For those of you who don’t know, I earn my paychecks teaching preschool. I work with fantastic people, big and small. The owners of the school (in its inaugural year) have a greater passion for what they do than I could ever hope to have, and it is a huge blessing to witness their vision and learn from what they know. 

That being said, I have to point something out. To anyone with children, or who knows a child, or has ever been to a coffee shop and had their latte ruined by someone else’s screaming child, this could be obvious. But I’ll say it anyway: When you earn your money teaching (any child, any age), you EARN your money. It’s not what I would call a low-stress, low-effort job. There is a lot of crying, and a lot of “I had that first!” and “But I was going to sit there!” and “Miss Jessica, he flushed my pee down the toilet! It’s MINE. I wanted to flush it!”

Speaking of pee, there’s a fair amount of that too. There is also a fair amount of wiping–of faces, of noses, of….well, you know. 

It’s messy. It’s a little chaotic. There are days when my supply of patience ( which my husband claims is infinite) feels like it’s teetering on empty. Once or twice I’ve thought, “Is motherhood really going to be my thing? Could I really DO this, 24/7, for five to six years?”

(Then I’ve remembered that it is HIGHLY unlikely that I’ll ever have ten three-year-olds at once, and parenting again becomes a reasonable idea. All of this is subject to change once I do in fact become a parent, of course.) 

Anyway, all that to say that Early Childhood Education is not for the faint of heart. 

But for every anxiety-inducing moment, there are far more that just leave you kind of paralyzed from all the cute, and wondering why you ever grew up in the first place. Because the world, and your perspective on it, is so much cooler when you’re a kid. 

For example… Oh, the highlight of my week. Yesterday’s afternoon recess. The usual Seattle fall weather has set in (read: wind, rain, general meteorological crankiness) and it shows on our playground. There is a veritable carpet of orange leaves covering everything, courtesy of the trees lining the fence. I took the kids outside during a break in the rain and every time the wind blew, another burst of leaves would shake loose, falling down like orange snow. Even to this tired and busy grown-up, it was kind of awesome-looking. 

Then I told the kids to try to catch the leaves. And utter, adorable pandemonium broke out. Each child shrieking at full volume with sheer delight, staring up at the sky. I explained that it was the wind blowing the leaves to the ground, but I get the feeling they were still convinced that it was instead some sort of randomly occurring and inexplicable leaf-magic making it happen. They ran as hard as they could, slipping and sliding on the damp ground, desperate to catch just one little leaf. One little guy told me, “Miss Jessica, I am going to catch my hardest!” 

I replied, “I’m so glad you’re going to TRY your hardest!” 

So imagine the scene: Leaves scattering everywhere with eight children doing the same, screams of excitement coming from all directions, with an occasional breathless shout of “I WILL TRY MY HARDEST!! I WILL TRY MY HARDEST!” 

And I couldn’t help it. I chased every leaf that came near me..I even caught some. I gave them away to the kids who were clearly struggling to trap these elusive leaves, so mysteriously appearing and floating about haphazardly. I laughed with them, screamed with them, and for a moment got to be one of them. More importantly, I recalled for just a few minutes the wonder that the world still holds. 

I think as we get older, we convince ourselves that the wonder we felt as children was BECAUSE we were children, not because the world is actually awesome. Yes, this does coincide with our awareness of all of the things that suck–the darkness and pain we see and experience so much. But the beauty, the wonder, the MAGIC? 

It’s still there. And for a few minutes on a chilly Friday in November, I got to see it again. 

Lucky me.