Since almost all of my cousins are teenagers now, I had not attended a young child’s birthday for quite awhile.
I also knew very few people who were attending this one, making me a little nervous.
As I began to meet other guests, I noticed almost all of the married couples had children under the age of 5.
Being in a room with so many children of this age has been a rare — if ever— occurrence for me.
I have a friend who says I’m a “kid magnet,” a title I have found hilarious given my limited interaction with small children. Yet, it seems to be true — even in such a setting as a 4-year-old’s birthday party.
Pink balloons covered the floor as I found a place to sit. The floor seemed the premium spot as multiple family members had arrived before me. Children began throwing balloons, and I saw the perfect opportunity to have some fun. I began hitting the balloons back and forth with a few of the children.
Despite being in a room full of people I didn’t know, I felt comfortable playing with the children.
I have always been better at playing and goofing off with children than in authority roles. In recent years, with activities at my church, this has begun to change. Yet, even these older children seem to connect with me. Then, take an interest in my life and what I am involved in.
Young children are so easy to meet they don’t care who you are, your title, your job, how much money you make or your family name.
All the children cared about at that party was whether I would catch their balloon and throw it back. Would I play with them?
The answer was unequivocally yes.
Before leaving that party, I had read a card to the birthday girl and helped her rescue Rapunzel from the cage of her plastic box.
Just to clarify, it’s not that I haven’t liked children in the past. I am simply uneasy around very young children. I like the ones who can take care of themselves much better.
I guess I just always felt I was “not good with children.” I have also used this as an excuse in a few situations.
Yet, that excuse is being dissolved, as my friend’s theory of “kid magnet” seems to be ringing true.
I have a theory that every person has an optimum age range that they can connect with.
Currently, my optimum age range is 7 to 14.
“That’s the ages I have the most experience with,” I recently told someone.
My mom always used to say she was better teaching children 7 and under than the older Sunday School classes. As my youngest sister has gotten older, my mom has now moved up to the young teens class.
This year my optimum age range will be stretched, as I will find myself working with teenagers.
There is something about children, so much they don’t know. Yet, many times they seem to enjoy life so much more than many adults.
Sadly, this is not every child’s story.
I have recently begun preparation for participating in programs that will have me more active in the lives of children.
These interviews and trainings have further heightened the fact in my mind that many children today deal with things I never would have thought imaginable at such an age.
Darkness seems to seek to surround them, to steal and destroy them.
My recent increase in love for children, I feel, is grounded in indignation at those who would harm them.
It has become a burning desire that every child would have at least one person in his or her life who truly loves them and gives them appropriate affection.
Thankfully, Bradley County has many parents and other adults who truly do this.
There are many opportunities for someone who wants to impact a child to make a difference, whether through your local church or an organization such as the Bradley Initiative for Church and Community or the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.
We shouldn’t just want to impact children because they are the next generation. We shouldn’t do it just as a way of giving back.
We should care for children because what happens now will either positively or negatively affect them into adulthood, impacting their chances of success.
We should make friends with a child, a youth or young adult because they need encouragement. They need people telling them they can succeed when many voices say they cannot.
They need to know near curses spoken by others relegating them to a life of failure can be turned into fuel for determination to prove them wrong.
I look among my friends and I see overcomers.
Some were told they would never succeed at anything, but they took that negativity and turned it into their driving force to graduate from college, to pursue a master’s degree and to get good jobs.
They had people in their lives who encouraged them, people who when things got rough told them not to give up.
I want to be one of those people.