Starting out working in corporates, I have developed this idea that being professional = concealing personal emotions and always having to be agreeable, efficient and stoic.
And here’s my 7th month working in a playgroup. I know it sounds funny, right? To “work” in a playgroup “with” kids, basically brings back all the fun to work and the childhood in me. Perfect.
But there were times, I was stressed. I knew I was playing a role. I knew I was supposed to achieve a certain goal. I knew something weren’t supposed to happen under my watch. I. I. I. And assumptions.
So with this mindset, one day this week, I cried at work for the first time. How unprofessional of me.
What happened was, six young kids under my watch went out of hand. One was crying for grandma, one was constantly asking me something, one has been requesting me to read books, another was saying “ouch!” having bumped somewhere got a boo-boo, another was releasing a big bout of energy running around slamming doors climbing sofa grabbing toys and hurling that not-meant-to-be-a-toy like a poi at me…
I got personally hurt by the last kid, as in, emotionally hurt because when I was trying to say stop and explain that it hurt and I feel sad, she couldn’t comprehend my woe. She kept hurling it at me, and I felt so inept not to be able to connect with her and convey this simplest emotion – so I thought – this empathy.
So I lost it. Instead of saying in calm assertiveness “Can we not do something?”, “Don’t do this, please?”; I lost it and yelled: “I told you, 1. No slamming doors, and 2. No climbing. And you hurt me!”
Then a grandma came in at the peak of the chaos, spotting that her grandson was crying his face a tearful. That was largely owing to separation anxiety, which was, yet again, totally understandable.
That’s when all my emotions came rushing in: frustration, anger, pity, guilt… I rushed to the washroom burst out crying.
The last routine of class is always singing goodbye and hugging. Usually I’d be in the “Miss Cecilia” persona, who would be smiling and lovingly giving hugs, and the kids are always, always sweet, giving hugs and kisses without being asked.
That moment, tears were welling up and I was rationally trying to hold it back (so I must’ve had a funny face). I couldn’t look the kids in the eyes. I managed to hold it until I could burst out crying again after everyone has left.
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I am ever grateful that my colleague had the patience and understanding to listen to my ranting and requests and gave great advice moving on.
I am ever inspired to learn from another friend, that it’s ok to cry in front of kids. Exactly because they are too used to taking the lead from someone who rarely reveals human emotions, sometimes it’s good to show this other side and connect with them as humans.
I am most thankful, in fact, to these kids who have brought me to this outburst, and eventually, an awareness that I have truly developed this love, care and bond with them. Such that, they are teaching me not to just be “me, me, me” in what “I” do, what “I” say, and what “I” achieve.
It is all a process of learning and growing. We are learning and growing together, through laughter and tears, and largely, love.
I am most fortunate to be able to work with kids in a playgroup.