn’t believe that.

How could someone love you no matter what?

The bus ride felt really long and bumpy.

I felt butterflies start again when it was announced we were almost there.

Would my counselor like me? Would I have a place to sleep? Would there be enough food?

Then the bus turned the corner and there was a big group of people in blue shirts holding signs.

It was so loud and bright and all the people looked so happy.

And that’s when I saw it.

My name.

It was printed on a sign, held up by a stick.

And you were there.

Yelling and smiling and cheering.

You knew my name.

When they called out my name you got so excited, like you’d been waiting to meet me all your life.

When we finally got to our room that first day it looked so cool.

And my name was everywhere.

It was even on a blanket.

You told us that people prayed for us and whenever we covered ourselves up we could remember that there were a lot of people who cared about us and loved us without ever seeing us.

I didn’t get it.

How could people love us without knowing us?

This camp wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

Then it was time to go swimming for the first time.

I got kind of nervous when you said you weren’t swimming with us, but you said you would be back.

I wasn’t so sure. People don’t always come back.

The pool time flew by quickly and then there you were.

You showed up.

You came back.

Just like you said.

And those things didn’t change all week.

You said my name so much, like it was your favorite word.

So did all the people at camp.

My name has never been said, so much, so nicely, ever.

You always smiled at me.

And were so excited about what I had done and accomplished.

You always came back whenever you left for a meeting or dropped me off at the pool.

You always came back.

The end of the week came too fast.

And as we were packing up I noticed you still putting my name on everything. You helped me tuck things in safe places and made sure I had everything I had made. 

Right before I got in the bus you gave me a book filled with notes and stickers and pictures of me.

I noticed something about the pictures: I looked happy.

Thank you for reminding me what a smile felt like.

Thank you for always coming back.

Thank you for laughing with me.

Thank you for showing me I was special.

And thank you for knowing my name.

Love,

Your camper

Honest

I am not a mother

I have met a lot of moms in my life.

That’s kind of a side effect of working with tiny humans; you meet their moms.

I’ve made friends with, been mentored by, looked up to, laughed with, cried to, been cried on, by a large variety of mothers. My friends have become mothers before my own eyes. I’ve met moms in many different countries, across language and cultural barriers.

I, myself, am not a mother.

I process a lot in this blog. I process my thoughts through writing. I “think out loud” in order to lay the pieces out. I don’t say things to garner sympathy or attention. I say things to tell it like it is. I say things so, in case you feel the same way, you don’t feel so alone.

I am not a mother.
And I don’t know if I need to be one.

This isn’t saying that I don’t want to be a mother. Or that I don’t have moments of baby fever, because let me tell you my Facebook feed is blowing up with pregnancy announcements. And my most favorite place at the Y is in the baby room snuggling the babies.

But, I don’t think my world is going to crash down if I don’t get married or if my husband, whoever he may be, and I decide that we don’t want to have kids.

I also don’t think it will make me less of a woman, or that I would be selling myself short, or the world short if I didn’t “put a piece of myself into it”.

Women who become moms (through any means) are pretty freakin bad ass. From the women in a village in Africa who have a baby on their back and a basket on their head, to the single thirty something who is a foster mom, to the working moms whose tiny humans I’ve taught and taken care of during the day, to the single moms who do all the things, to the moms who stay at home and take care of their kiddos and support each other. BA every one of them.

And I know a lot of grown ass women who aren’t mothers who are also BA. Running businesses, managing companies, making a life from being immensely creative. Some of them may want kids and some don’t.

And that’s ok.

Sometimes it is hard, especially in a Christian culture, to understand a woman not wanting kids. Or being ok with not having them. Or sympathizing and not being condescending to the one who does and is unable too.

I have mom role models. I have women I want to be when I “grow up” (as always, Rachel B I’m looking at you). I take parenting nuggets here and there. If I do have kids, I won’t be scared of a singular two year old because for the past year I’ve averaged 12 on the daily. I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve.

And if I never use them on my own kids that’s ok.

I guess, what it really comes down to is this: it’s completely 100% ok not to want to have kids. It’s ok to not want to or need to be a mom. It is not ok to shame those who have those opinions or tell them “they just need to find the right guy” (and yes that has been said to me).

It comes down to being who you are.

And this is who I am.

So, to all of you mothers on Mother’s Day and let’s face it, every day.

You guys are amazing.

While, yes, I do take care of tiny humans, change diapers and put to sleep (think: MMA cage fighting a crocodile), I feed and teach and snuggle and love; I sleep in a bed that doesn’t get disturbed by the tiptoe of tiny feet. I don’t get yelled at that the toast is cut wrong WHILE also trying to get ready for work. (I still get yelled at for the toast). I don’t get awakened by screams, or have to watch shots at the doctor.

You do that.

So, if I don’t ever become a mom; if I spend the rest of my life, in some capacity, taking care of tiny humans, or caring for my friend’s tiny humans, I want you, sweet mom friend of mine, to know this simple four word sentence from me to you:

I got your back.

Honest, washington whimsy

To the tiny human makers

To the tiny human makers,

My work wife and I had a rough week(s) and we were talking about so many things and being frustrated and lots of other toddler teacher life issues. And at the end of the conversation it boiled down to this.

We (I) love your tiny human.

I’ve held a lot of jobs in the tiny human field over the past 10 years. I’ve been: a Sunday school teacher, day camp counselor, camp counselor, preschool teacher, preschool coordinator for a church, toddler care coordinator for a non-profit, bible story lady, babysitter, VBS coordinator, “the kid person” on mission trips. I’ve written curriculum for programs and laughed and cried with babies to high schoolers on five continents. I’ve been “miss Meghan” “miss Meg” “Maggie” “MEG” and “Sox” or  “Junapera”. And now, of course, for the last 15 months or so I’ve been “Teacher Meg” (or TEACHER MEEEEEEEGGGG) adding lead toddler teacher to my list of tiny human jobs.

I have the faces of hundreds of kids run through my mind of different nationalities, ages, fatherless, motherless, homeless, dual job families, families with stay at home moms, or Grandma’s.

I will not know where a majority end up in life, but every one of them are etched on my heart.

I currently work at a year-round full time early learning center. I have kids that I see 35-40 hrs a week. And above everything, all the things I need to do for them, my goal in each and everyday is to let them know they are loved.

I spend my day having little conversations here and there about mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and siblings.

Because I know how much you love your tiny human. I see it on your face at drop-off and pick-up, when you tell me how they slept or ask me the same. I see it when you get excited for Friday and spending time with them. Or when you tell me about their first steps or a new word they said.

So, during the day, while you are at work, I want you to know that I LOVE your tiny human. I’ll hold them when they are sad, make them laugh, I’ll help them get a nap. I’ll make sure they learn how to throw their food in the trash and not on the floor. And if they bite a friend I will give them words to say. (Same goes for tantrums, don’t worry, those don’t fly with teacher Meg).

And I don’t necessarily do all those things because it’s my job–I mean it is my job, but I do them because I love your tiny human. When they cry, real tears streaming down their cheeks, I hurt. When they finally do the thing, I get so excited for them (I’ve never been so excited about peeing in the potty in my life). When they laugh and say “I love you teacher Meg”, I melt.

I will love your tiny human, knowing that my presence in their life is a passing moment.

But they will forever be a tiny (or maybe medium-sized) human in my life.

Some of these kiddos I knew for a day, or a few weeks or maybe years. And as I said, I don’t know what happened to most of them, or where they are at now. Like the little girl in my JK class who I worked with on letters and numbers one day a week for four months at her house after school. Or the little boy at day camp that we called ninja and all fell in love with. Or Nay in Cambodia, the girls at the academy in South Africa, or any and every smiling face I met at royal family.

I’m grateful for social media and the ability to watch some of these kids grow up. Like I know that when he graduates high school I will be there to watch Nicky B walk (or probably do the robot or something amazing) across the stage and I’ll drink a glass of wine with his mom Rachel because she was and is one of my mom role models. I’ll be amazed for every year older Eric and Cathy’s boys get and be thankful for every moment on their couches. And I will treasure every smile of that tribe of kids from Rock Harbor that were in my three day class together. And of course, a certain then five year old boy who would say “hey good lookin'” to me (he’ll be president some day). Not to mention the all grown up day campers who are off to college.

I’ll support those kids from afar in their adventures like their families supported me. I’ll cheer them on every chance I get. Even when they don’t remember that I was their teacher or their counselor or that crazy lady with the Afro.

I will always love those tiny humans.

I don’t know how long I will be in the tiny human game, or if I will have tiny humans of my own, but for now, each day I will love your tiny human with my whole heart. I will impart to them words of kindness and life and thankfulness. I will encourage them to do good and make choices that honor who they are.

And a note to the families of the tiny humans that aren’t so tiny anymore: know that I still love your kids and you with so much in me. I get so excited hearing of the accomplishments and victories in their lives. I’m grateful to have been a small part of your lives and know that you were/are a big part of mine.

And know this, if your child is in daycare, or preschool know and have the knowledge that they are loved a lot.

With love always,

Meg

Honest, hope is a verb

an afro, some sequins (& 92 kids)

(before I begin this: a shoutout to the incredibly amazing, lovely, dance party-riffic staff & counselors of Newport Mesa Church’s Royal Family Kids Camp. Your kindness, encouragement and love spurred me on last week and I was completely and utterly humbled by your words!)

Last year in February I did ministry for the day along with 5 others from my squad at a maximum security prison in Trujillo, Peru. If I’m being honest I wasn’t THAT nervous. Sure, I was a little nervous. But I’d prayed and ask for God to shield my eyes from things I shouldn’t see and to protect my ears from things I shouldn’t hear. I felt protected.

I stood up in front of men in that prison and helped lead worship, spoke words from God.

I was at peace.

Last week I stood in front of 92 kids between the ages of 7-11 and was scared to death.

image_3            (the carpool crew before we headed up the mountain)

Hilarious much?

Last week I was the Bible story teacher at Royal Family Kids Camp. RFKC is a week of fun and happiness for kids who are in the foster care system. Some of them are from pretty rough backgrounds; living in foster families, group homes, separated from siblings. For the most part life for them hasn’t been easy. So RFKC happen around the nation and they are filled with volunteers who come together to make a week of fun, love and joy for this kids.

This is my fourth year volunteering and my first year as the bible story teacher. So each chapel I would teach the kids the memory verse (Psalm 23:4), do some sheep trivia questions and after singing  and dancing I would get up and tell them stories about David and the Good shepherd.The first morning I was TERRIFIED.

Would I be able to hold the attention of (most) of the kids? Would the counselors hate me for taking too much time or even worse not enough? Would the staff totally regret their decision to have me take the job?

image_2(my trenta)

So many doubts as I went to step up and took the mike for the first time. I got up that first chapel and talked about shepherds and the awesome teen staff helped me with a skit. And as I finished my first day of stories my nervousness began to go away because I realized I was doing something I love more then anything.

Getting the privilege of telling kids that they are not only special and loved but that God has a plan for them.

And these kids need to hear that desperately.

In that I realized where my fear came from. In all the times last year I stood in front of a mike and talked or sang, I never was really nervous because I didn’t really care what other people thought (and of course for the most part no one spoke english).

image_1(Lauren// fellow WR Alum// fellow Californian// fellow adventurer)

Put me in front of a mike in front of a group of kids with short attention spans, friends I respect and people I don’t really know and I forget why I ‘m really there.

The next day I showed up to chapel in a sparkly sweater and an afro and a lot more confidence and love.

Because all that mattered was that the kids listened long enough to know we love them, Jesus loves them and He has a plan for them.

THAT’S what I want my life to look like no matter has scary it seems. I want people to know they are loved by Jesus, that He has a plan for them no matter where they are in life.

I admitted a few things to the kiddos last week between shouting psalm 23:4 and apparently looking like a a crossover between MJ and Bob Marley; I admitted I’m blind as a sheep, I need google, that I was afraid of the dark and that I’m 29 and still unsure completely what I want to be when I grow up.

But what last week taught me is that standing in front of someone (or many someones) and encouraging them to go and do and be is a big part of who I am and what I want to be.

So yes, I was scared this week before I put on the sparkly sweater.

Because kids? are scary.

Adults? they are scary too.

People who understand english?

Yep, scary.

The bottom line, the thing that helped me get over the fear is the reminder that God has a plan.

image_4

I’m leaving Thursday for another adventure.

And just like those kids, God has a plan. And that information grounds me a little. I’m getting on a plane Thursday by myself and I’m antsy and nervous. I’m so thankful I have friends meeting me on the other side.

That’s all for now. Last week was a beautiful blessing and I can’t wait to see my Royal Family again next year.

I may or may not have more blog stateside (or on my enormous 4th of July layover in Turkey) But I treasure your prayers and encouragement in this next part of life. And if you are able and willing I still need some help and support for this journey. All donations are tax deductible: Click HERE to donate and make sure you type “Meg Reeve” in the notes. (And if you’d like a postagram from Espana shoot me your mailing address!!)